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The Last of Us Director Says Leaving Naughty Dog Was “Greatest Thing” to Happen to his Career

Bruce Straley, The Last of Us director

On the latest episode of the Final Games Podcast, The Last of Us and Uncharted 4 director Bruce Straley opened up about his departure from developer Naughty Dog and the changes of his work ethic since then.

Straley spoke to podcast host Liam Edwards, former QA tester at Rockstar Games, about his final day at Naughty Dog and the rewarding feeling that it finally granted him:

“I was always kinda searching for[…] somebody to acknowledge ‘Dude, you’re okay. You’re worth something'[…] And something about the last day of Naughty Dog, where the whole team showed up[…] it’s a beautiful thing that they went out of their way to set up an event for me[…] And it’s crazy that you have to leave somewhere to get the acknowledgement.

“The emotional security that I’ve always been looking for finally came[…] and it sounds so broken and so wrong to say it, but at the same time, it was kinda the most emotional and most beautiful and[…] most validating experience that I’ve had in my career[…] That I’ve actually made an impact on people personally is the most rewarding thing of my entire career.”

Straley also reminisced on some of his achievements at the company and what they meant to him personally:

“It’s a weird thing to say that leaving Naughty Dog was one of the greatest things to happen in my career[…] The Last of Us was really the culmination of a lot of philosophies that I had been building up and that was amazing, and to win awards on Uncharted 2 and to dedicate myself to something; I had a vision and I really spearheaded that project with the idea of wanting to make something that I hadn’t played before in the industry, and that really manifested itself in a way that I never could have imagined.”

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In a conversation with Edwards regarding work ethic, Straley discussed one of his favourite feelings during the development process:

“There’s two kinds of ‘give a f**k’s: either you say ‘f**k it’ where you give up, or you say ‘f**k it’ and nothing matters … I like the ‘f**k it’s where you go ‘F**k it, it doesn’t matter what they think. F**k it, it doesn’t matter if you’re successful or not, you’re gonna learn something in the process.’[…] I think that’s the struggle of external and internal: I want to be true to myself, but I also want to do something that somebody else is gonna recognise.”

Straley worked at Naughty Dog for 18 years, dating back to Crash Team Racing. He worked as an artist on the Jak series before becoming co-art director on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, followed by game director on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and The Last of Us. Following his work as director of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Straley took a year-long sabbatical and resigned from Naughty Dog in September 2017.

Amy Hennig, creator and director of the Uncharted series, recently said that not publishing a game since 2011 is “killing” her. Hennig left Naughty Dog in March 2014 and joined Visceral Games, which closed its doors in October 2017.

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Via Final Games Podcast Episode 73. Quotes at 8:23, 6:36, 24:03.

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