When people tout the storytelling abilities of video games, they often point out titles like The Last of Us and the Uncharted series. Aside from both being developed at the same studio, they also happen to be some of the richest in terms of characterization. The characters in these games, male or female, feel human and flawed, allowing players to truly empathize with what the characters are feeling.
Creative Director Neil Druckmann had a hand in both of those games, and he recently spoke to The Frame in an in-depth interview. One of the more interesting pieces of that chat had to do with Druckmann and his team's focus on character diversity, something that has been a hot-button issue over the last few years. He was asked about the importance he places on fleshing his games out with women or people of color.
"Absolutely. I've been talking more and more about this recently with the team. When you make a game, you have these different pillars that you're trying to balance. It's graphics, it's gameplay, it's story and you're trying not to let any one pillar overwhelm the other. You're trying to just keep all of this stuff in your mind like, how does it all work together? Recently, I realized that there's this other pillar of diversity. That's just as important as any one of these other pillars."
Druckmann gives a great deal of the credit for that to Naughty Dog's Ashley Swidowski, who is always looking for a way to add some diversity to the cast.
"I've kind of empowered people on the team that have made this their top priority, one of which is someone I have to give a lot of credit to, is Ashley Swidowski, our lead concept character artist, which in film terms would be our costume designer. She is constantly challenging me and pushing for diversity in our cast. Can this be a person of color? Can this be a woman?"
He also addresses some internal practices that he's developed over the years, and the team's renewed focus on shaking up those preconceived ideas.
"I see myself as a pretty progressive person and yet my default is a white, straight, christian male. That's interesting because I'm Jewish and yet that's the norm for me right now. It's a challenge and it requires energy to deviate from that. Therefore it's important to empower people on the team that are going to push for this pillar."
It's a great interview, and well worth a full read when you have the time.