So, it seems that there is a very unpleasant theme that is rearing its ugly head in our industry as of late: sexism. The recent controversy over Bioshock: Infinite’s box art that pushed the female co-lead character to the back of the box caused a small uproar. Ken Levine responded to fans by allowing them to vote for a reversible cover option, and even letting them vote on which of many alternative options would be included with the game (all of which are now available for free to download here).
Now we discover that when The Last of Us was being sent out to be focus tested by consumers, the research firm was not planning on seeking female input on the game. In an interview with The Escapist, Creative Director Neil Druckman, detailed the fact that Naughty Dog had to intervene with the focus testing process after learning that polling female gamers was not on the research firm’s agenda.
Druckman stated that, “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. My big surprise during this process is 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.”
As it turns out, the same marketing firm that conducted this research also approached Naughty Dog about pushing Ellie to the back of the box much like what happened with Elizabeth in Bioshock: Infinite. Thankfully, Naughty Dog responded with resounded refusal and this type of attitude is a reflection of what this industry should be representing.
My big surprise during this process is that the research group wasn’t planning on focus-testing female gamers – it’s something we had to specifically request.
Games such as Tomb Raider and Bioshock: Infinite serve as amazing example that the female gender does not serve as an enervation of games but can in fact serve as the foundation for stories that will live with us for years to come.
As this industry grows, one can only hope that more studios will stand behind their characters just as Naughty Dog has as this will push us into the next level. GG Naughty Dog, GG.