Bruce Straley co-created The Last of Us with Neil Druckmann, but you wouldn’t know it from the TV show’s credits.
Following its success as an HBO adaptation, The Last of Us has recently been hailed as one of the greatest stories in modern gaming, with Neil Druckmann widely credited as its creator. But if you check the credits on Mobygames, you’ll notice that the game’s director is actually a guy named Bruce Straley. And despite his deep connection to the game and a long career at Naughty Dog, Straley said in an interview with the LA Times that he was completely shut out of the series.
Straley was one of the first employees at Naughty Dog – his 15th employee, he said on Twitter in 2014 – and has credits for games including CTR: Crash Team Racing and the original Jak and Daxter trilogy. In 2007, he was one of two art directors on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and then moved on to the role of game director on Uncharted 2, on which Druckmann worked as lead designer. The two then teamed up for The Last of Us, with Straley as game director and Druckmann as creative director.
After The Last of Us, he went on to direct Uncharted 4, but did not return to work on The Last of Us 2; instead, he announced in 2017 that he was leaving the studio.
“After leading three extremely demanding projects and taking a long time away from the office, I found my energy focusing in other directions and slowly realized that this was the signal that it was time to move on,” Straley wrote for the Naughty Dog blog.
Since then, according to the Times, the relationship between Straley, who launched a new studio called Wildflower Interactive in 2022, and Naughty Dog has become “strained.” And while Druckmann is prominently credited in the HBO show, Straley’s name is nowhere to be seen, and he apparently isn’t making any money from it either.
“It’s an argument in favor of syndication that someone who was part of co-creating that world and those characters doesn’t get a mention or a penny for the work they put into it,” Straley said. “Maybe we need unions in the video game industry so we can protect creators.”
The exclusion is particularly puzzling in light of the fact that HBO’s The Last of Us follows the story of the 2013 video game to the letter. And as Kotaku pointed out , Straley received special credit in The Last of Us Part 1 remake “for his instrumental role in the development of The Last of Us.”