Neil Druckmann, ETC Class of 2005 One of the 2023 Tartans on the Rise

Neil Druckmann, Co-President, Naughty Dog ETC class of 2005

Story by Elizabeth Speed, originally featured as part of CMU’s Tartans on the Rise Campaign.

Driving Entertainment with Great Stories

HBO’s hit series “The Last of Us” is the latest success to come from Entertainment Technology Center alumnus and game designer Neil Druckmann (CMU 2005).

“The Last of Us” started as a video game from Naughty Dog, the game development studio where Neil is now co-president. In 2013, he was the writer and creative director of the dystopian game that’s driven by strong characters and relationships. In it, players are challenged to defeat the infected and sinister human survivors to save the world.

The game’s evolution to television is being hailed as “one of the finest shows you will see this year” by many critics and fans. That’s due to the incredible partnership Neil creates to bring his ideas to life — such as the one he’s built with showrunner Craig Mazin.

“When I work with a collaborator like Craig who writes beautiful stuff, I’m going to give them room to stretch their wings and express themselves and create really interesting, surprising art within the framework that we’ve established at Naughty Dog,” Neil says.

And the surprises keep coming for Neil in what he describes as an “incredibly surreal” experience.

“It started as a failed CMU class project in 2004,” Neil says. “Now, I’m watching a promotion for ‘Saturday Night Live’ where Pedro (Pascal, lead actor in the series) will be hosting, and they have a ‘Last of Us’ sketch. I just attended a wedding, and I hear people talking about the show around me. It’s just bizarre, because I have lived with these characters for a lot of years.”

Words That Stuck

“(Distinguished Professor of the Practice at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center) Jesse Schell gives a final lecture on the last day of class where he talks about pushing for strong, good qualities within work that he would love to spread throughout the world,” Neil says. “I found his lecture to be extremely emotional, and it sticks with me when I lead a project like ‘The Last of Us.’ I think about what he said that day pretty regularly.”

Congratulations to Neil and all of the 2023 Tartans on the Rise

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