"As Ellie, I got to do all the things I wanted to do growing up: play videogames, read comics, have water gun fights. But somehow--somehow!--Ellie got to do the 'girl stuff' too: have a female best friend, tell her secrets, hang out at the mall and take silly pictures together in a photobooth. Instead of this making her weak and foolish, as the mystical scrolls of gender norms had foretold, Ellie became a warrior. She was still a girl, but one capable of creeping up behind a grown man trying to kill her and shivving him in the neck. She got to be both vulnerable and dangerous, scared and brave, weak and strong. She got to be human."
Laura Hudson found herself in perpetual disbelief while she played through The Last of Us: Left Behind. She was playing as a girl… who was also a person. Her own person. Naughty Dog handled the relationship between Joel and Ellie in the main game about as well as possible, but it was still for the most part a tough guy protecting an innocent girl. Not a very new or interesting dynamic.
Hudson's article for Wired explores how trading Joel for Ellie's best friend Riley, and trading endless streets for a dilapidated-but-semi-functional shopping mall gave her a more complete experience of a female character than ever before: a character who isn't defined by her gender but who is also given the opportunity to enjoy femininity.