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.

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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729 comments
Ronny411
Ronny411

What would "push" the industry forward is if people stoped caring so much about looks, particularly women and many guys as well. Cause at least like 50% of the people who complain about women in games forget all about personality and just focus on their looks or if they are sexualized or not, not giving the personality one single thought. Which is ironic, the "freedom fighters" are at least half of the problem. Cause they help the supposed issue they fight.

ZakBlue
ZakBlue

Who cares? what does it have to do with gaming. If you want strong 'non sexualized' protagonists go read a book or something or watch some indie flick. Leave that ass-crack political correctness out of games.

zwenti
zwenti

Yeah now women kill bad men in videogames. How advanced! 

And there are of course no bad women in games. Because, the hitman-trailer-shitstorm shows it, that is an sacrilege and sexism. ;-) Lara Croft kills hundreds of men. No problem. But 5 women in hitman and all hell is breaking loose. 

Wow, welcome to the 21. Century and the hypocritical gender-policy!


But anyway....Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!!!

dipdish
dipdish

YES! We want to see more "strong, non-sexualized" female protagonists. 

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

This article strikes how very similar the video game industry is following in the footsteps of the motion picture industry in its early decades. As more and more people from all classes become gamers, not only here in the US but world wide, there will be more acceptance and even demand for non traditional protagonists. I look very forward to it. 

This also reminds me of when tomb raider came out and the slew of big titty lead characters, which the world reacted by, "is there too much sex in video games". These articles will come and go, but what will always remain the same - story. If it is good enough, hell we will even watch a little robot fall in love and save humanity, Wall-E. Or play a small boy who meets a girl, escapes a castle, and we will just about cry at the end - with almost no dialogue, menus, or health bars. ICO.


therogerwilco
therogerwilco

Dumbest article ever. You wanna know what 'sucking the teet' of minorities is? Look at Battlefield 3. EVERY character is black. Now I'm the minority being white, so you must succumb to me because I'm going to complain about it until you change it. That's the mentality nowadays. But no really, that's kinda bogus, I'm actually Chinese and not in Battlefield 3. Haha, you would have said 'get a life' if I was white, now you find out I'm not, so you'll probably take me more seriously. Racist scum.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

I am amazed how impossible to understand is, for some people here, the fact that there are persons that see an issue here.
To each its own; everyone has the right to complain without receiving an insulting answer from some people without arguments...

Nekator
Nekator

omg... this useless topic spawns it´s ugly head again and again...

lorkos
lorkos

Games becoming more racially diverse is never a bad thing. I don't want it forced or anything, but the option to allow these types of games to be made will only be a positive. As for women? Big mistake. Games with female leads = catastrophic drop in sales. Why? Because women/girls don't buy games! (and no, I don't believe whatever BS the ESA tries to propagandizes us with otherwise). The only women that will sell games are the ones prancing around in skimpy bikinis. Period!

theKSMM
theKSMM

So far the way to avoid misrepresenting people of color in videogames is by not representing them in videogames.  I haven't seen a non-white lead character in a videogame set outside Asia since Crackdown 2.

WraistlinGill
WraistlinGill

Case in point, the review of GTA V.  When a game like GTA V gets called out in the press as "unnecessarily misogynistic" you can bet the developers will take notice, if they want to tap the entire market of gamers that is.

The_Last_Ride
The_Last_Ride

It's good to have discussion around a game, but i hope games don't change the story because they feel they have to be politically correct

udubdawgz
udubdawgz

lol, ya i sure can't wait to see politically correct and stupid ideology in all my video games.

majere613
majere613

I think it'd be a great shame if every game had to be some politically-correct, doesn't-offend-anyone ticks-all-the-boxes mush. There's certainly a place for games with strong, well-drawn characters, realistic and sympathetic depictions of women, and, for that matter, little or no violence, but it'd be a great shame if they couldn't co-exist with your DOA's, Suda-51, Saints Row etc.

Films will always have a need for the Baysplosion Blockbusters or the Spring Breaks as much as they will for the Schindlers Lists and so on. There's no reason games can't be the same.

Triton
Triton

Just make good games to play, don't worry about the other crap.

Rayzakk
Rayzakk

Yes innovation in the games won't push anything forward.  It has to be crap that forces other people's political views and other trash on people.  So you in reality you'll be paying to watch and play propaganda. 

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

The basic understanding of how memes progress in the "zeitgeist" is that you need extremes at both ends of any given spectrum in order to move the mean.

That's an easy concept to understand in say temperature records, but a tougher one to grasp and quantify in something like culture. However its fairly certain that debate on any particular topic will have an effect of one sort or another.

Whether the debates around games like LoU or say Two Souls will "push the industry forward" remains to be seen. Coming from Australia I know whatever gains we make will likely be removed by the censors anyway(who are also an elements of a society's zeitgeist). Then there is the question of what is "forward" ?

Assuming we are talking about matters of gender equality then forward may not be the direction everyone thinks it is. For example Im sitting here watching Death Race Inferno (I know how bored am I?) and I notice that the deaths of men are portrayed far more graphically than the deaths of women. I have no doubt this ties into the same paternal factors that affect women in media, but is equality in this subject necessary or desirable?

Its not an simple topic and "forward" isn't the same for everyone.

DeFiLeDTitan
DeFiLeDTitan

Instead of forcing this stuff into games, how about you just let it happen? If you've got a good story, and involves these types of things, by all means go for it. But if you're taking a story and force-feeding stuff like this into it, it looks obvious, and it looks like bad writing. Games like Skyrim have strong female characters without having to have sexual appeal, and when you're playing you don't really notice because they make it feel natural. 

Mawy_Golomb
Mawy_Golomb

With people like Incubus420 and dpclark around,  I'm very glad that there are at least a few people in this world who acknowledge the various problems that we still haven't managed to overcome. Without a shift in narrative (one that is veering more towards an egalitarian representation of society and that shows the perspectives of not just the majority or ones in charge, but also everyone else), I don't seem much purpose in storytelling. Why shove the same tales/stories down our throats (especially us in the minority) when it won't bring anything truly helpful to the table?

Here in the USA (and I'm assuming, just from the comments that many of you here have made that you are Americans, too), there's not enough work being done on the issues that Second-Wave Feminism stood for. Meanwhile, countries like Sweden, Norway, and Iceland are really starting to push for 2nd wave and possibly even a 3rd wave of feminism. We should aspire to be like the Swedes, Icelandic people, and the Norwegians, if anything, who are also among the Top 20 most peaceful countries in the world. 

Our education sector is continuing to go down the tubes, we are continuing to be the World Police (ranked 99th out of 162 countries) for the Global Peace Index, the gap between the rich and poor is growing...so many aspects are getting increasingly worse, and we just sit around, pretending that all racism and sexism (along with the many other, far more neglected, overlooked forms of discrimination) have been eliminated (when we eveb haven't picked up where we left off with our earlier generations in fighting these forms of oppression), that there's nothing to fix about our nation, or nothing that we can fix.

telaros
telaros

Maybe we'll start seeing some hispanics in games beyond the bullshit stereotypes and see some real latina babes in games. God knows their ain't no white girl that can work those hips like a latina can. Just saying.

Maybe get those home school brats to learn the difference between a Mexican their parents always bitches about stealing their jobs and a Puerto Rican. :p

If anything, just to have more accurate racism comments thrown out in Xbox Live and other online gaming platforms where parents lets their kids be raised by other racist doughe bags online :p

Accuracy158
Accuracy158

I liked Gamespot so much more in the days of Jeff Gerstmann and Greg Kasavin... Before gender became the hot topic of every article (obviously the addition Carolyn Petit didn't help).

kingnothing47
kingnothing47

Why is this still being debated? By now someone should have realized that catering towards one audience will upset another. Constructive criticism is great sure, but trying to tend to the disgruntled cries of one demographic is going to alienate another. We're all human, we are all capable of amazing feats just like the next person. Whomever needs a video game, book or movie to affirm that needs to step outside and do something with them self and gain some self confidence.

megagood2345
megagood2345

Always fun to see a bunch of white boys arguing that sexism and racism aren't a problem, or even worth talking about.  

Wonder why so many people think gamers are immature social misfits? Bookmark this article and its comments.  

LaserXUKM
LaserXUKM

mehh who cares? Its just a useless topic to talk about. And if women wanna stop being the center of sex attention they need to stop wearing all the slutty clothes. Video games kind of follow what is going on in the society

crashmer
crashmer

I don't see how a debate is going to move things foward, sales and technology move the industry foward not debates. 

El_Zaggy
El_Zaggy

I remember samus being in a swinsuit at the end of Metroid on the NES. Nintendo started it all.

mrs_table_lamp
mrs_table_lamp

@lorkos Perhaps more woman would buy games if they didn't have women "prancing around in skimpy bikinis".

theKSMM
theKSMM

@majere613 That's true, but right now we have little balance for anything other than the those type of games.  It would be like having 90% of the box office made by Michael Bay wannabes.

BradBurns
BradBurns

@DeFiLeDTitan 

I agree with your point. I'd also like to add that sexual appeal is different for everyone.

Someone might find the female characters in Skyrim sexually appealing, maybe even the character designers themselves.

DeFiLeDTitan
DeFiLeDTitan

@Mawy_Golomb you sure complain a lot. You could have done something about the problem in the time it took you to write that. But like my pappy always said, "if women and minorities really make less than everyone else, then why don't the employers hire them to save money?" (I'm being facetious for you slow ones out there) Either do something about it or deal with it. 

nigelholden
nigelholden

@Mawy_Golomb Sweden has one of the highest instances of rape in Europe, so I wouldn't hope we aspire to be more like them. That aside, I don't think 3rd Wave feminism is the key to, well, anything. Instead of some exclusive ideology, which is what 3rd wave feminism has become or always was, why not just encourage a more creative environment in video games. 

A more diverse selection of games can't be forced on people, as we are seeing in this discussion. Rather let the market grow naturally. More people of all perspectives are playing games, which means more people will develop games. Indie games are getting better access than every before. It's not even limited to indie games now. Beyond Two Souls looks like a great game  with a decidedly female protagonist. Not because of internet pressure, but because of freedom of creativity. 

In a truly creative medium, more and more voices and perspectives will emerge. And that's really awesome. But nobody is shoving stories down anyone's throats. That's to suggest that people lack the agency to decide wether to buy something or not, as if it's against their will. People aren't that weak. 

Yes, rasism, sexism, and all sorts of vile isms still exist. The fact that up until a few years ago, the main market for video games was a male audience and the main creators were males isn't necessarily because of any ism, it just happened to be the social structure of the industry at the time. That's changing, and it's exciting. 

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

@telaros At the same time portraying a particular nationality or culture requires a measure of stereotypification (I made a word) in order to identify the character. Im Australian, picture and Australian............. nice going you just pictured a stereotype didn't you? Kaki shorts, long socks, hat with corks on strings tied around it.... or something closer to Crocodile Dundee perhaps ? If you make characters too generic, they wont be "characters". 

BradBurns
BradBurns

@telaros 

Yeah, Naughty Dog needs to begin this change by taking out some of the racist overtones in its own games before they talk about feminism.  Since racism affects both genders, I feel it's a bit more important.

Nathan Drake, in the Uncharted series, is portrayed as a hero but I played Golden Abyss, which showed Panamanians as fat, violent slobs while "Nate" and his cohorts were rampaging through their country murdering countless natives and stealing their artifacts. 

On paper Nathan Drake sounds like a psychopath but Naughty Dog presents him as a hero.

Naughty Dog needs to take a look inward before saying stuff like this because they sound kind of hypocritical.

coldfusion25
coldfusion25

@megagood2345 

I don't agree with that! I'm a black male and have no problem playing a white female character. We don't need more black or female lead characters in video games, what we need are BETTER characters, regardless of race, ethnic background  or sex.

mrmime777
mrmime777

@megagood2345 Sadly this is somewhat true, as there are plenty of internet commenters who assume that if something is not an issue for them, that means it's not an issue for anybody.

I myself am another white guy who doesn't connect with issues of gender or race... but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be talked about. There are plenty of people like me who will politely bow out when we have nothing to contribute, but we're just the silent sensible majority that gets drowned out by all the whiners. As usual.

mrs_table_lamp
mrs_table_lamp

@LaserXUKM The women who wear slutty clothes are a minority believe it not; models and the like. Most women wear generally modest clothing.

theKSMM
theKSMM

@DeFiLeDTitan You shouldn't assume that @Mawy_Golomb isn't "doing something about it."  And perhaps it's not incumbent only upon one group to try to improve things.

theKSMM
theKSMM

@nigelholden There are lots of well-intentioned people who don't realize that there's a problem until they're told because the problem doesn't affect them directly.  I don't think that raising the issue or trying to accelerate the pace of change is a bad thing.

nigelholden
nigelholden

@Mawy_Golomb Basically the difference is simple. Some people come to a party and say, "What you are doing is all wrong, and we're here to change it". Others say. "Hey, this looks like fun. Guess what, I have something to add to this bash." The latter is always going to be better received and more able to add something new. Isn't that what we all want? More?  


BradBurns
BradBurns

@GetafixOz @telaros 

To an extent you have a point. But positive stereotypes are reserved for whites while the negative ones are often placed on minorities. 

To use Golden Abyss, again, as an example, "Nate" is sort of a clumsy but lovable, and always level-headed adventurer while his enemy Guerro, is a fat, sloppy, violent Panamanian guy with no redeeming qualities.

The more important villain/friend(?), Dante, is much more complex and a better written character overall.

Plus, at the end of the day isn't the stereotype of an Australian Dundee guy a likable one. Kind of a cute and empowering positive stereotype compared to the fat, sloppy, violent, and psychopathic gangster Mexican/South American/non-white guy. I'm sure Aussies wouldn't like the fat, lazy, one dimensional treatment.

Stereotypes come in both varieties, positive and negative. Minorities rarely get the positive portrayal. Especially in Naughty Dog's games. 


surrealme
surrealme

@GetafixOz A character without stereotypical traits, whether racial or nationalistic, is only generic if you think only stereotypes lend character. That's just lazy writing and character development, and it's also an insult to the intelligence of the audience. 

theKSMM
theKSMM

@coldfusion25 And so far we're not getting that.  We're getting better white characters.  Females and non-whites are seldom represented as leading roles.

Incubus420
Incubus420

@dpclark @megagood2345 All three of you make good points. As a minority I can tell you that the sheer fact that there are conversations alone is a good thing. Even if there's no real change as a result of these conversations, it's just good to know that there are still good people in this world that can be of the majority and still push for change. 

DeFiLeDTitan
DeFiLeDTitan

@mrmime777 @megagood2345 it's not that it shouldn't be talked about, it's that it gets tiring of hearing the same people complain about the same stuff all the time, and they don't do anything about it. They expect someone else to do it for them. Guess what? That's not how it works. Ashton Kutcher may be a dumbass sometimes, but he was right when he said that good luck and success look a lot like hard work.

DeFiLeDTitan
DeFiLeDTitan

@theKSMM @DeFiLeDTitan @Mawy_Golomb I don't assume. I guess my point kind of got lost in there. I was basically saying that writing a speech on a comments board on a video game site is a waste of time. This seems kind of counter-intuitive, but you'd think that people who do that are just really dedicated. Often it's the opposite. 

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

@surrealme @GetafixOz In some instances no doubt. But how would you portray an Australian character in say a simple platformer where you don't have reams of dialog to work with ?

theKSMM
theKSMM

@Incubus420 Exactly.  I think a lot of times folks with no animus toward anyone just craft a rather brawny middle-aged white guy as the hero by default.  Hopefully these discussions will get folks to "think outside the box" and ask "Can we craft an more interesting character if he doesn't have these textbook traits?"

It's not unlike the complaint I have in television where 80% of our television shows are set in New York or Los Angeles.  There's a lot of country outside those two places, and interesting stories shouldn't be confined to them.  Likewise, we don't always need a grizzled white guy to save the day.

dpclark
dpclark

@Incubus420

We don't know if you are a "minority."  You could be a troll.  No one on this form are verified and comments are  dime a dozen.  I only come here for laughs - not truth.