The Last of Us Part II Narrative Lead is More Committed to Diverse Stories Than Ever

"My DMs will not scare me away from continuing to try and tell those stories."

When I sat down to talk with Halley Gross, the narrative lead and co-writer of The Last of Us Part II, for Thanks for the Knowledge, I wanted to talk about what she learned coming into video games after so many years working in television. After a launch so rife with controversy and outright hostility in some cases, I would have thought anyone working on the game would have been weatherworn. Launching a game about a pandemic in the middle of a real pandemic is taxing enough, but The Last of Us Part II is a game that became nearly impossible to discuss in some online spaces. But as it turns out, Gross’ takeaway from the entire experience was one of determination and solidifying of her convictions and commitment to diverse storytelling, even if she’s facing the predictable pushback of people who are bothered by the prospect.

“I think, more than anything, I’ve more doubled down on my conviction that diverse stories need to be told, but when we write diverse stories about diversity. […] Something that’s relevant to me right now is, we’re seeing a lot of big push for women in action movies. Which is wonderful, and I’m glad that we’re having that diversity now, but can we do women in action without it being about the fact that they’re women? Can we use narrative to further push all of us feeling more willing to embrace diversity? So I think what I’ve learned is more like, I’m standing in that tribe no matter what’s in my DMs. My DMs will not scare me away from continuing to try and tell those stories.”

More The Last of Us Part II:

Elsewhere in the interview, we discussed what’s different about writing games compared to television, what it’s like dealing with the fallout of scenes from the game leaking pre-launch, and how she sorts through the bile of the internet to find good criticism. You can check out all of the above in the episode below: