Naughty Dog Creative Director Neil Druckmann is writing for The Last of Us Part II, and he's firmly defending the role that politics play in the gaming world. In a recent tweet by Druckmann, he warned that The Last of Us's ending was definitely inspired by his "personal politics," and that all games writing should be political.
In particular, Druckmann emphasized how writers "work off of their views of the world" when creating stories. Replying to a tweet from a user that later deleted their account, Druckmann's point was clear: as artists, writers are molded from the lives they live and their perspectives on life. This includes everything from the way people interact with one another to the gender roles and norms that dictate how people behave.
But Druckmann isn't the only games writer that feels this way. Rather, his response was met with praise from fellow writers and developers across the medium. For one, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail sent Druckmann a heart emoticon. GameSpot Associate News Editor Jason Imms sent his thanks to Druckmann, and writer Kirk McKeand supported Druckmann's views while adding in his own take on cries for writing that doesn't tap on so-called "personal politics." It's clear that Druckmann's belief is a commonly shared one across the industry, motivating the way people think and play games.
Calls to "remove politics from gaming" have become louder in recent years, and they aren't going away any time soon: especially now that the so-called "alt-right" is here to stay. Part of this can be linked back to #GamerGate and some of the beliefs rooted around the hashtag: mainly, that writers are "purposefully" putting their politics into games in order to spread "propaganda" to players.
One GamerGate poster argued that the major UK-based news outlet The Guardian was publishing "propaganda" about women's experiences with sexual harassment on Twitch. Another said that there was "SJW propaganda in comic books," and that writers want games to "become SJW propaganda" that "[discriminates] against white men & [pushes] Censorship [sic]" in gaming. The latter even writes for The Ralph Retort, a known alt-right publication founded by a man who was arrested for assaulting a deputy. In many ways, Neil Druckmann is responding to these types of users by pointing out the reality of being a writer: art is personal, it's created from one's own point of view, and just because a video game has a message doesn't mean it's "propaganda."
It's clear that the problem at play represents a larger problem in gaming: the gaming community as a whole is polarized. No one can agree how games should be written and developed. One side believes that games should be political, the other wants to live in a world where politics and games never share the same space.
The reality though is that games have always been political. Whether it's Left 4 Dead 2's look at mass murder at the hands of the US military (as can be seen in The Parish campaign), or Grand Theft Auto IV's satire of New York City's wealth gap, some of the best video games in the industry approach political issues directly. Asking for anything less than that could damage the medium, which is why Neil Druckmann is so insistent on writing from his worldview.
Games writers don't want to compromise their values for their worlds, and the gaming press finds that commendable. To what extent GamerGaters will respect that POV, well, that's an open question. Based on some of the language thrown at other games critics, it doesn't seem like Druckmann's critics will back down any time soon.
What do you think of Neil Druckmann's perspective on games writing? Let us know in the comments below.