Michael is a 2006 Graduate of Collins College and has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design branching into IT/Coding Fields.
A Visual Representation of Our Discussion
Where Did it go Wrong?
The Last of Us is a unique experience that many fans of the Gaming Arena/Industry herald as a masterclass of modern games and gameplay/storytelling. Through it, we catch a glimpse of an apocalyptic decay of Americana through the lens of two characters, Joel and Ellie. And through their exploits and adventures, players uncover hidden truths, test their resolve and motivations, and bring about a satisfying ending as one COULD bring in such a wasteland this game has created; the groundwork for potential sequels was inevitable.
But then comes, The Last of Us Part II. The results were as opposite as night and day. Yes, initially the game was touted a roaring success; however, upon lifting the veil, players bore witness to unspeakable horror, along with an unconscionable act that forever tarnished and tattered the goodwill this sequel, if not the franchise could offer. This was done by the actions of one character.
Therefore, while the author acknowledges the timing of this article (along with not playing the franchise itself due to YouTube Let's Plays being a more cost-friendly solution . . . take that as you will), the need must be addressed to the potential and fatal flaw of this character, this anomaly that caused so much wrong in a game that was done so right previously. I speak, of course, of The Last of Us Part II, and "This Abby."
Who is This Abby?
This Abby is in reference to a character that has a muscular upper body that does not match the remainder of the lower body. While asymmetrical body types would be common in a post-apocalyptic setting, nothing in the narrative nor the gameplay suggests that this Abby's arms are to be of that particularly swollen size, even under standard exercise regimens for soldiers, or in this Abby's case: terrorists. It would suggest something unnatural in this Abby's pursuit of physical fitness to survive the world of The Last of Us. Yet even with this tidbit of information, the author is compelled to provide some caveats in regard to this Abby.
Who or What This Abby is Not . . .
Now that we have established what or rather who this Abby IS, we must clearly define who This Abby IS NOT.
This Abby is NOT the Voice Actress . . .
It cannot be stressed enough, that this Abby, with no capability of rearing children as showcased throughout the game, nor compassion for those fighting while bearing a child, is not voice actress Mrs. Laura Bailey. The only connection between the two is that Mrs. Bailey had some small part in the voice of the character. As an accomplished director of Voice Actors in her own right, she [Mrs. Bailey] would have openly challenged the misguided steps taken to create this Abby and the poor choice in dialogue that was assigned. It cannot also be overstated that this Abby appears "female" while Mrs. Laura Bailey is a loving mother. There's no comparison between the two, and impossible to even attempt such a thing.
This Abby Does Not Represent the Motion Capture Artists . . .
Another misconception floating about is that this Abby is in relation to the face captor (and former Visual Effects Artisan) Ms. Jocelyn Mettler, and body captor (as well as renowned body sculpting expert) Ms. Colleen Fotsch. Both women are professionals in their respective fields. Both understand the importance of character presentation and symmetrical/asymmetrical design. None of which is present on this Abby. To even connect this Abby to either woman is not a reflection of their profession, nor should such a correlation exist.
Now that these caveats are in the open, let's begin further discussing this Abby.
This Abby is Entitled
Despite the grotesque appearance, this Abby could not offer players a better and more rewarding experience while this Abby had no real consequence for her actions.
This Abby is rescued from a small cadre of mushroom zombies by the former lead protagonist, Joel, only to kill him in a short manner with no resistance from the man himself, and Ellie somehow watches all this while captive and . . . survives?
The actions this Abby takes is that of a begrudging acceptance while offering very little in personal expression. Long story short, this Abby simply goes through the motions. This Abby does what is required only because there's nothing else to do, given unchecked reward and glory yet offering snark and sass as a means to make any supporting character feel less of themselves.
Also, the player is required to go through flashbacks of this Abby's past as a means to showcasing "innocence" before becoming that which most audiences loathe, this Abby. The sequence of events is jarring and misleading when having to ping-pong back to Ellie and the harsh unforgiving reality that her gameplay covers. It's also worth noting that this Abby is considered a de facto leader throughout the entirety of the game.
This may be fitting considering the circumstances surround her association, as the player discovers . . .
This Abby is Part of a Terrorist Organization, the "Fireflies."
Many will forget that the Fireflies operate under their own warped laws and mean to topple what remains of the US Government during this apocalyptic time, maintaining a repressive order should none comply, while in the middle of a zombie outbreak.
This group of "eco-terrorists" cross paths with Joel and Ellie as they fight their way to the nearest safe zone while surviving and bonding amid the apocalypse (not too far from what we're living in as of this article . . .) and realize that Ellie has the cure or rather anti-bodies needed to survive the altering effects of the mushroom zombies.
They kidnap her and proceed to extract tissue samples, as many as they can, and seek to administer a "cure" as leverage to gain power over rivaling terrorists and the US government as a whole. Joel's greed for having already known of this feature of Ellie actually saved Ellie's life and prevented her from being a lab experiment.
So what is the connection to this moment and this Abby? Well, somehow this Abby's "father" was a key member of the medical team that Joel "killed" (if such a possibility exists). They paint this Abby's "father" as a kind-hearted man that could do no harm and had no ill-will or selfish intentions. Even though he's a key figure in a terrorist organization . . . that we found out in the SECOND game and not the first.
Shortly after this was when this Abby set in motion the plans to exact revenge upon Joel, the murderer of this Abby's "father," and thus fulfilling this Abby's only purpose. The plot literally presenting the very man as this Abby's rescuer and then creating the exact opening this Abby needed with no prior planning or preparation is baffling, yet this is the narrative we are given. Speaking of completely derailing the events of the previous game . . .
This Abby Disgraced the Previous Game
When one creates sequels, it is expected that either the precedent set would be followed and improved or, in the case of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, become the absolute bane of a franchise. This Abby represents the latter; a complete disregard for what came before and the unmitigated character assassinations that took place in order to bring about such an edification.
Is this Really Joel?
Joel, a once caring father turned cynical and selfish due to events in the prologue of the first game, found a small piece of redemption in Ellie while also selfishly benefiting from the fact that she could get him some decent "bread and cheddar" for the right group. Yet during this time, there was a small bonding moment and a chance to have a small resemblance of a family while together. He also was very quick to spot a situation going south and only trusted people as far as his guns could shoot at them.
This was completely gutted after this Abby comes into the picture and Joel just takes this Abby in without question, after saving this Abby from the mushroom zombies. The first thing he should have done was shoot this Abby in the leg and THEN ask questions, then at LEAST it would justify seeing Joel in a worse light. But no, they just make him as gullible as possible; in fact, all the men in this game are as gullible as ever. That's a different discussion at the moment.
Oh, Ellie, Honey, No . . .
Next is Ellie; the female lead of both games. If any character has been given an injustice, it's actually her. True, Joel is cynical and ruthless, but he had to be; that sense of a cold-hearted approach to life wasn't necessarily in Ellie's nature despite her own losses. Ellie isn't that naive either; it was a balancing act that kept her character interesting. Instead, they stripped any character that she had in the previous game and turned her into a female discount-PS2-Kratos ("I will have my revenge!") while going on a mindless, and nearly comical, killing spree.
Why bother with stealth when you will kill every person anyways?
Also, the game is deliberately set up to vilify her by putting her in situations where no other option or choice could be made. The most notable example is "the dog." In one scene, we see this Abby play with a dog, pretending to be innocent. Touching, right? Well, be sure to remember that lovely little canine.
The game makes it so that Ellie has to kill the dog in order to progress through the story. There is no other option to be made.
The Tools of Engagement
The layout of weapons, gear and the like is also suspect. It would make sense for Ellie to be given some new upgrades or a sense of improvement over the years with Joel; sadly, she is stuck with the same weapons as last game, which is proven to be cumbersome when this Abby is literally armed with military-grade hardware at her disposal and whim.
And What about the "Cure?"
Finally, the very reason for Ellie's existence, the fact of her being able to have the "cure" for all this, is completely shelved for a false sense of LGBTQIA+ representation (this actually is a problem on both Ellie and this Abby's playthroughs but that's a different discussion). Who she loves is more important than providing the cure to save those she loves, not that it matters since the person she loves leaves her at the end of the game.
The Lore is Backwards
As if we are in the Upside Down, the Fireflies terrorist group is now heralded as heroes and champions of justice? Also, this Abby is relatable in some way as a human being? And the fact that no one is showing any concern over the countless hordes of mushroom zombies? Are we already bored of surviving an apocalypse? And Ellie is a killing machine with, again, a discount-PS2-Kratos complex? All this to appease a "Social Justice Warrior" that has been more wrong than right in both principle and practice? Was she worth it, Neil?
This Abby is the Director's Wet Fever Dream
There was clear intent on the Director to have this Abby exist in this game; more than just a talking point. As previously mentioned, the author asks a question:
"Was she worth it, Mr. Druckmann?"
- Was she worth the delays and distractions that lay rampant throughout this game?
- Was she worth the degradation of effort laid by the previous game?
- Was she worth the loss of an actual female game director of note, Ms. Amy Hennig? Yes, she's from a different game series, but she would have been a better choice overall . . .
- Was she worth the cheap points scored as you "stan SJW beliefs?"
- Was she worth the complete upheaval of narrative in this game?
- Was she worth the inevitable backlash you currently receive for this half-hearted effort, mismanaged vision, and unchecked ego?
- Was she really worth it, after all of this, Mr. Druckmann?
To be perfectly fair, the author fully acknowledges that under no circumstance nor obligation is the one being questioned, Mr. Neil Druckmann, expected to provide an answer or even feign concern at all. That's not what these questions are even about; they are about the realization that this choice of direction and the insertion of the character itself (this "Abigail Anderson") was not in the best interest of the game, be it the story, characters, and consequences played out. All to impress the girl. And yet, the truth of this Abby's existence cannot be denied in the following revelation . . .
In the End, This Abby is Art
Despite all that is said about this Abby, this Abby at the core represents a simple aspect of art itself; to question, challenge, inspire, and/or disturb.
The Question That This Abby Fails to Invoke
It's clear that the existence of this Abby does question the fact that not everyone is as good as they are portrayed, but can the same be said of this Abby? Is she not being put on the shoulders of those that paved the way before her? Her pedestal made with the bodies of every character in the game, while openly leaving the characters that matter to rot on the mount?
The Challenge That No One Wants
This Abby is artistic in that it challenges what is considered both "beautiful" and "acceptable" in the eyes of the beholder. The end result, at best, is polarizing. Some question whether or not this Abby is actually a man with a feminine voice, but that was put to rest due to a certain scene that cannot be described in its full detail. This Abby also challenges whether or not what we perceive as truth is really true. However, with how the game champions her entire existence and how she ultimately escapes harm in the end with no consequence, the challenge falls flat like this Abby falling from a high ledge.
Sadly, this Abby does not inspire any sort of inspiration beyond disgust and outrage; a pariah of social unacceptance and entitled bigotry that can do no wrong, bare no shame, and feel no fear, doubt, or guilt for her actions. She is praised by simply existing, not for her actions, not for her morals (as she is a terrorist). So what is there to be inspired by this Abby?
Or perhaps this malformed creature is Neil Druckmann's warped understanding, rather an acceptance, of modern "feminism;" amalgamations more male than female offering neither equity nor dignity, suffering no consequence while basking in unearned nor unwarranted praise; yet all around them breed chaos and confusion.
"My God, who wouldn't want [this Abby]?"
Say what you will of Joel and Ellie in the first game and this game, but they offered what this Abby could not: hope. Hope inspired by the will to see another day, knowing that it will get better.
Hope, in Joel's case, was a fleeting moment of happiness only to see it robbed from him right before his eyes; a man void of light and life living a selfish, criminally distant existence slowly coming back to a time where he had a sense of paradise, now forever lost.
Ellie having been plucked from a random encounter with Joel decides to (narratively) continue her journey with him in the hopes that this selfish, stubborn, cold-hearted man could be the one thing she never really had on her own life, family.
In regards to this Abby, the focus of this Abby's character is that this Abby completes objectives, and that's it (getting Lev to where the child needs to go is just an objective to this Abby).
The Only "Positive" of This: Disturbance
To say that this Abby has disturbed a fair amount of people is insulting the reader's intelligence, but say it the author must. Perhaps that's the crux of the game itself. Nothing in this game is "pretty" or "acceptable" as this is in a setting of absolute anarchy. Any semblance of safe and calm has been ultimately destroyed; leaving only the bitter, deformed, visceral truth laid naked and festering opened.
The problem is that this disturbance came too soon and was too great. A raw experience when done properly can empower players and beholders alike to become further drawn in; a narrative hook. And much like the Pied Piper leading the audience through the streets of Hamlet, it comes down to the meticulous work of crafting a story worthy of such shellshock to the senses, which must conclude with an ending that dwarfs the previous game in its entirety. Nonesuch effort exists in The Last of Us Part II.
How could it? They basically gave away the entirety of their premise on this one scene prematurely. The art of this Abby and her ill-conceived existence wasted at the beginning of the game; a potential that was foolishly squandered by the hubris of Neil Druckmann and his desperation to subvert expectations while placating to a cause he has no passion for nor capacity to properly express.
Author's Note: Neither does the author of this article so take that as you will, dear Reader.
This art that is this Abby leaves much to be desired while preventing any worth that the game could have provided, be it critically valuable gameplay modes and functions as well as a better understanding of story and lore; sadly we will never know of such things, all due to this Abby.
So Now What?
Honestly, nothing can be done. This Abby is as permanent as a pre-existing condition or the Novel Coronavirus (as of this article's publication, the disease is still spreading, but it is a part of our normalcy now); infecting disenfranchisement upon a large group of devoted players while killing many of the more passionate players' desires to see this game continue, much less succeed. After gutting the game to fit this Abby in, what remains is a hollowed sham of greatness that was better left untouched.
If there IS to be a sequel and based on how the game ends such a possibility exists, the first thing that must be removed or at least brought to an end would be the existence of this Abby. Anything less than this would only further demonstrate the damage irreparable, and the story of The Last of Us truly dead.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Michael Rivers