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The discourse around Joel’s death has simmered down over time, but there was one question that never got answered, or probably even asked: Why a golf club?
“The Last of Us” games have been very intentional about their imagery and how they tie into the overall themes of the game. Director and writer Neil Druckmann, now co-president of Naughty Dog Studios, has been very open about how the game reflects his childhood and young adult life. The golf club also has a connection to his youth.
Druckmann told The Post that at age 16, he was accidentally struck in the head with a golf club, after which he needed 30 stitches. The incident left a permanent dent in his skull, he said.
“Ha. No one asked me about it,” Druckmann wrote in a direct message, mentioning that he wasn’t an avid golfer. “My friend was into it. He invited me to go to a driving range. He was showing me the ropes. I stood behind him, and got smacked on the back swing. Blood everywhere.”
The decision to use a golf club to kill Joel was made later in the writing process, according to Druckmann.
“For a long time, Abby stabbed Joel in the back then twisted the knife to paralyze him,” Druckmann said. “But knife felt more like an Ellie thing. We wanted something different.”
Knives are the melee weapon of choice for Ellie, Joel’s surrogate daughter and the other protagonist of “The Last of Us Part II.” She used a knife as a child in the first game, and wielded her blade as she traveled to Seattle to exact revenge for Joel’s death. Abby’s gameplay felt more in line with Joel, using blunt force attacks against her enemies.
Before the game’s summer launch, several scenes from the story were leaked onto the Internet, including Joel’s death by golf club. The golf club quickly became a meme among the angrier corners of the Internet, upset at the character’s death. Druckmann embraced the meme anyway, sometimes replying to tweets with GIFs of golfers or making offhand golf club jokes.
Despite the controversy, “The Last of Us Part II” went on to become the sixth best-selling game of 2020, no small feat for a single-player narrative game exclusive to the PlayStation 4. It’s also the most acclaimed video game of all time, winning over 280 awards as 2020′s best game, according to award-tracking site gameawards.net. It continued to rake in nominations this week, becoming the most nominated game in the history of the prestigious British Academy Game Awards.
With the release of the PlayStation 5, people eagerly await Naughty Dog’s next move. Druckmann said in a tweet Tuesday the studio has “several cool things we can’t wait to share with you” and asked people to be patient.
“The Last of Us” franchise hopes to welcome new audiences soon with a planned HBO series starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay, and co-written by Druckmann.