Naughty Dog says gender/minority debate will push industry forward

Neil Druckmann says storytelling techniques are advancing and industry is "on the cusp" of seeing games with "strong, non-sexualized" female protagonists being successful.

The Last of Us

Discussions about gender and minority visibility in games will help push the industry forward, The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog creative director and writer Neil Druckmann believes.

Speaking with GamesIndustry International, Druckmann said he had been "blown away" by the kinds of stories independent games like Gone Home and Papers, Please have told. He said storytelling techniques overall are advancing, at least in the independent space.

"As more and more examples come to light, I think more people are pursuing better narratives," Druckmann said. "And I hope criticism of games and game narratives is becoming more sophisticated. I think before you would have had a hard time talking about tropes and how women are represented in games, or how characters of color are represented in games. But now I'm kind of excited by the discussion and the kind of criticism games are getting."

"I think that change is going to happen much more rapidly going forward, and people who don't engage in that discussion, who don't try to appeal to audiences that are coming on, are going to be left behind," he added.

Given the cost and nature of AAA game development, such change in storytelling may not show up immediately, Druckmann said. However, he said he remains hopeful that the tide can be turned.

"I feel like AAA games… we're on this cusp of at the very least seeing strong, non-sexualized female protagonists starring in games," Druckmann said. "You're going to see a lot more of those, and a lot more that are commercially successful."

"A lot of times in AAA games, people feel like they need to play it safe because there's so many parts of a giant corporation working on a global scale to launch a title that they don't want to take too many risks," he added. "But once you have enough evidence to say 'Hey look, this is actually not a risk, this can succeed commercially,' then creativity can flourish and new avenues can be pushed."

Naughty Dog's most recent game was The Last of Us, which was released exclusively for the PlayStation 3 in June. The developer is currently working on an undisclosed PlayStation 4 title.

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