Naughty Dog’s Response to Ellie’s Sexuality: “Who Cares?”

After Ellie kissed Riley in the Left Behind DLC, people had lots of questions...

It was one of those brilliantly constructed scenes for which Naughty Dog is so well known. If you played the Left Behind DLC for the award-winning The Last Of Us, you might know what I’m talking about.

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Remember that scene where Ellie impulsively kisses her female friend, Riley? It looked like she landed on the lips, which has created quite a bit of controversy. Is Ellie gay? Bisexual? Confused? What?

Well, the developers have responded to the cacophony, and they’ve done so in fine fashion in my opinion. During a recent GameSpot interview, game director Bruce Straley had the perfect reply:

“It’s like ‘who cares?’ A good character is a good character and that’s what we’re after.”

“It’s like ‘who cares?’ A good character is a good character and that’s what we’re after.”

Creative director Neil Druckmann said they’ve received a great reaction regarding Ellie’s character in the game. Before the title released, many gamers figured Ellie was purely a support character, and she’d only be involved in a few escort missions. Of course, as everyone now knows, Ellie is a huge part of the story.

But Druckmann said the team’s writers “didn’t set out to make a statement,” and they really just wanted to create a fantastic character. Well, they did exactly that.

That is the only correct response

I’m only going to say this once: If you’re putting in a certain “kind” of character purely for the sake of a “statement,” which means there are extenuating political or social reasons, you’re doing a disservice to art. The sexuality of a character should be completely irrelevant, as should race and gender. The way to make it irrelevant is not to cram it down our throats under the guise of “tolerance.” That does nothing.

Give the artist full creative freedom to convey his vision. If that story requires a gay character, fine. On the other hand, if you invented a story for the express purpose of using a gay character, your agenda infects the product. It means the expression didn’t come first; the sociology or politics came first. Such things can and do have a place in all forms of art, but they should never be the top priority of any artist.

In short–good for you, Naughty Dog.

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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.