Walking Into the Valley
The Last of Us: Part 2 was undoubtedly one of the biggest – and most critically acclaimed – releases of 2020, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t controversial. Apart from the review bombing campaign led by people upset that it was an “SJW Game” there were complaints that the game killed off The Last of Us’s protagonist, Joel, people complaining about the overall tone and storyline, and criticism towards the game’s artists – some of whom reportedly developed PTSD – using photographs of actual violence as reference.
The reason I left is because I only want to work with the best. That is no longer Naughty Dog. Their reputation for crunch within LA is so bad it was near impossible to hire seasoned contract game animators to close out the project. As such we loaded up on film animators.
— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) March 12, 2020
Nonetheless, it swept the Game Awards, including the prize for Best Direction – a decision which caused a lot of criticism due to the fact that the game’s development relied heavily on crunching, with some staff members hospitalized due to overwork. Many people were upset with the decision – even those that loved the game – because even in a line of work where crunch is ubiquitous, they felt that Naughty Dog shouldn’t be rewarded for implementing it.
It’s a fair criticism. The argument boils down to a game which requires crunch hasn’t been managed as well as a game which, even if it doesn’t result in quite as strong a game, managed to do so with fairer workplace practices. Now, TGA host – video game journalist Geoff Keighley – has addressed the criticism in an interview with Game Informer.
Keighley describes the situation as a slippery slope, and one that’s he’s open to discussing, but his opinion is that every game should be eligible, and it should be down to the voters which games take the awards.
He also addressed accusations that the awards were paid off by Naughty Dog, which is part of the reason The Last of Us: Part 2 did so well in an exceptionally strong game for the industry. This isn’t the first time that Keighley’s faced such accusations of favouritism – 2019’s awards saw a strong presence from the divisive Death Stranding, which some attributed to Keighley’s friendship with Hideo Kojima. Keighley nixed these claims, confirming that he doesn’t choose which games get nominated, and that he has no say in who wins. If he did. His pick for the coveted Game of the Year award wasn’t even The Last of Us: Part 2, but Half Life: Alyx, which wasn’t even nominated for the prize.