If you don’t venture onto social media, you might be unaware that a good chunk of The Last of Us Part 2’s plot leaked two months prior to the game’s release.
Spoilers follow the video below:
If you do go onto social media, you’ll know. You’ll know because a Twitter account with a Joker avatar tweeted pictures of Joel bleeding out on the ground at you, along with some joke about golf.
While it happens within the first few hours, Joel’s death is the thing that kicks off Ellie’s revenge mission, setting up the rest of the game. It’s a big, impactful moment - one that would have been best to experience for yourself.
It also started what’s now turned into months of toxicity in the debate around the game. Some people saw the leaks, decided they didn’t like the story, and made up their mind. Even now, if we put out an article about the game, someone will inevitably post something about Joel’s death.
So how did these leaks impact Naughty Dog? Creative director Neil Druckmann explained on Kinda Funny’s latest spoilercast below. We’ve pulled out the relevant quotes if you’d rather read than watch the video:
“The thing that was really hard was when the leaks happened and you see that scene came out,” Druckmann said, referencing Joel’s death at the hands of Abby. “The love that people have for this character, and that’s all they have is that, and [the fact you] then play as the person that killed them. And they lose their shit. Understandably. Then we just have to sit there for two months being like, ‘There’s more to it, but we can’t say anything right now’. They just live with that frustration and anger. That was hard. That was really fucking hard.
“It was one of the worst days of my life when the leak happened. I saw it happen in real time. I saw when it hit YouTube. We’re all panicking, asking them to take it down. Then there’s a lag so it takes like an hour to take it down. It had maybe a thousand views when it all got taken down. Then you just sit there and your fucking heart sinks, and you’re like, ‘It’s out there, it’s only a certain amount of time until it blows up’. A few hours later it’s everywhere and you’re starting to get hate on every social media you’re on, and soon that turns into death threats, anti-Semitic remarks, and just craziness I never could have anticipated. I knew people would get upset at a character they love dying. I never thought it would reach this kind of hate? I don’t know how to describe it, even. Frustration?”
Druckmann says the studio knew there would be some fans who would be angry with how Joel is killed. They knew it would be polarising. But they weren't prepared for what happened.
“The thing that was hard to see is then people kind of dug their heels in the sand and took this position like, ‘I already hate this game, no amount of context is going to change it for me’,” Druckmann explained.
On one level it proved to the studio that the scene works. Naughty Dog wanted the players to feel how Ellie felt in that moment: angry, hateful, disgusted. If internet comments around the leaks were a yardstick for hitting those emotions, it was a success.
“At some point, it took a few days, you realise the worst happened,” Druckmann continued. “The worst way this game could be presented happened - our worst fear. Because we did so much to try to protect this story.”
We wrote back when it happened that you shouldn't judge The Last of Us Part 2 by the leaks. You can read our review of The Last of Us Part 2 to see if that was sound advice.