When Naughty Dog released The Last of Us back in 2013, it was a quite unlike anything we’d ever seen before from the developer. Where Uncharted was a light-hearted romp with clear lines drawn between good guys and bad guys, things in The Last of Us weren’t so clear cut.
Lead characters Joel and Ellie certainly seem like the guys we should be rooting for for the majority of The Last of Us, but as Joel caves in skulls with bricks and brutally strangles enemies to death in the name of survival, players found themselves questioning whether or not they were always doing the right thing – especially as they reached the game’s shocking climax, which is still debated to this day.
It could be argued that nobody understands Joel better than voice actor Troy Baker, who played the character in The Last of Us and will be returning – in some capacity – as the grizzled survivor in the upcoming sequel, which should release… some time in the next thousand years, maybe.
In a recent talk at a Manchester Comic-Con panel (via Gamebyte), Baker shared his take on whether we should consider Joel a hero or villain, with the actor deciding that even if the character isn’t a villain in the strictest sense of the term, Joel certainly sees himself as one.
I don’t think Joel believes he’s a hero. If he was to lean anywhere I think that Joel would consider himself a villain, which is why he can say that he’s been on both sides. Like he can say ‘I’m just a guy trying to get by. I’m not here to save anybody, I’m not here to upset anyone’s plans. I’m just trying to live one day at a time.
It could certainly be argued that Joel is an incredibly selfish character for large chunks of The Last of Us, but after losing his daughter at the very start of the game, there can’t be a parent in the world who doesn’t understand why Joel did everything in his power to make sure he didn’t lose Ellie at the end of the game.
Of course, there are then those that would argue Joel’s “rescue” of Ellie wasn’t his call to make, and that murdering an entire compound of people to get her back was, from a certain perspective, exactly the kind of thing a villain would do.
Like I said, there are no easy answers when it comes to The Last of Us. I’m certain that The Last of Us Part II finally arrives, it’ll be just as full of thorny moral dilemmas and blurred lines. I can’t wait.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.