The Game Awards was a strong night for Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us: Part 2. The game took home seven awards, including the coveted Game of The Year honor.
It also landed Best Narrative, Best Audio Design, Best Performance for Laura Bailey as Abby, Innovation in Accessibility, Best Action/Adventure, and Best Direction.
It’s that last one which raised a few eyebrows.
Naughty Dog had a rough go of things before the release of this highly anticipated title. First, you had a number of delays that pushed the release back further than intended. Then, a lot of the game’s plot leaked online, causing massive controversy regarding a few shocking story developments.
But, most damning of all, were allegations from former Naughty Dog employees of a crunch culture environment that pushed developers to put in long grueling hours to get the game out at any cost.
Of course, Naughty Dog denied these allegations, but enough former employees have spoken out about it to sway the court of public opinion.
So, the question then becomes should a game that required such an extreme working environment be awarded with Best Direction at the most prestigious gaming award show on the planet?
There are many who say no.
Instances of crunch culture are often associated with a breakdown of leadership and a lack of direction. So, with Best Direction being awarded for, “outstanding creative vision and innovation in game direction and design,” according to the official description from The Game Awards, how does something like The Last of Us: Part 2 fit?
Of course, the answer is that there’s no proof of these allegations, and the developer itself denies them.
Many former Naughty Dog employees have spoken at length about the honor of bringing such critically acclaimed games, such as Uncharted and The Last of Us, to life. However, it comes at a great cost to them. Namely, putting in 12 hour workdays and coming in on weekends. This leads to issues pertaining to their personal lives, their health, and their relationships.
“They do try to take care of you, providing food, encouragement to go take breaks,” a developer said to Kotaku last year. “But for the most part, the implication is: ‘Get the job done at all costs.’”
One developer from The Last of Us: Part 2 said that the crunch culture at Naughty Dog was “unsustainable” and would not be able to continue over and over for each game. That might be the cause of some of the employee turnover issues the developer has seen.
For example, 70% of the non-lead designers on Uncharted 4 left the studio soon after the game was released.
Regardless of whether these concerns have validity, The Last of Us: Part 2 has taken the Best Direction Award, along with six other honors. That means you’re not likely to see anything changing from Naughty Dog anytime soon.