Not everyone was happy with new Uncharted 4 characters like Nadine “Triceps” Ross. In fact, according to director Neil Druckmann, his team had to ask an angry focus tester to leave the room after he freaked out over the game’s portrayal of women.
WARNING: Spoilers for Uncharted 4's ending follow.
Druckmann sat down with Kotaku friend Chris Suellentrop for an interview in the newly launched Glixel, an upcoming gaming website by Rolling Stone. (I would make fun of the name Glixel, but hey, ours is Kotaku.) There are a lot of interesting nuggets in there, including Druckmann’s answer to a question about game critic Anita Sarkeesian and how her work has affected Naughty Dog. Read this:
You’ve said in the past that you’ve been influenced by Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency videos and the larger conversation about diversity and representation in games. How did that affect Uncharted 4?
Druckmann: 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.
Initially, in the epilogue, it was Nate’s son. Something similar happened with the mansion they go into. That was an old English guy’s house. She asked, Well, what if it was a woman?
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. 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?
1) There’s something both hilarious and depressing about the image of an MRA focus group tester coming in and yelling things like “Not you too, Naughty Dog!” because they dared to make Nathan Drake have a daughter instead of a son.
2) No matter your opinions on Sarkeesian and her work, I hope you’ll agree that getting developers to think “What if this were a girl?” rather than assuming a male default is a very good thing for gaming. It’s so easy for writers to fall into the routine of telling only stories about people who act and think like them. Pushing those storytellers to consider other options can lead to way more interesting decisions and way better stories. And hopefully we’ll get to play as Cassie Drake in the DLC.