Naughty Dog Dev Rebukes NYT Review of ‘The Last of Us’

In a recent  New York Times editorial Naughty Dog user interface designer Alexandria Neonakis points out that most modern video games often portray female characters as damsels in distress or as "male characters" inside "female bodies." Neonakis' editorial takes aim at the NYT review of The Last of Us and their opinion on protagonist Ellie. She calls the character a "triumph in storytelling and representation" of female characters.

"She's powerful the whole time, and it had nothing to do with wielding a gun or physical ability. In an industry that more often than not represents women as either a damsel in distress or a male character in a female body, this was a triumph in storytelling and representation," Neonakis said. "Ellie is an entirely playable character. It was not by coincidence that the moments you play as her are the most impactful in the game."

Neonakis also said that the Time's assertion that Joel was the only main character whose character evolved during the storyline. While acknowledging that Ellie begins her adventure in The Last of Us as a damsel in distress, she ultimately grows to become so much more.

"Her journey from a damsel in distress to a fully capable and complex character is made clear through the relationship she develops with Joel. Likewise, Joel's growth could not have happened without Ellie. This was not a game 'about men.' It was about a mutual relationship and about how people need one another," Neonakis said.

Speaking more broadly, Neonakis believes that it is time for female characters to be represented as equals to male counterparts in games.

"In our medium, the change needed in female characters is not about women being portrayed as stronger or more capable than men but about being portrayed on equal terms," she said. "I don't want to be treated like I'm more important than my male co-workers. I want to be seen as equal to them. I want to rely on them as much as they rely on me–a true partnership. We have that at Naughty Dog. Our game was made by men and women, some of the most talented in the industry."

Finally Neonakis says that the Time's assertion that The Last of Us is "another video game by men, for men, and about men" is problematic on several levels:

"The statement about the game being made by men for men has the potential to be very damaging. It perpetuates the idea that this is not a world for women," Neonakis said. "Young women reading this review who are considering entering games as a career could feel justified in their fears that this industry is not for them. If this thinking is to stop, we need to promote partnership and not continue the cycle of men versus women."

You can read the entire editorial here.

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  1. 0
    GrimCW says:

    Men do get raped, no one denied that here. Problem is the whole "pride" thing doesn't get many to come forward. Yes I'm fully aware of this. Much like how it is very possible for men to get breast cancer.

    And on that island they probably did it a lot to one another. But we weren't playing a man in that game we were playing a woman. And she was caught by one of the men on the island. As such the verbal threat of rape would have been realistic to the situation at hand.

    Would he have said it to some random guy if the protagonist was a man? Possibly, but not nearly as likely since there were plenty of guys already there for them to get at already. But finding a woman would've been rare so he probably wouldn't be as likely to want to "share" so to speak.

    And how would Fenix being raped define his reason for fighting? No one said anything about rape being the reason anyone fights in anything. The threat made to Lara wasn't her reason for fighting either. It was pure and simple survival and to find her friends and hopefully get off the island. 

    I'm very curious, where did you even get the idea that I said the threat of rape towards anyone was/should be the reason they were fighting? My only point in bringing up that was how people immediately attacked the developers for sexism and glorifying rape towards women somehow. When fact is that it was just a realistic interpretation of what might happen in that situation. Was it necessary? Not really, but it was realistic to the situation, and theres no denying that.  Did every character threaten it? of course not. So why was the ONE guy who did such a massive problem?

    I'm just saying that if we're going to see different characters thrown into the situations shown in these games, then expect the banter to coincide along gender lines as much. As well as treatment and reactions to be based on it. But apparently that would be sexist, as would putting a female character into a game and treated the same as the male characters apparently. The gist of it being that enemy characters would speak/act differently toward the protagonist based on the gender of that character as well. Playing at gender stereotypes just to antagonize the character.



  2. 0
    Haunted Quiche says:

    That bullshit about "the whole thing with the tomb raider reboot"…

    Yes, it is indeed how it may happen. However, men get raped in the same circumstances as well.

    I call bullshit on your reasoning until I see a Gears of War prequel where Marcus Fenix unwillingly takes dick. You know. As a way of defining the reason he fights.

  3. 0
    GrimCW says:

    Problem that ensues is that such as was found with the Catwoman parts in Arkham City.

    Enemy characters realistically would start using various forms of slander against the protagonist, and of course they're going to use whatever would girate the character the most. Including sexual innuendo and put downs. Against men this would often be attacks on their masculinity and ability to even fight. Toward women this would be the constant "bitch" and other similar slurs mixed into it with those select few that would also throw in threats of physical rape (though these are easy to avoid, the rest isn't without being the above "Woman in a mans body" thing).

    Sadly then suddenly it becomes an all out piss war over how being realistic in these situations with a game is now being sexist. :(

    If a female protagonist is captured by a male bad guy, the whole thing with the tomb raider reboot.. well.. lets face it, THATS HOW IT WOULD HAPPEN PEOPLE…. the threat WOULD be made. Especially by men who have been stuck on an island for god knows how long with no women at all.

    Its hard to put them in equal lighting. If doing it right (ala catwoman/lara croft) would make it sexist, but doing it the same (I.E.  again "male characters" inside "female bodies." ) would also be sexist…

    Then theres character design.. Make her chunky and she embodies bad stereotypes for being fat, or make her physically fit and she's a bad stereotype for being skinny… But put her in the middle and it just won't work for most actions that games have the characters doing…. There is a fine line between the super model and athletic, but not really by much in most peoples eyes it seems.

    This shouldn't be this hard, but theres no appeasing some people.


    I actually enjoyed how Ellie went from being the side character to being very capable herself, and to the point you played as her while she took care of Joel. While her overall attitude didn't change much, she did grow as a character. From being taken care of, to taking care of herself.

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