Skip to main content

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

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.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Lisa Marie Segarra
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Lisa Marie Segarra is the Gaming Section at Digital Trends. She's previously covered tech and gaming at Fortune Magazine and…
Microsoft has acquired Activision Blizzard: What does that mean for you?
The key art from when Microsoft finally acquired Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft now owns Activision Blizzard. After Microsoft worked to appease regulators and fend off litigation, the $69 billion acquisition first announced in January 2022 is finally complete. Now that Activision Blizzard is officially part of Microsoft and a sister company to Xbox Game Studios and ZeniMax Media, that raises an important question: What does this acquisition mean for you as a player?

Following this acquisition, Microsoft will own more gaming studios, the availability of Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard franchises will shift, and unionization efforts within Activision Blizzard could gain a bit more ground. If you're wondering what happens next, here's our thorough examination of how the deal could impact players moving forward.
Microsoft's new game studios
With this acquisition, Microsoft will now own all the developers under the Activision Blizzard company. That includes the teams at Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, and King, the latter of which is the developer behind the wildly popular mobile series Candy Crush. The acquisition encompasses the following subsidiaries as well: Treyarch, Infinity Ward, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, High Moon Studios, Beenox, Toys for Bob, Activision Shanghai Studio, Solid State Studios, Demonware, Digital Legends, and Major League Gaming. Microsoft now also owns the rights to all of the games and IP Activision Blizzard previously released.

Read more
Naughty Dog devs suffer layoffs, reportedly impacting Last of Us multiplayer spinoff
Ellie looking concerned.

A new report revealed that Naughty Dog has ended several contracts it had with developers early, laying off around 25 developers. This had a negative impact on The Last of Us multiplayer game but, more importantly, is chillingly just the latest batch of layoffs in a rough couple of months for the video game industry.
These contracted developers were informed that their contracts were ending prematurely at the end of October and that they'd get no severance afterward, according to the report at Kotaku. Reportedly, most of these layoffs at Naughty Dog, PlayStation's darling studio that employs over 400 developers, come from the quality assurance, art, and production teams. According to Kotaku, Naughty Dog asked its developers to keep quiet about it. That didn't happen, though, with developers telling Kotaku not only about the layoffs but that the multiplayer The Last of Us game "while not completely canceled, is basically on ice at this point."
Concept art for Naughty Dog's Last of Us multiplayer title. Naughty Dog
These layoffs are unfortunate but sadly not uncommon for the game industry. Throughout the last few weeks, studios like Ubisoft, Creative Assembly, Ascendant Studios, and Epic Games have all laid off people. Epic, in particular, cut a whopping 16% of its workforce despite the fact that Fortnite is one of the most popular video games. Then, there are studios like Saints Row's Volition, support studio Puny Human, and Boomerang X's Dang are closing entirely.
Although 2023 has been a year full of fantastic games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Street Fighter 6, and Baldur's Gate 3, it's unfortunate that it has been so rough for the developers who actually make the games in this gigantic industry. It's clear something needs to change.

Read more
This might be why The Last of Us has terrible stuttering on PC
Joel looks at Ellie in The Last of Us Part 2.

The Last of Us on PC has launched in a dire state. Although I haven't experienced as many issues as some players are reporting, the consensus is clear: the game is buggy, poorly optimized, and underbaked. It's currently sitting with a Mostly Negative review status on Steam, which is typically reserved for the most broken games, like Battlefield 2042. 

Consider yourself warned if you want to jump into Joel and Ellie's story on PC, especially if you just finished off the excellent HBO series. For players who already have the game, there's a particular issue you should be aware of that relates to Nvidia's Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), as well as demands on your system that go far beyond the recommended specs.
A possible source of stutter

Read more