How excited were you to see The Last of Us: Part II trailer, revealed at the PlayStation Experience (PSX) this weekend? I was hoping for some teaser, but expected it at E3 2017. If you haven’t caught it, the video is below. Enjoy.
In this article, I will focus on the role of female protagonists in video games, focusing particularly on The Last of Us’s Ellie. Please note that I will discuss some aspects of the ending from The Last of Us, so if you haven’t played it there will be spoilers.
The PSX reveal gave us a nice slice of post-apocalyptic pie to satisfy our craving. Following that, there has been further confirmation that Ellie will, in fact, be the main playable character in the second part of the ground-breaking game. This has intrigued me more than anything.
Over the years, we have been seeing a rise in lead female characters, following concerns of hyper-sexualisation of women in games. As a female gamer growing up, there were limited options of female leads for my young self to play as. That was until I discovered Lara Croft. Lara has been an icon both within gaming and outside of gaming and extended her popularity in pop culture on a scale we had not seen before.
As a young girl growing up, I wanted to be Lara. I didn’t even realise at the time she was actually extremely sexualised; I just saw a strong female lead. Lara has held the reigns for many years and paved the way for additional strong female characters. We have seen a surplus of female leads that genuinely have interesting backgrounds. The gaming landscape for women has now gone beyond Lara, and I am of the opinion that one character is leading the way for the future of female leads and beyond.
The Last of Us was released in 2013. It wasn’t your usual post-apocalyptic game, a genre which is very saturated at the moment, but a genre-defining experience for many gamers. I was immediately drawn in by the character-driven story, and more specifically by the 14-year-old character of Ellie. Ellie shocked me initially; she was a 14 year old orphan living in a decimated world of violence and struggle.
Ellie wasn’t your typical naive, innocent girl trying to make best of a bad situation, she had some real grit and street smarts about her. In a nutshell, what fascinated me about Ellie in the first game was that she was a young girl that was way beyond her years.
TLOU Part 2 is set five years on and we now see a 19-year-old Ellie. Ellie has a tattoo, ripped jeans and blood running from her head. She sits comfortable amongst dead bodies strewn throughout the house, playing her guitar and singing a sombre song about how she’s “wrong”. Naughty Dog made us love Ellie and Joel in the first installment, and the ending always left us with lots of questions. How will Ellie react when she find out what Joel did? We thought we would never know.
From this trailer reveal, it seems apparent that Ellie has now entered a rebellious stage. Her demeanor felt quite full of hate whilst I watched the trailer and I’d go as far to say as rather psychotic. What I loved about the reveal is that Naughty Dog have shown us that nobody can stay innocent forever. Joel stopped any chance of their world recovering, and we are now seeing the natural progression of their relationship since, I assume, Ellie discovered Joel’s actions.
However, for Ellie to sit there and say “I am going to kill every last one of them” raises the question as to whether Joel has told her everything, or has perhaps told her a different story. It’s plausible that Ellie is full of hate, but Naughty Dog have made us love her in the first instalment so the reaction to her development into an adult will be quite the experience. It is clear that Ellie, at 19 years old, has seen a lot of shit, and so it’s natural for anyone’s personality to change in such a decimated, dog-eat-dog world.
In terms of female leads in gaming, I for one believe that Ellie is changing the landscape of women in gaming. Lara Croft has received her own reinvention by returning to her younger self, the reversal of Ellie if you will, but I feel the torch has now been passed from Lara to Ellie for females in gaming.
With her new role in TLOU: Part Two Ellie will have the potential to cement herself as one of the greatest female characters in video game history.
Many are sceptical about Druckmann and co returning to a second instalment, commenting that TLOU was enough and it’s what made the ending more memorable. Druckmann has assured fans he/they will do right by us. Let’s have some faith in them and look forward to a solid sequel from Naughty Dog.
What did you think of the trailer, and what are your thoughts on female leads in gaming? Let me know in comments section below.