Naughty Dog insisted on female testers for The Last of Us

The marketing company responsible for focus testing the apocalyptic game ignored female gamers; suggested removing Ellie from box art.

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The Last of Us was originally intended to be focus tested only on a male audience, Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckman revealed in an interview with The Escapist.

The oversight came not from the studio creating the game, but rather from a seemingly "girls don't play video games" attitude from an unnamed research firm given the job of managing focus testing during development.

"Another aspect that influences how a game is promoted is focus testing. Players are rounded up and are asked to view materials and answer some quantitative and qualitative questions about it," Druckman explained. "My big surprise during this process [was] that the research group wasn't planning on focus testing female gamers--it's something we had to specifically request. I hope this is a relic of the past that will soon go away."

The article went on to suggest that the marketing firm even allegedly went as far as to recommended moving co-main character Ellie to the back of the game box. Naughty Dog ignored the advice, instead placing her alongside Joel on the front of the game's packaging.

The Last of Us was previously scheduled to arrive on May 7, but was last month delayed five weeks to a June 14 launch. Naughty Dog explained at the time that due to the "massive" nature of the game's story, the extra development time was needed to "ensure every detail" was up to the developer's standards.

A demo for The Last of Us is in the works, with owners of God of War: Ascension receiving first access.

For more on The Last of Us, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Discussion

531 comments
vivalatour
vivalatour

have ellie change her clothes and shower , then she's in !

chavao666
chavao666

Well, the public's always been guys mostly. Once this is accepted, people will stop making so much drama out of things

dark_harpy
dark_harpy

If they think girls aren't interested in playing video games - and I mean the ones that guys enjoy too - they will be missing out on a lot of customers. I actually find The Last of Us to be very interesting and definitely something I would play... but I don't have a PS3 xD Oh well, I'll be getting Infinite soon xD

gzg9jg
gzg9jg

Aside from the marketing strategy to lure the female gamers to try this game, I don't see anywhere mention of how they had the female gamer in mind when they developed the game itself. Sorry Naughty Dog, I don't think this is going to be enough to get my wife or daughter to play this game; My son and me? that's something else entirely.

guiyid
guiyid

I can't believe why there's no ideal games coming out. I like a new game called Age of Wushu, something like a fancy and real action Kung Fu movie. It's the innovative combat system made the game. 

IllegallyAwesum
IllegallyAwesum

Quite frankly, if they payed the firm to give them sound financial advice, then the firm was doing their job. I see no wrong committed by the firm in this case; it would be far worse had they payed the firm for sound financial advice and the firm demanded they engage in potentially financially-damaging practices (do not get me wrong here; the status quo does indeed need to change, but it is not the place of a business firm to bring such a change). So while I applaud Naughty Dog for their actions here, I do not take offense to the firm's suggestions by any means.

GasparNolasco
GasparNolasco

"We fought to have the female character in the front i the boxart and have more females focus testing our games"

Main character is still a brown haired white dude, like in every other game.

Very brave Naughty Dog, you're doing nothing and still managed to look good.

deviant205
deviant205

As a female gamer, I know we are heavily in the minority (or at least it feels like it most days). So it always makes me happy to see companies pushing to include us in their numbers and keep an eye out for our interest in games. Thank you Naughty Dog.

tekas0
tekas0

While I disagree with the marketing firm, they are a marketing firm. They very well might be reporting 100% factual information to the company. Regardless of the increasing female gaming market, the market is most definitely predominantly male, especially in this type of genre. Now do I agree with the firm? Hell no. If developers only cared about pleasing a majority nothing would ever change. I applaud Naughty Dog in its attempt to blur the line between male and female into the name of gamer. Lets hope more companies follow suit and try to break the bounds of whats most "acceptable". Its clear from the other comments here that we arent all intolerant males. Lets keep moving that forward, games can only get better when we as a collective society accept everything/everyone and leave nothing out to bigotry. Good storytelling doesnt come from genders it comes from perspective, more perspectives equals more varied stories. I dont know about all you but I dont want to still be playing as a dudebro in "insert sandy country" with no other motivation than "they is bad I is good" storytelling 20 years from now. And I apologize for that wall of text.

AnimeNutJill
AnimeNutJill

I've always respected Naughty Dog, and respect them even more now for standing up for people like myself.  Gaming is something that should be made accessible for anyone to enjoy,  no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. If you love games then you should be able to test them & help dev improve/give other gamers the best quality games they could ask for.

I'm a proud female gamer and would love to be part of focus testing for this game, already got it preordered actually. :)

theSFfan_1
theSFfan_1

Sweet God, can we please cut the crap with the Gender Barrier already? We're fucking human beings, not creatures from a separate dimension!

vivalatour
vivalatour

I sure hope this game does record sales so we don't have to listen about any sad stories !

 C'mon  EVERYBODY PLEASE PURCHASE THIS GAME !

SmartSuzi
SmartSuzi

Another BS article pushing a feminist agenda.

Could it be that the marketing company knows it's business of marketing? No feminist bloggers know how to do that. Silly Naughty dog should have asked them for advice.

WereCatf
WereCatf

"The oversight came not from the studio creating the game, but rather from a seemingly "girls don't play video games" attitude from an unnamed research firm given the job of managing focus testing during development."

Well, FUCK YOU TOO, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I know personally atleast a handful of female gamers and not-so-surprisingly I happen to be one myself, and then seeing marketing research firms come with bullshit like this is like a slap in the face! I'd love to know exactly what firm we're talking about so I could send them a box full of my "deepest appreciation."

Thank god Naughty Dog - folks have more sense, I really appreciate them insisting on this. I think I'll write them an e-mail just to thank them for being sensible.

matty_6666
matty_6666

Respect to Naughty Dog to not conforming by putting Ellie on the back! Bioshock Infinite moved Elizabeth to the back as it was considered that would sell better! Do guys actually buy a game because there's a generic brown haired guy on the cover? 

johnnyauau
johnnyauau

It would be funny if the testing group is all female Koreans, Japanese and chinese. Well, Asians have a special part of my heart.

the13stuff
the13stuff

Focus testing doesn't equate to much of anything. Often times, people are just doing it to get paid or for free swag.

tightwad34
tightwad34

This would probably have been best left unreported or just ignored altogether. It won't affect anything the game has to offer or how much it's going to sell. ND doesn't need to explain anything because they seem to be a good company with of course a good track record.

zpluffy
zpluffy

Another BS move. Whatever, as long as they make it good.

aniva
aniva

@gzg9jg  That might be so, but I know as many serious girl gamers as I know boys, and being a girl myself, I have followed naughty dog through many good games, and look forward to this one as well. I see no reason that we should continue to adhere to stereotypes, when it ultimately comes down to the influences your exposed to from your parents as well as your peers. I used to play games with my older brothers when I was little and just kept going. That doesn't make me less of a girl. People have different interests, but ultimately it need not come down to whether your a boy or a girl. Please, plenty of girls want to play with legos instead of barbie dolls, read comics instead of fashion magazines, and play good video games. We're interested, why disregard us as customers, or fellow players?

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

@gzg9jg Then you're being somewhat foolish. The game seems to revolve, quite heavily, on the relationship between Joel and Ellie and their bid to escape the situation they find themselves in.

So they have the female gamer in mind so far as they want to ensure that their representation of a female teen is as accurate and authentic as they can get because female gamers will pick up on it a lot more than male gamers are likely to.

saleama
saleama

@GasparNolasco You don't see many fat, ugly bald guys in lead roles either.  Not many skinny nerds or gingers.  I'm not sure, but I haven't seen any old ladies or old men as the main in any games recently.  Does this mean developement studios are against all these types of people?  I don't think so.  There just wouldn't be much of a market for a game with those particular types of folks as the main protagonist.  It is not racist to create games with main characters that sell, not that you said it was.  It is good business.  Still, I find it a little disturbing that most of your "minority" main characters are in games like GTA!

super_voltron
super_voltron

@deviant205 we are glad to have you here and  hope to see more but watchout for these slick marketing  tricks.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

@SmartSuzi You shouldn't use words like feminist agenda in this context, it makes you seem far less intelligent. As if you just get angry as soon as you see the word "female" rather than actually thinking about the topic and forming a sensible opinion.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

@WereCatf If I count up all the people in my varied social groups I'd say about half of all my friends are gamers. That group, itself, seems to be a fairly even gender split. Maybe one or two more guys but not enough to count out the female perspective.

TheWalkingGhost
TheWalkingGhost

@matty_6666 Guys don't care. We just want a good game and couldn't care less who is on the cover. That is their bigoted opinion, not ours.

matty_6666
matty_6666

@the13stuff So not true Testing helps find issues that the dev team couldn't see and it helps get an understanding of the market they are selling to!

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

@tightwad34 That's a great attitude. So great that Gamespot DON'T go with it because, if they did, they'd barely ever have anything news articles at all. Y'know, since barely any of the articles affects what the game has to offer or how it will sell.

dark_harpy
dark_harpy

@super_voltron That's because developers rarely consider girls a target audience. Hence girls rarely take games into consideration, as no one bothers to direct their attention that way.

gzg9jg
gzg9jg

@aniva Look, IMO they should try to have women as much as guys in mind when developing games, I don't think we're at that point yet but we are better off now that in previous gens.

gzg9jg
gzg9jg

@Shanks_D_Chop Dude, I think you missed the point entirely, and are taking a very naive point of view, The point is that just by having a teenage girl featured in the game is not enough, she's not a playable character, not like in Beyond: Two Souls game, where the girl is the main character. That game looks to be a few steps ahead of this one in having the female gamers in mind when developing a game.
Plus, this game has a lot of gore in it, the way you can finish off the bad guys can be a bit extreme at times; the women gamers that I know aren't particularly interested in this, they're more about the challenge the game represents, the violence is there mostly for the guys.

GasparNolasco
GasparNolasco

@IllegallyAwesum True. Still, this kind of baby steps shouldn't be featured news. I mean, it's clearly a press release aimed to get good will and popularity to the game and they basically did nothing -- It's hardly the first game to feature a constant female NPC and less so the first game to feature her in the cover.

Now, the brown haired white American Joe (I'm sure he's also an ex-marine), that kinda started to get old a while back.

super_voltron
super_voltron

@Shanks_D_Chop they are women not some subspecies of frog. stop using the term  femalegammer its offensive. people dont say male gammer

johnnyauau
johnnyauau

@WereCatf I agree. Even better if you go to Asian countries but you need to learn their language so there's no misunderstanding.

the13stuff
the13stuff

@matty_6666 @the13stuff I am referring to focus testing as a means for how to market a game. Those focus test groups opinions aren't a given "fact". It can take away from the art of it, and become more of a manufactured piece of "me too". Movies do this too, and not always for the better.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@Shanks_D_Chop Oh well. Don't like my attitude toward this particular article, fine. I will always say what I think and if it's not very nice, then maybe I shall learn to not say a damn thing.

TheWalkingGhost
TheWalkingGhost

@gzg9jg Nice sexist stereotype you got there. Girls don't like violence..eww, gross nasty. Good lord. And you can play Ellie, but so what? Are you so sexist in thinking female gamers won't play as a man? Please take your sexism elsewhere. KTHXBYE.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

@gzg9jg @Shanks_D_Chop Only just saw this, I blame Livefyre.

Out of all that I'll grant you one key point. I have NO idea where I got Dark Souls 2 from. XP Personal fail. You never mentioned it and Beyond Two Souls IS actually quite similar, seemingly, to Last Of Us.

The rest... Well, you said you didn't want to waste time so I'll keep it simple.

The article isn't JUST about marketing strategies. That's just a part of the circumstances. And your comment contained the line, and I quote, "I don't see anywhere mention of how they had the female gamer in mind when they developed the game itself"

That is what I was initially replying to. When you read back over our little "conversation" with that context in mind it makes what you said about me in your LAST comment... apply to you.

gzg9jg
gzg9jg

@Shanks_D_Chop I'm not gonna waste any more time arguing with you, because I see no point, I've read some of your other replies and seems you like to contradict other people and get all high and mighty on your opinions.
Funny thing is you shoot yourself on the foot with all your comments from above, i.e. "Ability to consider someone's point rationally" I would add 'without name calling', also "Dark Souls 2", who said anything about dark souls???
YOU (as you like to write it) need to read and think before writing, I did mention Beyond Two Souls however, which is a game with a female lead.
Funnier still is how you are trying to tell me what MY point is!!!!! WTH??
The article was about marketing strategies (YOU missed that too I see), when you get out of grade school and actually know something useful, I hope you are able to argue your point without insults and name calling. Grow up kid, you're only making it worse on yourself.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

@gzg9jg Firstly, listen to this while you think about why you're wrong.

https://soundcloud.com/knifepartyinc/kpmixmagmix

Secondly, I know I called you foolish, because that's how you sounded, but that doesn't mean you should jump on the slander bandwagon. Especially since it's not helped you at all, all you've done there is prove that you're somewhat hazy on the definition of naive as well as lacking the ability to consider someone's point rationally.

Now YOU seem to think that the point is that Naughty Dog haven't done "enough" because the character of Ellie is not playable. You cite Dark Souls 2 as being "steps ahead" because that game DOES have a playable female lead. As if you somehow see this whole gender equality thing as some big competition between game developers to attract the most female gamers through stuff like this... That's a rather sexist view, imagining that girls are only interested in playing games with female leads. It's not true the other way round, so why should it be so for women?

During this, YOU are missing the point that Last of Us and Dark Souls are very, very different games on so many levels. To compare them in relation to the characters and the relationship between player and character is... ridiculous. Joel and Ellie are designed to be highly "relatable" from a gamer's perspective so it's important that their character's feel natural. So when designing Ellie it was very important that they get some female feedback to make sure that they hadn't made Ellie too stereotyped as a female teen.

THIS IS A WAY IN WHICH THEY HAD THE FEMALE GAMER IN MIND WHILE DESIGNING THIS GAME

That was my original point, which you missed.

As for the violence content... The violence isn't in there for the guys. It's there because the game is trying to be a realistic experience, as realistic as it can be. That's why it's violent. And, newsflash my naive little buddy, plenty of female gamers like violent games too!

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

@super_voltron @Shanks_D_Chop Shut up douchebag. You should've found a comment where I actually had used the term "female gamer". Then you might have had a point.

And even then, you don't. What's wrong with the term female gamer when talking in terms of the different genders as gamers? Absolutely nothing. People are happily using the term male gamer or female gamer in this discussion because they're the right, accurate terms for what's being discussed.

And there are women involved in this discussion who are referring to themselves as female gamers, it's clearly not offensive to anyone but you. So suck it up and piss off.

TheHappyDrunk
TheHappyDrunk

@the13stuff While the project leads and design staff may like to treat their craft as an art (I don't disagree), publishers aren't charities. It's their job to protect their investment and maximize their return on investment.


The game industry is a business, not an art gallery.