The Last of Us Co-Director Neil Druckmann Reflects On Narrative Design

The most significant risk an artist can take is to explore outside their successes. Naturally, this fear may even apply to one of the biggest names in game design. Neil Druckmann, the co-director of The Last of Us games, recently shared his thought about storytelling. With an HBO series based on the zombie- apocalypse series about to premiere, the creator talked about his journey and reflected on what is possibly the most successful game of his career. Drawing from other narrative styles, Druckmann expresses ideas he has for his beloved series going forward.

Neil Druckmann and The Last of Us

It’s been almost 10 years since players got to experience the tragic beauty that is The Last of Us by Naughty Dog studios. It was a passion project that Neil Druckmann pursued with others, and to great success. Now, though, it appears he’s questioning the narrative style that he’s been using.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Druckmann goes in-depth about the storytelling of The Last of Us as the HBO series based on the game prepares to premiere. He gives particular praise to Elden Ring, the most recent From Software game. His praise was focused primarily on worldbuilding and lore by way of exploration and detailed visuals. Druckmann refers to The Last Of Us, as a risk and is working hard to preserve it.

Though overtly a zombie game, The Last of Us is among the most story-rich games of the last decade. The game follows a viral outbreak caused by a parasitic fungus. 20 years after the initial event, the focus shifts to an aging smuggler named Joel. He’s a world-weary man is tasked with escorting the immune teenager Ellie to safety. The series shifts to focus on Ellie, a person born in a post-apocalyptic world, and how she copes. Though the games are visually descriptive, the narrative still relies mostly on cutscenes and in-game conversation. If Druckmann is so inspired by Elden Ring, he may incorporate more passive storytelling methods into the future of The Last of Us.

HBO is planning to premiere The Last of Us series on January 15. The show will certainly have us as well as Druckmann looking back on the games. He was a key player in repurposing them for TV, but seeing the narrative in Elden Ring has him wondering how he can further influence their story.