If a story is strong enough, it doesn't matter if the characters are fish like in Finding Nemo or realistic looking humans like in The Last of Us. That's the opinion of The Last of Us director Bruce Straley, who told GameSpot in a new interview that the key to any good story is creating a world that viewers/players/readers will buy into and accept as authentic.
"If [Pixar] can tell stories with fish that make you cry, repeatedly, there's no limit if it's a good story," Straley said. "The trick is, you have to make a believable world. As long as you stick to your own constraints and restrictions--that those characters have to obey--then it doesn't matter what the animal/creature/anthropomorphic/tentacle beast is."
Straley's comments were in response to a question regarding whether or not the time has passed for games like Naughty Dog's Jax & Daxter series, which of course features anthropomorphic creatures in a stylized world.
For his part, Druckmann said writing honestly, and in turn creating believable and authentic characters, comes down to ignoring tropes and ensuring a character's words and actions match up with their principles. "Am I being honest to this character, regardless of what anyone else might think? And if the answer is yes, then that's correct for what's happening in the scene," he said.
Writing in this way, Straley said, matches up with the tenets of Buddhism. Because architects of the story like Straley and Druckmann write from a place of personal attachment to characters like Joel and Ellie, they are better equipped to present them as authentic individuals, he said.
"By putting yourself in the position of actually exploring the inward desire of that character, it's like compassion," Straley said. "It's literally like Buddhist sort of method of writing. You understand now what another human is going through. And especially in this world, you're exploring so many different dimensions that it's not just one note: 'kill the bad guy' or 'save the princess.' But instead there's complexities to relationships and there are dilemmas."
Straley and Druckmann's approach to writing for The Last of Us has yielded numerous awards and nominations, the most recent of which were 10 BAFTA nominations for the game. You can check out our full interview with Straley and Druckmann, conducted by GameSpot editor Tom McShea, below.