The nastiness surrounding The Last of Us Part 2 seems to have no end. Naughty Dog’s followup to the critically-acclaimed The Last of Us has been one of the most lauded games of the year, smashing sales records and wracking up an impressive 94 on Metacritic. And yet its success has come with a dark underbelly, bringing up the sames sort of reactionary forces in the video game world that brought us Gamergate. Director Neil Druckman has recently come forward on Twitter with some of the abuse he’s been receiving, featuring a range of homophobic, trans-phobic and anti-Semitic slurs thrown in his direction on Twitter.
This comes after Laura Bailey, the actress that played Abby in the game, shared some of the death threats she’s been receiving just for having portrayed a character.
A certain crowd on the internet reacted violently to Naughty Dog’s decision to move female and LBTGQ+ characters to the center of the story, reacting with a rare level of trolling and abuse even in an industry rife with it. The game was also the victim of a review-bombing campaign on metacritic, where huge numbers of users left negative reviews in an—unsuccessful—effort to damage either sales or public opinion.
Naughty Dog condemned the behavior on Twitter:
“Although we welcome critical discussion, we condemn any form of harassment or threats directed towards our team and cast. Their safety is our top priority, but we must all work together to root out this type of behavior and maintain a constructive and compassionate discourse.”
While the toxicity surrounding The Last of Us Part 2 might differ from that surrounding other games in terms of quantity, this is sadly not a new phenomenon in the gaming industry. It’s endemic to all corners of what we might call “geek culture”—just ask anyone involved with Star Wars: The Last Jedi—but particularly keen in the world of video games, where designers might face death threats for characters that players don’t like, patches that get delayed, balance issues in multiplayer or really…anything. It’s been a problem in the industry for years, but it’s only gotten worse with the direct access to creatives that the internet provides.
In the meantime, plenty of writers have managed to provide thoughtful criticism of The Last of Us Part 2, but the overwhelming cloud of toxicity has a way of overwhelming the discourse: if you don’t like the game, you run the risk of aligning yourself with the worst elements of the internet. If you do, you run the risk of incurring their wrath. Even if one tries to dismiss harassment campaigns like these, taken en masse they have a way of flooding the internet with their hatred to the degree that they become difficult to ignore.
Hopefully, the sales of The Last of Us Part 2 speak for themselves, a powerful argument against the idea that you can’t break sales records with a woman on the cover. But as messages like these show, we’ve still got a long way to go with the industry writ large.