The Last of Us Part II has a wokeness problem, but it’s not what you think

Lisa Marie Segarra

This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us Part II.

The Last of Us Part II is a massive success, topping sales charts and dominating the conversation.

The issue, though, is where that conversation leaves us. This article will include light spoilers to discuss the discourse. It’s been a while since a top-selling game was this divisive, and not just in the difference in opinion. Much of the criticism is based on the game’s “wokeness” factor. People have taken issues with female character Abby’s body type and the inclusion of gay and transgender characters.

The user score on Metacritic currently sits at 4.6, which is actually up from the 3 or so where it was shortly after release. Many of those low scores take issue with the story. Naughty Dog took a risk morphing the main antagonist into the protagonist. It was the kind of risk I felt made the game great, but it’s naturally divisive.

The other low scores? Here’s what some of them have to say.

  • “In an effort to pander to certain demographics, the story takes a complete thematic nose-dive to have so-called representation of minorities surviving in an apocalyptic wasteland.”
  • “Focuses on sjw stuff more than actual players.”
  • “I’m sure it could have been better if someone didn’t get into this project. This someone is Anita Sarkeesian,” which referenced GamerGate target Sarkeesian.

The game’s subreddit is filled with unfounded claims that Abby is trans because her body type isn’t feminine enough, and offense at the inclusion of a trans character at all. These criticisms are misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic. They also move the conversation away from valid and useful critiques of The Last of Us Part II.

Reviews have proven overwhelmingly positive. It holds a 94 on Metacritic for critic reviews, a score I contributed to with my five-star review. It’s the first game we’ve given five stars since 2018’s Red Dead Redemption II. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect game.

Players and reviewers have noted that The Last of Us Part II ventures from standard gritty storytelling into torture porn. It’s not just excessive violence, though it’s that, too. The game lets you, and at times forces you, to brutally stab dogs. It also includes deadnaming, where someone calls a transgender person by their original name rather than the one they’ve chosen after, and while, transitioning.

The game’s choices deserve discussion, and as a successful and lauded title, The Last of Us Part II is an excellent opportunity to talk about the many issues it tackles. That opportunity is being squandered.

Recent issues in the gaming industry, including new sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct allegations, prove the industry still breeds toxicity. It’s time we start moving forward instead of dredging through the same muck we’ve wallowed in for years.