Neil Druckmann, the game's creative director, said the developers at Naughty Dog in Santa Monica, Calif., won't alter "The Last of Us," which features 14-year-old Ellie as one of the protagonists, in light of recent real-world violence, including the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The PlayStation 3 survival-adventure game casts players such as Joel, a gruff middle-aged survivor of a worldwide outbreak, who's tasked with protecting Ellie. Throughout "The Last of Us," the girl serves as a shrewd accomplice who guides Joel through abandoned buildings, gathers supplies and assists him in thwarting enemies.
"For us, everything in the game is necessary for the story," said Druckmann in a recent interview. "The reason Ellie is that age and the violence is that brutal is because of what we're saying with the story. You have to buy into the conflict and desperation these characters live under. If you remove any of those elements, the story suffers, and that's why we would never do it."
Some critics argued "The Last of Us" was glorifying violence after early footage of the game showed Ellie stabbing a hostile human survivor in the back, followed by Joel shooting him in the face with a shotgun. The cover for "The Last of Us," which is scheduled for release May 7, features both Ellie and Joel armed with guns.
"For someone like Ellie, because this is the only world she's ever known, things we would find horrific and that would probably scar us for life are just everyday occurrences for her," said Druckmann. "She can still, in a way, keep some of her innocence because of that. She pulls the humanity out of Joel, and this is really a coming-of-age story for Ellie."