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Naughty Dog on ‘traumatic’ The Last of Us 2 leaks

Neil Druckmann says it was a mini-exercise in living the game’s message

The Last of Us Part 2 leaks in early 2020 were a traumatic experience for everyone involved, Naughty Dog said in the game’s new documentary. Series creator Neil Druckmann, Abby’s actress Laura Bailey, and Ellie’s actress Ashley Johnson spoke about the intense backlash after the leaks in the months before the survival horror game launched and said they were a disturbing experience none of them will ever forget.

The studio shifted to a work-from-home setup at the start of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, and shortly after one of the game’s many delays, gameplay clips started appearing online. Druckmann and Naughty Dog management wondered if someone from the studio leaked the footage or if their remote setup somehow compromised security.

The hacks came from a 20-something-year-old fan in the Netherlands who found a way into Naughty Dog’s internal servers and downloaded several terabytes’ worth of data. Their intent was “forcing Naughty Dog’s hand” and making them ship the game, so the clips they released were designed to incite anger from the fanbase.

Naughty Dog couldn’t ship the game early, but the leaker certainly made people angry. The internet latched onto the idea that Abby was trans, which she isn’t, accused Naughty Dog of “political pandering,” and eventually found out Joel’s fate, which Druckmann said even made Troy Baker – who was against that particular decision – act a bit frosty toward the team.

Druckmann, writer Halley Gross, actors Ashley Johnson and Laura Bailey, among many others, received floods of hate messages and death threats. Johnson said it reached a point where she logged on social media, and the hate was the only thing she saw. Gross, no stranger to outsized fan reactions from her previous work, said even she found the intensity of the hate disturbing

Bailey’s team shielded her from the worst of the reactions and threats, but she said they had to pass on some of the more believable ones that targeted her family and, at the time, newborn son. They advised her to take precautions and make sure the people making the threats didn’t leave nearby, a situation Bailey still couldn’t talk about without, understandably, breaking into tears.

Druckmann said his first reaction was, also understandably, born from anger, and he wanted to punish the leaker as harshly as possible. However, he realized taking punitive actions would seem a bit ironic given The Last of Us 2’s message and decided to let the matter go.

If you missed the documentary, you can check it out on YouTube or in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered on PS5. We called it basically just The Last of Us 2 Director’s Cut in our review, but that’s not really a bad thing.

Meanwhile, HBO is starting production on The Last of Us Season 2, with some of the main cast, including Dina, locked in place.