“The Last Of Us Part II” And Why Inclusion Is Important

Illustration provided by Beatriz De La Portilla

Laura Antunez/Staff Writer

I had been contemplating a haircut for some time. Although the entire bottom of it was dead, I had some kind of weird attachment to the length that it had grown. It wasn’t until I played “The Last of Us Part II” (the sequel to 2013’s “The Last of Us”), that I decided to cut it short in order to look more like the protagonist, Ellie.

When I pre-ordered the latest game by Naughty Dog earlier this year, I had already decided that it would probably be my favorite game of all time. When I saw the gameplay trailer in 2018—which featured an older Ellie being kissed by another girl at a dance—I knew that I had finally found a character that I could identify with.

After two brutal years of waiting and delayed release dates, the game finally came out, and it exceeded my expectations of not just gameplay, but of everything a video game could be.

Initially, I had hoped the storyline would be about Ellie going on an adventure of some sort with the girl who had kissed her—a close friend of hers named Dina. As more trailers came out, it became apparent that Ellie was going to watch something awful happen to someone she loves, and she was going to get revenge for it. 

I thought for sure something awful would happen to Dina, and then it would be Ellie and Joel again, like in the first game. What I wasn’t expecting was Joel being the one to die, and then Ellie and Dina being the ones to go out and seek revenge. 

But what I really wasn’t expecting after three days scouring for information and killing all of the friends of the girl who beat Joel to death, was suddenly switching characters to play as the girl I was hunting down to begin with—Abby. 

This game really delivered the female and LGBTQ redemption that was needed in the video game world. In this game, you get to play as not just one, but two diverse and badass female protagonists. 

Even though I got my first console when I was 10, I never really felt represented in video games until now. Although there have been many LGBTQ and strong women characters, many of the women are sexualized, treated as an afterthought, or used to make the man look good.

All the male characters were clever and fearless, and the women were just meant to look hot and to be saved by the male characters. Even the LGBTQ characters that I’ve seen were never more than side characters.

It seems like all of society is always trying to push the idea that women should prioritize form over function.

This isn’t just true for video games. It seems like all of society is always trying to push the idea that women should prioritize form over function. That woman was designed to be pretty and have good taste in decoration and a good eye for dressing, but not for fixing or building things.

I’ve been reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig, and although I think it’s a great read, I’ve found myself once again being pigeonholed by our male-dominated society. 

“The classic mode proceeds by reason and by laws,” reads the book. “In the European cultures it is primarily a masculine mode and the fields of science, law and medicine are unattractive to women largely for this reason.”

Ellie is strong, but she is also sensitive. She writes poetry. She makes drawings of the things around her. She plays guitar and serenades Dina with a cover of “Take On Me.” Her sensitivity does not make her less of a fighter, but more of a person. 

Video games are still seen as a male dominated hobby, so it’s reassuring to know that large companies are actively trying to incorporate greater diversity of characters in their games. Not only does that kind of representation help LGBTQ individuals feel welcome and seen in the gaming community, but it also helps women feel more included as well. 

Strong women characters like Ellie send a message that women can do anything just as well as men. Anyone who plays the game can blatantly see that Ellie is not just the strongest, most ruthless character, but also probably one of the most emotional and sensitive. 

When I play games like “The Last of Us Part II” it gives me hope that these oppressive ideals can be swept away, and women can feel empowered to become mechanics, engineers, scientists and doctors. When games like these are created, gender roles become more blurred, making more people feel comfortable exploring the things that interest them.

The diversity of characters, in my opinion, is also aesthetically appealing to see. It’s not just more of the same cisgender, white, hetero characters over and over again.

I hope that LGBTQ characters like Ellie or Lev, aside from benefiting the LGBTQ community, can benefit anyone who plays the game. The creators take great pride in how the game really puts you in the shoes of the characters. I hope that the white, hetero and cisgender men who play can have just a small taste of the gay experience. 

For those that choose not to play because it has strong women and LGBTQ characters, it’s reassuring to know they’ll never experience one of the greatest game ever made. 


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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