With The Last of Us 2, GameStop Shows a Wrong Way to Market Dogs in Games

Dogs? Good. Excitement about harming dogs? Not good.

When you hear that an upcoming game has plenty of dogs, it’s usually a source of excitement. Perhaps not so much with The Last of Us: Part II, as it’s a brutal world filled with violence, grimness, and grief — and it’s safe to assume that, as wonderful as our furry friends can be, they’re not immune from the world they will inhabit. While that’s not inherently concerning or a problem, GameStop’s excitement about just how vulnerable they are in the face of your presence has been to many people.

Earlier this week, a screenshot of GameStop’s description for The Last of Us: Part II went viral on Twitter for the tone that accompanies its content. Despite the controversy, the description has not been edited as of the writing of this article, and reads:

WHY GAMESTOP IS EXCITED FOR THE LAST OF US PART II

The second part of The Last of Us has evolved with a ton of new and descriptive details playing directly off its predecessor. Set in Jackson, Wyoming, the The Last of Us II focuses on the ever-evolving relationship between Ellie and Dina, two women who have to rely on each other to survive in a world seemingly without hope. The game takes place five years after the first installment, with players controlling 19-year old Ellie in a single player only mode.

New features include:

      • Dogs – One of the most noticeable new features of the game is the inclusion of dogs. These dogs are in the game to follow your scent and will attack you as soon as they have sniffed you out. The game doesn’t pull any punches or “stray” from the idea that while you’re playing as Ellie in a struggle to survive. You’ll also have to deal with the fact though that each dog has an owner, which will call out the dog’s name and cry in absolute horror when they discover their lifeless furry best friend. You’ve been warned.
      • Puzzles – Within the game there are a litany of puzzles that need to be solved in order to continue forward while incurring minimal damage. These puzzles are in the form of booby traps that you, as Ellie, need to lay to kill your attackers in the most efficient way possible. Finding the best way to lure your attackers into narrow doorways and ignite them with Molotov cocktails is just one of the many puzzles you’ll need to solve to continue moving in the right direction.
      • Dedicated dodge button – The creators of the game wanted to gameplay to feel as real as possible. They designed a dedicated dodge button to help you stay stealthy and low to the ground, just like you would in a real-life scenario. You can also crouch and crawl as an effective way to stay unseen and unheard. These tactics will only take you so far though, as your attackers can also hunt you down via your scent. So, while ducking, diving, dodging and crawling will keep you alive longer, you ultimately need to kill your attackers quickly and quietly in order to survive.

It’s… a bizarre description, to say the least. It seems like a way of enticing people to check out the game in a way similar to the extremely popular “Can You Pet The Dog?” Twitter account. However, the tone is unsettling considering it’s not excited about a wholesome interaction with animals rather than the prospect of realizing the depth of their suffering.

Additionally, it feels really out of place considering that the other two listed features for the game are purely mechanical ones like the inclusion of puzzles and a dedicated dodge button. The tone of the description for these mechanics of the gameplay is much more serious than the tone of the description going all-in on how foes will cry out in terror over losing their pets, with a “stray” pun to boot. The marketing is trivializing what is a feature specifically designed to emotionally affect (or manipulate, depending on your perspective) the player.

Nathan Grayson at Kotaku discusses this feature in a piece discussing a The Last of Us: Part II demo he played last year; look up any other article on the demo and this will be confirmed. In other words, it’s not a newly known feature — but the almost proud announcement of it is. When Grayson asked about the studio’s motive for the inclusion of this feature, Halley Gross — the game’s head writer alongside Neil Druckmann — conveyed that, “the goal throughout all of this violence and strife is to humanize the people Ellie is facing off against. It’s part of an effort to explore real-world issues like tribalism.”

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It’s important to note the framing of this feature came from GameStop and not Naughty Dog. Arne Meyer, the Head of Communications at Naughty Dog, took to Twitter to make the distinction since the game was coming under scrutiny for GameStop’s description.

“So @naughty_dog didn’t write or assist writing this,” tweeted Meyer. “Don’t appreciate out of context screenshot crops without mentioning the source. Folks, please google these things! This text came from an independent editorial post from a retailer. It’s on their website.”

I can only imagine the stress the developers are facing in the weeks leading up to the game’s much-anticipated release. The game has been at the center of negative attention for a few weeks now. Thankfully, this was a much easier problem to take care of than the game, unfortunately, getting massively leaked, but it was still a problem not of Naughty Dog’s creation. Problems like the studio’s infamous and abysmal crunch culture? Perfect grounds for criticizing the studio. The inclusion of this feature? Equally up for critique. An especially uncomfortable marketing tactic Naughty Dog didn’t have an input on? Perhaps not so much.

The Last of Us: Part II will be released on June 19 for the PlayStation 4.

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Natalie Flores

Natalie is Fanbyte's Featured Contributor, with bylines at places like VICE, Polygon, PC Gamer, Paste Magazine, and more.

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