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“Happiness Has No Place in Gaming,” Our Interview With Neil Druckmann

We sat down with Naughty Dog creative director and co-president Neil Druckmann to talk inspiration, upcoming projects, his secret writing partner, and much more! 

What does your morning routine look like?

“I like to start every day off with some positive affirmations. I look at myself in the mirror, take a deep breath, and repeat ‘fuck you’ as many times as I can in a minute.”

How do you gauge the success of a video game?

“If anyone walks away from one of my games feeling a positive emotion, I consider it a deep personal failure.”

How involved are you in the TV adaptation of ‘The Last of Us’?

“I’m beyond involved. The producers even gave me my own special little controller so I can control everything that happens on set from my designated wet corner!”

They make you sit in a wet corner?

“Jealous much?”

Were you pleased with the show’s reception?

Oh, absolutely! I still think they should’ve let me play Joel, though. We’ll never know how much better the show could’ve been. 

Can you tell us anything about season two of ‘The Last of Us’?

“It’s mostly gonna be everyone playing guitars.”

Your games often touch on themes such as grief, loss, and vengeance. What d-

“Fuck, name some more, I’m so close.”

How did you deal with the initial backlash towards ‘The Last of Us Part II’?

“Easy. I put a mirror in front of my laptop, so that everyone’s hate comments are actually pointed at themselves.”

Where do you see the gaming industry heading in the next 10 years?

“Who cares? Games have been dying ever since they invented the printing press.”

What can you say about the new IP Naughty Dog is working on?

“I’m super excited, but for now I can only say this: French toast. Oh geez, did I say too much?”

Does it ever become difficult to navigate the emotionally heavy nature of your narratives?

“No. Happiness has no place in gaming.”

What are your thoughts on the future of single-player gaming as the industry increasingly focuses on multiplayer, live-service games?

“Single-player? I’m pretty sure my games have trillions of players.”

‘The Last of Us’ has been widely praised fo-

“Everywhere I go, it’s always about The Last of Us. I literally worked on Jak X: Combat Racing and nobody talks about it. I guess most artists never get their flowers until they’re six feet under.”

Could you share one of your favorite memories as a gamer?

“When I was just six years old, my father granted me the privilege of working a 120-hour work week in his factory. Now my mission is to spread that same joy to everyone on my team!”

What advice would you give to aspiring game designers?

“Keep making games and sharing them with the world. If anyone doesn’t like them, know that something is wrong with you and you should stop forever.”

What is your process for creating such complex characters?

“Oh I don’t know, let’s ask Socko. Yo-ho-ho, Socko here! You may not know me, but I write all of Neil’s games and make all the tough decisions so he doesn’t have to!”

What game are you playing currently?

“I know I’m late on this, but I recently got into putting live goldfish in my blender. 300 hours in, and it’s still exciting!”

Are there any movies you think would make a good video game?

“I saw this video on Twitter of a guy eating a hamburger really fast. Like way faster than anyone should eat a hamburger. Probably that.”

Do you have anything to say about the allegations that Naughty Dog is too hard on their workers? 

Shh, wait. Did you hear that? Man, I swore I heard something. Let’s both be quiet for a second and see if I hear it again. 

What’s next for Neil Druckmann?

“Uh, I’m gonna breathe air. Duh, stupid.”