The Last of Us - Ellie's Impact as a Female Character
We all should know about Naughty Dog’s epic game The Last of Us. Released on June 14, 2013 for PlayStation 3, it’s a third-person survival/action game. The game is based on its two main characters, Joel and Ellie, in a post-pandemic world in which civilization is devastated by a modern plague.
The two characters must work together to survive their journey across the United States from killing for food, killing the infected and those out to harm them, to making weapons and whatever else they need.
Now, Joel is the main protagonist of the game who deals heavily with his emotions, which stem from grief. He is the main, playable character throughout the majority of the game, but it’s his relationship with a 14-year-old orphan, Ellie (who has a secret of her own), that defines Ellie herself as a major character.
Ellie is a tough, foul-mouthed, and wise teen. She's not a Miley Cyrus wannabe, but an average female, which makes her a relatable character to many. She must grow up and learn to survive, learn to trust in another person (i.e. Joel) with her life (and vice versa), and learn to care about someone other than herself. She's young and vulnerable, and it's here where Naughty Dog shines.
Naughty Dog brings two elements of real life into their game that connects you to the characters in a powerful way.
Nearing the end of the game, Ellie becomes a playable character at different times, and it’s during this time that Ellie faces a real life event of fighting off an attempted sexual assault. This is an extremely powerful scene during the game. You feel her agony and fear as you try to fight off your attacker. Ellie is physically challenged by the adult male attacking her, and trying to grasp for anything to be used as a weapon--this is as realistic as you can get.
You are so emotionally connected to Ellie at this point that it becomes all too real. As a victim of sexual assault, I can tell you I was shocked at how real it felt, but it’s the feeling of empowerment as a female--as a victim--that you can defend yourself.
I walked away from The Last of Us feeling vindicated, and with a whole new respect for Naughty Dog. They didn’t give you the cliché female character that’s all too familiar in games. Instead, they dish out real life, and real female characters who demonstrate that you can be a girl and still kick ass. Male and female gamers alike walk away with a perspective they may not have had before.
Naughty Dog dares to be different and they did it brilliantly.