The Last of Us director Bruce Straley on ludonarrative dissonance

'We didn't necessarily have the wherewithal, the clarity so to speak, that we do now', says Straley.

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RazzerRedux49d ago

"Nathan Drake seems like a generally decent guy, but he's also killed thousands of people, and appears to be largely unbothered by that fact."

Those "people" are a collection of pixels. They are not real. Neither is Nathan Drake.

FinalAeonX49d ago

Why are you even here?

uNcHaRtEd iS jUsT a gAmE

Brave_Losers_Unite49d ago

Your comment is a bunch of pixels. It is not real. Neither is your account.

RazzerRedux49d ago (Edited 49d ago )

True statement. My comment and my account are ultimately nothing but 1s an 0s.

So if my account killed your account, should my account feel remorse?

Christopher49d ago

Please continue. I'm writing my manifesto and how banning people was never me to begin with.

XVision8449d ago

@RazzerRedux it should if your account's goal is to be liked among the general public :P

Sono42149d ago


Your comment is off topic, please remove your comment.

Christopher48d ago

@Sono421: It's not my comment, it's just a bunch of pixels.

Sono42148d ago

@Christopher Only enforcing rules when they are convenient to you, nothing has changed I see. Or sorry, that is the trend with the pixels that spell out Christopher.

+ Show (3) more repliesLast reply 48d ago
XVision8449d ago (Edited 49d ago )

Part of artistry is delivering a message or experience which feels real. The emotion and connection you feel with characters is real. It takes effort and skill to pull that off (from a creator's point of view).

Your interpretation is only skin deep. People take their personal experiences, lessons, and other aspects of their lives, and ingrain them into their characters. In that sense, a character is a mosaic or "stitching" of many real things.

So Bruce's comments are on point in regards to how we connect with Nate.

RazzerRedux49d ago (Edited 49d ago )

My interpretation is that the shooting gameplay is fun as hell and that is ok is just a game. This so-called dissonance in Uncharted doesn't exist. Call that "skin deep" if you want, but sorry this isn't a book of the month club where we practice our pretentious literary criticism. It is just an action game.

XVision8449d ago


Why can't games be something more? I say kudos to them for trying to tackle this difficult problem and pushing the boundaries of video game storytelling.

My skin deep remark was more so geared towards your point about games just being 1s and 0s therefore inconsequential. I don't believe that's true and it's not the full picture. Hope you didn't take it personally since I didn't mean it in an insulting way :).

The dissonance, by its very definition, does exist in Uncharted though. There is a disconnect between story and gameplay.

RazzerRedux49d ago (Edited 49d ago )

There is certainly a place for games that want to be more creative with gameplay. That has been the case long before Uncharted arrived. The article seems to suggest that the fact Uncharted is a shooter is a "problem". It just isn't, imo.

"The dissonance, by its very definition, does exist in Uncharted though. There is a disconnect between story and gameplay." there is dissonance in Uncharted because of the dissonance in Uncharted? If you felt a disconnect, fine. I didn't. No idea how something like that exists by "definition". It is an interpretation and that will vary from person to person. Saying it is so doesn't make it factual.

XVision8449d ago


The article doesn't suggest at all that Uncharted being a shooter is a problem in and of itself. The point of the article is to shed light on the challenges game developers face when trying to balance story and gameplay elements. They state that Uncharted struggles with ludonarrative dissonance and Bruce (the game director) gives us more insight into that. They even show other shooters (The Last of Us, Spec Ops The Line) which tackle the dissonance in a more effective way.

The definition of ludonarrative dissonance is a disconnect between story elements and gameplay elements in a video game. Unless you know something that even the creators of Uncharted themselves (and some of its critics including fans) don't, then it has this dissonance. In the gameplay you can kill and teabag enemies like a psychopathic killer, but in the story Nate is a cool and caring guy. He hesitates to kill people and shows signs of empathy. They try to mediate this in the story by having the villains question his killing sprees in Uncharted 2 and 3, but that doesn't fully address the dissonance (just tries to acknowledge it). That's how, by its very definition, Uncharted has ludonarrative dissonance. It's literally the name of an achievement in the game itself. It isn't up to you or me to say Uncharted doesn't have dissonance because it doesn't rely on opinion, it's in the very elements of the game itself. You can argue that you don't MIND that it has dissonance, which is something I would agree with because I personally loved Uncharted.

RazzerRedux49d ago

Well, there is nothing more to discuss if you believe that dissonance is a matter of fact and not a perception. I'll leave you with....

"It's literally the name of an achievement in the game itself."

About that.

"Uncharted 4 has a trophy called “Ludonarrative Dissonance” for killing 1,000 people. That’s a reference to the criticism that Nathan Drake doesn’t respond emotionally to all the killing he does.

I told all the people on the team, “This is my proudest moment, the fact that I came up with this trophy on this project.” We were conscious to have fewer fights, but it came more from a desire to have a different kind of pacing than to answer the “ludonarrative dissonance” argument.

Because we don’t buy into it. I’ve been trying to dissect it. Why is it that Uncharted triggers this argument, when Indiana Jones doesn’t? Is it the number? It can’t be just the number, because Indiana Jones kills more people than a normal person does. A normal person kills zero people. And Indiana Jones kills a dozen, at least, over the course of several movies. What about Star Wars? Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, are they some sort of serial killers? They laugh off having killed some stormtroopers. And in The Force Awakens, we see that a stormtrooper can actually repent for the person he is and come around, and there are actually real people under those helmets.

It’s a stylized reality where the conflicts are lighter, where death doesn’t have the same weight.

We’re not trying to make a statement about Third World mercenaries, or the toll of having killed hundreds of people in your life."
~Neil Druckmann

XVision8449d ago


There are a few things we can go over in that excerpt, because it's a great piece. Neil Druckmann doesn't believe that the notion of ludonarrative dissonance is an issue that plagues Uncharted specifically because 1) Indiana Jones and other much-loved characters don't face the same level of criticism in this regard 2) Uncharted isn't meant to be a commentary on the moral impact of killing many soldiers, it's just a light hearted action adventure game.

I agree with both of these points, which is why I don't mind that such inconsistencies exist. However, and this is important, Neil himself is acknowledging the ludonarrative dissonance argument. He's just stating that he doesn't buy that it takes away from Uncharted and that many media icons beyond Nathan Drake have this disconnect. Neil isn't stating that ludonarrative dissonance doesn't exist, it seems to me that he's saying he doesn't believe it's a problem (moreso a quality of the game). You are saying that it doesn't exist. There is a big difference.

If there were no elements of dissonance in the game, Neil would not need to address them and we wouldn't have Bruce Straley on here talking about game developers (such as himself) tackling it in their games. Just because Uncharted isn't a moral commentary, it doesn't mean Nate being a nice guy and then teabagging/ruthlessly murdering people isn't dissonance. It just means that the dissonance isn't really important towards the central theme of the game.

We have this all the time in art where we excuse certain things due to the nature of the piece. Mad Max Fury Road is an awesome movie. However, it doesn't directly have a deep and moving message that changes your view on life. Is that a bad thing? No, that's not the point. It's an all out action movie. But that doesn't mean that the lack of such a message in the movie isn't true.

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gameboyz_manifesto49d ago

You're totally removing the fact that these 'pixels' serve a narrative. Any book you read is made of 'just words' characters can be 'just text.'

Reducing the argument to the idea that 'because it's fictional that it doesn't need to abide by the underpinnings of narrative structure' -- how we tell and understand stories -- is a total disservice to the whole point of the article.

Nineball211249d ago (Edited 49d ago )

Can we all agree that if people cannot separate reality from make-believe, then they have a problem?

Gaming is not, nor ever will be, reality.

What Straley is talking about isn't an easy thing for developers (and more specifically writers) to solve.

RazzerRedux49d ago

These pixels serve a GAME, first and foremost. The shooting part? Yeah.....that's part of the game. It is no more a problem (as stated in the article) in Uncharted than it is in a Indiana Jones movie. Why does a video game need to reconcile the shooting of people when movies, TVs, and books don't?

gameboyz_manifesto49d ago

@Razzer A 'GAME' is something made out of multiple moving parts, full systems even. As games become more complex, so do the conversations having to do with immersion. If something doesn't feel 'real' it pulls you out of the experience of the game. We see this all of the time, games that imitate reality are measured up against that reality.For example, if you're playing a realistic shooting game and you pressed the reload button and instead of there being an animation that shows the reload you just saw a pop-up that said 'reloaded' you would find that to be sub-optima.

This is a type of dissonance. The mechanics of the game aren't abiding by the terms that the reality that the game is imitating does.

This is what's happening in a much larger sense when it comes down to the story. I also have to say that I find it bizarre that you would minimize the argument to the fact that Uncharted is a game when it obviously builds itself around a narrative.

Perhaps if you were saying this argument about a roguelike or a battle royal game then I would get your argument, but the fact is that most triple-A games these days have a fundamental commitment to creating fulfilling narrative experiences.

shaggy230349d ago

The weird thing I found with Spec Ops The Line was that as the game progressed you could see that the main character was being effected by what was happening, by what he was doing. However that was only in the cut scenes, as soon as the gameplay started again the main character was back to making half of Saudi Arabia dead without a care in the world.

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Kornholic48d ago

Well, it's more accurate than yours.

RazzerRedux48d ago

Congrats on having the "more accurate" low IQ post.

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49d ago Replies(1)
bluefox75549d ago

This whole discussion is just dumb. It's a summer blockbuster, a certain suspension of disbelief is assumed going into it. I mean, how is this not blatantly obvious to everyone?

49d ago
xX1NORM1Xx49d ago

Naughty Dog doesn't want to make "summer blockbuster" games they want to make a great story and world that will live on past just that game...

gangsta_red49d ago (Edited 49d ago )

"Nathan Drake seems like a generally decent guy, but he's also killed thousands of people, and appears to be largely unbothered by that fact."

Not a fan of the Uncharted series but aren't these guys also trying to kill Nathan Drake? I would chalk that up to self defense. It just so happens he's self defending against a thousand people.

TheColbertinator49d ago

Killing mercenaries, pirates, assassins, bounty hunters and warlords doesn't seem too strange considering it is a deadly business.

bluefox75549d ago

The complaint is more like: "How is this not affecting his conscience?" The reason for this is, it's a fun, light hearted, action flick, not a serious drama.

Pedrof49d ago

No one would complain if there was not such an emphasis in the cutscenes, dialogues, on Nathan being such a nice, normal guy from the normal world. He's not the Indiana Jones macho type, nor Marcus Fenix badass syfy soldier dude. He's treated as a character that could live next door in the real world. That's why we're so bothered that he can kill hundreds of people like it was nothing.

I think we could say it's some type of uncanny valley.

Jrios35548d ago

Remember when Naughty Dog games had fun stories that didn't take themselves seriously? I think The Last of Us has taken Naughty Dog into a direction that they're taking WAY too seriously.

I loved Naughty Dog games because they were fun and over the top. Not because they were melodramatic.

monkey60249d ago

That was actually a good read, I can see people taking it the wrong way but it shows a growth within the studio I appreciate.

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