Games Can Be Compelling and Character-Driven Without Shooting, Says The Last of Us Director Bruce Straley

Former Naughty Dog game director Bruce Straley says it's possible for games to be character-driven and compelling without shooting.

January 9, 2020

In an interview with, Bruce Straley, game director on 2013’s The Last of Us, says games can be character driven and compelling even without shooting.

“Can you create a game that’s as interesting and character-driven and compelling as an Uncharted story or Last of Us story without shooting? I think you can,” says Straley. “Again the concept has to be… ‘how can I create a rich enough world to allow for interesting core mechanics?'”

The talks about ludonarrative dissonance, which means violence is a core theme in a game. Among the examples mentioned include Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Spec Ops: The Line, and God of War.


After working for Naughty Dog for 18 years, Straley departed the developer in 2017. He started out as a texture artist on Crash Team Racing and rose the ranks to be a game director on games such as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and The Last of Us.

“The world has to afford interesting, compelling ways for the player to figure out [solutions] — and that’s a lot of what games are,” Straley continues. “We have to put players in a position to be engaged with overcoming obstacles, which means the core mechanics have to avail us enough opportunity to figure out a solution.”

Straley references Hideo Kojima as an example of someone who’s shaking up the games industry by trying to stray away from violence. Additionally, Straley says games from developer Playdead remain engaging without any shooting in them.

“So for me personally as a player, I want something fresh,” says Straley. “I want something that feels different, and I think we’re allowing for more time with the game to settle into experiences, where it used to be more like: ‘How do we get the player hooked in the first ten minutes, we gotta do this, we start in media res, start with some action sequence, let’s go, go, go.'”


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