Uncharted 4 Focus Tester Dismissed After "Sexist" Outburst, Dev Says
[Marked spoilers for major scenes within the story]
An unnamed focus tester, working at Californian studio Naughty Dog during the development of Uncharted 4, was reportedly asked to leave following what was deemed by the company as sexist objections towards the game's portrayal of women.
Neil Druckmann, creative director at Naughty Dog, describes witnessing several "sexist focus testers" at the studio, one of which was apparently so affected by some of the story that it was agreed he should leave.
In an interview with Rolling Stone's newly-launched gaming site Glixel, Druckmann was asked about how his work has been influenced by the critic Anita Sarkeesian, who has produced numerous videos on the subject of sexism in games.
Druckmann said he tries to be open-minded about the studio's ideas on introducing more female characters in its games.
"When I'm introducing and describing a new character to our lead character concept artist, constantly she will ask, 'What if it was a girl?' And I'm like, oh, I didn't think about that. Let me think, does that affect or change anything? No? Cool, that's different. Yeah, let's do it."
[MAJOR UNCHARTED 4 STORY SPOILERS FOLLOW]
Uncharted 4 features a prominent fight scene where the antagonist Nadine overcomes both Nathan Drake and his brother Sam. The fight only concludes when Sam introduces the threat of a gun.
Meanwhile, during the epilogue chapter, players take on the role of Nate and Elena's daughter, who during her childhood was shielded from stories of Nathan's adventures, supposedly to avoid encouraging her. Druckmann says that in the first draft of the epilogue, players instead took on the role of Nathan's son.
Some focus testers had issues with both scenes, according to Druckmann.
"You have some sexist focus testers who were really upset by Nadine beating up Nate, and really upset at the end when it was Nate's daughter," he said.
"To the point where we had to ask one guy to leave. In his core, it just affected him. He was cursing, 'not you, too, Naughty Dog! Goddammit. I guess I'm done with Uncharted, if you guys ever make another one, with his daughter. This fucking bullshit.' And I was like, Wow, why does that matter?"
Broadly speaking, the public reaction to Uncharted 4's portrayal of women has not been discussed as an issue, contentious or otherwise.
Druckmann says his intentions with making games is to challenge his audience: "I want it to ask interesting questions, or at least have people ask those questions of themselves. Can you balance passion versus settling down? That, to me, is the heart of this thing, which mirrors a lot of our lives as game developers."
The game was hailed by critics for its cinematic flair and sensational action sequences. GameSpot's Uncharted 4 review scored the game a rare 10, describing it as "a challenge to the medium."
GameSpot critic Mike Mahardy concludes: "In its writing, in its design, in its understanding of what makes games unique, Uncharted 4 is something to aspire to. It's a shining example. And we'll be talking about it for years to come."
According to Sony, the game sold some 2.7 million units in its first week.
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