“The reason it failed is because it was a misogynistic idea”: Neil Druckmann’s Original Plan for The Last of Us Was So Horrific That the Studio Threw it Away

Explore how The Last of us evolved into a powerful narrative after Studio Naugthy Dog's interuption.

Neil Drukman The Last of Us
Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Josve05a

SUMMARY

  • Neil Druckmann’s early concept for The Last of Us featured a misogynistic idea.
  • Joel and Ellie’s evolving relationship set a new standard for character-driven storytelling.
  • The Last of Us even got a TV series adaptation after the game's success.
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The Last of Us is an award-winning game set in the post-apocalyptic world where players follow Joel and Ellie. They are roaming the world to find the cure for the modern fungal plague which killed most of the population. The storytelling and the gameplay of the game were what made it very popular and an instant classic in the gaming industry. 

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According to Neil Druckmann, creative director and writer of The Last of Us, the first idea for the game’s story was so bad that they had to rework the whole premise. Studio gave them the time to rethink then he and Bruce Straley came up with the story everyone loved. 

Original Idea behind The Last of Us 

 Druckmann revisited the idea with his co-worker Bruce Straley
The Last of Us story was very different | Naughty Dog’s Last of Us

At the start of the development, the Last of Us story was very different as it was conceived when Neil Druckmann was in grad school. In 2012, Druckmann gave an interview where he shared his first story for The Last of Us franchise. The original plan was to have a game revolve around 2 characters (A cop with a heart condition and a young girl) who will protect each other from enemies. 

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After joining Naughty Dog, Druckmann revisited the idea with his co-worker Bruce Straley. Together they introduced many elements in the story like a fungal infection called Cordyceps. They implemented this infection in the prototype game but there was one issue, the fungal infection only affected females.

Naughty Dog immediately opposed the idea of infection only affecting females as it would create controversy and bad discussion in the community. Even Druckmann admitted that the idea was wrong. His exact words were “The reason it failed is because it was a misogynistic idea”. 

Duckmann also revealed he had a secret agenda
Joel and Ellie showed character growth | Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us

After changing the story, the game was finally released and became an instant hit with players. Druckmann, after launch, also revealed he had a secret agenda with The Last of Us, “I wanted to create one of the coolest, non-sexualized female video game protagonists”. He succeeded with his agenda as Ellie is considered one of the best female protagonists in games.

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The Last of Us’ Legacy

Last of Us left a long-lasting legacy
The Last of Us changed the gaming industry. | PlayStation’s The Last of Us

The Last of Us left a long-lasting legacy in the gaming industry, it showed that a story-driven narrative can create a successful and leave players wanting more. The way how Joel and Ellie’s characters showed growth in combat and in their relationship was a masterstroke from Neil Druckmann’s storytelling. 

The story of the game was so engaging and heartwarming that it made the jump from consoles to screens. Druckmann later went on to work as creative director on The Last of Us TV series. The Last of Us continues to captivate players on various platforms still to this day. The game reminds us that even in a post-apocalyptic world, people can grow in more than one way. 

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Written by Shubham Chaurasia

Articles Published: 134

Shubham is a tryhard gamer who loves to play and write about games/news. At first, writing was just a hobby but now its his profession. If he is not online lurking in Valorant or trying his luck in gacha games, you can find him binging on some anime series.