Naughty Dog creative leads Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley expressed surprise at fan reaction to gender roles in its hit PlayStation 3 exclusive game, The Last of Us. In an extensive interview with GamesBeat, the duo expressed discomfort at the game they created being used as a jump-off point for criticism of the video games industry as it relates to gender roles.
"We were surprised by some of the criticism of our use or execution of the female roles inside of the game, and some of the backlash that we got from it," Straley told GamesBeat. "I think we did an extraordinary job of creating strong characters–men, women, black, white, gay, straight. We're just trying to create completely fleshed-out characters. Yet somehow we were used as a soapbox or something for people to stand on and say that there are still problems with the industry."
Druckmann said that the industry is heading towards a "sexism valley" where progress on the issue will make remaining problems within in the industry stand out even more.
"There have been a lot of articles pointing to the positive aspects of the women and other characters. I think that there's a little bit of a sexism valley, for lack of a better term, like the uncanny valley," Druckmann said. "The more progress we make, the more those problems stand out. I get that people are going to want to pick things apart."
Straley does think it is important that discussions on these important issues continue.
"It's good to have the conversation. We agree about all of those things. Every single one of those inequalities in the industry," Straley said. "We need to have that discussion and we need to be more mature about our approach to the medium. It was just odd, the way it felt like our game was being used in that way. I mean, think of all the games you could use instead of The Last of Us."
Finally Druckmann addressed The Last of Us' three-week sales total of 3.4 million copies, noting that his company built the game they wanted to before worrying about it being a commercial success.
"Also, how popular Ellie ended up being says a lot about whether games can sell with a female protagonist," Druckmann said.
You can read the entire interview on GamesBeat.