Here’s a quick tip for all you videogame fans out there today: stay the heck off the internet if you don’t want to read The Last of Us Part II spoilers. Cut-scenes and plot points from Naughty Dog’s zombie sequel, which was officially given a new release date of June 19 today, were leaked unto YouTube over the weekend, and are now everywhere on the internet. They’re rampant on Twitter, in the comments on the official PlayStation Facebook page, in gaming forums like ResetEra, on Reddit, and elsewhere. And, because of the nature of some of the story developments, the leak has made the game an even bigger target of the obnoxious culture warriors who complain about politics in games and use the term “SJW” unironically—meaning some of the worst people in the world are even more motivated than usual to spoil this game far and wide. So if you’re the kind of person who’s serious about avoiding spoilers at all costs, be incredibly careful about what you see and do online over the next seven and a half weeks.
Some outlets are reporting that this latest controversy to rise up around Naughty Dog and The Last of Us Part II could be connected to one that Kotaku reported on last month—namely, that the studio has been overworking its employees even more than most game studios do. Newsweek, among others, has spread rumors that the leak was perpetrated by a disgruntled Naughty Dog employee, either current or former, based on the fact that the footage has on-screen debug data. “Crunch” is a standard problem throughout the industry, with studio employees routinely expected to work overtime for extended and indefinite periods, but according to the Kotaku report Naughty Dog takes it to an extreme. This method might result in technically impressive games—although if projects were managed and scheduled out adequately overtime wouldn’t be necessary to reach those goals—but it’s unhealthy for the employees, and also to the institutional health of the studio itself; as Kotaku’s Jason Schreier points out, 70% of the credited designers on 2016’s Uncharted 4 have left the company, a high rate of churn for what should be one of the most desirable jobs in the business. There’s no proof that this leak was an inside job, but that hasn’t stopped many from cranking up the easy speculation.
Whether an insider or not is responsible, one thing is clear: these leaks have turbocharged the latest battle in the weird ongoing war between a certain subset of “fans” and the entertainment they purport to enjoy. The anger over some of the leaked plot points makes the furor over Mass Effect 3’s ending feel quaint, and this is with a game that nobody outside of Naughty Dog has even played yet. Instead of letting the people who created The Last of Us tell their story the way they want, and then forming an opinion after playing it, a vocal portion of online “fans” are furious over specific details weeks before they’ll be able to experience the whole story in context. Some of them are simply trolls, and some are homophobes who have targeted the game for its LGBTQ content, but presumably some of them are legitimate fans of Naughty Dog and the original game who have been swept up in the strident rush to judgment and cult of negativity that has somehow come to define modern fandom. As always, it’s extremely tiresome.
As mentioned above, The Last of Us Part II is now scheduled to come out on June 19. Paste can not wait to put all of this behind us.