Dave Cook at VG247 has an interesting interview up with developers from Naughty Dog as well as some of the voice and motion capture actors for their upcoming game, The Last of Us. It covers the recently-introduced character of Tess, and the entire last section is about “the gender problem” in the game industry. Ashley Johnson, who plays 14-year-old Ellie in the game, talks about how characters like Elena from Uncharted drew her to Naughty Dog. Creative director Neil Druckmann mentions that Naughty Dog was asked to move Ellie, one of the major characters, to the background of the box art for the game (which uses the image above), but “everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused.”
One thing that is interesting to me about this story is that it seems like The Last of Us, with its emphasis on using quality writing and acting to create complex characters, is aiming to be a game that has more in common with gritty television dramas like The Walking Dead or Revolution than most video games (the VGA trailer, which features more dialogue than action, supports this theory). Non-traditional box art may help catch the attention of non-gamers who are interested in that kind of storytelling. (To be clear, marketing is probably not why Naughty Dog pushed back on the box art; they probably just felt strongly about Ellie and her importance to the game. I’m just theorizing about the effect it may have.) Regardless, it’s great that Naughty Dog was able to stick their guns on this one, and that creating interesting and realistic female characters is such a priority not just for Amy Hennig but for the entire studio.
The Last of Us: acting out at the end of the world — Dave Cook, VG247