In the 2013 action-adventure Playstation game “The Last of Us,” players control Joel as he escorts a teenage girl named Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States. Headstrong and unfiltered, Ellie made headlines for being the kind of female main character that video games were sorely missing at the time.
The game was created by Naughty Dog, a studio known to many in the industry for its creative freedom in handling game development. For Filipino Naughty Dog developers Gabby Llanillo and Madeleine Rodriguez, seeing Ellie in the game was a major turning point in their career trajectories.
“When Ellie came around, I related to her in so many ways,” says Llanillo. "I thought, ‘Oh I can actually relate to games in a personal sense as opposed to just enjoying them for entertainment.’”
Fast forward to the present and the two were involved in the making of the game’s sequel, “The Last of Us Part II” with Llanillo under quality assurance and Rodriguez under testing. Working at Naughty Dog has been a dream come true for the both of them, as Filipinas who grew up in the US and have had to undergo all the challenges that come with being an Asian female in games.
“High school me would be on the moon,” says Rodriguez of her current role. “You're doing the thing at a studio that you felt was completely untouchable. I don't do programming, I don't do scripting, I don't do anything in games. Like "Oh, this is just a pipe dream. Maybe if ever I move out to LA I'll meet someone who worked on [The Last of Us]. Turns out it's me. I'm working on the game!”
Here, in a video call with CNN Philippines Life, Llanillo and Rodriguez talk growing up as female gamers and their hope to champion underrepresented voices in the industry.
Video and interview by SAMANTHA LEE