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Naughty Dog: We've been asked to push Ellie to the back of the box art

Last Of Us creative director and star Ashley Johnson tackle the sexism and game packaging

Never has game packaging been such a hot topic, and now Naughty Dog's creative director on Last Of Us, and its star Ashley Johnson, have spoken out over the decision to put main character Ellie front and centre.

I feel like they don't put women on the covers because they're afraid that it won't sell," Ashley Johnson, who plays Ellie, told VG247.

"It's all gamers really know - and I don't want to be sexist by any means - but I get the feeling, generally, that they think game's won't sell as well with a woman on the cover, compared to some badass dude on the front.

Creative director Neil Druckmann agreed, and revealed there had been pressure to go for a more traditional, less female look to the retail product.

I agree with what Ashley said. I believe there's a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less. I know I've been in discussions where we've been asked to push Ellie to the back and everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused.

The comments come just days after Irrational's Ken Levine was forced to defend his company's decision to go for a more generic, and male, style of packaging for Bioshock Infinite.

"The money we're spending on PR, the conversations with games journalists - that's for the fans. For the people who aren't informed, that's who the box art is for.

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Latest comments (18)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.3 years ago
Good on them for sticking by their decision. Does that mean the pressure was coming from Sony to put Ellie on the back cover? That's rather surprising.
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Andrew Animator 3 years ago
That headline was a little bit misleading.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew on 12th December 2012 4:53pm

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Christopher Garratty Associate Counsel, Activision Blizzard3 years ago
Jim, I think they meant pushed to the back of shot. Not clear from his comments who was pushing for it though and I'm not one to speculate.
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Show all comments (18)
Ben Gonshaw Game Design Consultant, AKQA3 years ago
We're in risk averse times.
In a sense, it's an unknown - even if mirror's edge sold 2m+ units with a female on the cover.
Sure, putting a female lead on the cover might not affect sales.
Alternatively, it might even make it stand out and result in more sales....
but... but... if they go conservative then it's reducing risk and avoiding the possibility that it will result in less sales.
Sad thinking, but understandable thinking.
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John Kauderer Associate Creative Director, Atari3 years ago
So because they could have taken her off the cover and didn't this is somehow a story? She's a major character in the game, of course she'd be on the cover. Same deal as Bioshock, Mirror's Edge, Final Fantasy XII, Tomb Raider, No One Lives Forever, Space Channel Five, Alice. Etc... etc...
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 3 years ago
It all depends on what kind of woman (and what position/clothes) you put on the front of the cover, remember a lot of gamers are male teenagers/twentiers...
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How does the headline savvy with the article?
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Feargus Carroll Producer 3 years ago
@ John Kauderer

The story is that they were asked; not that they refused.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Feargus Carroll on 12th December 2012 8:05pm

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Feargus Carroll Producer 3 years ago
@ Dr MCW

Apart from this? I agree with what Ashley said. I believe there's a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less. I know I've been in discussions where we've been asked to push Ellie to the back and everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused.

Not sure...
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Jason Sartor Copy editor/Videographer, Florida Today3 years ago
I don't think it's the fact a girl is on the cover that will bother most people - I will say 90 percent of people won;t pay any attention to a girl as some big deal on the cover of a game.

I do think that a lot of people (PC people, some parents and some news outlets) are going to be angered/offended/outraged that a game features a 12-year-old carrying a gun on the cover and in the game, the 12-year-old elementary school girl commits acts of violence.

Lollipop Chainsaw, Catherine, Blades of Time, DOA, Bayonetta, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy XIII, etc. A lot of games feature a female on the cover of the box art.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
This cracks me up because it's sad. Ellie is as important as whatshisname and in fact, it's BOTH their stories. having them share the cover is the best thing to do. Shit, just do a damned reverse cover that has the guy in front of Ellie for the gamers who get offended or whatever if they see a gal on the cover.

I guess they'd probably want a pile of rocks in front of or on top of Lara Croft on that Tomb Raider reboot, but I'd bet that's not going to happen at all...
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 3 years ago
This story implies that the publisher(Sony) is the one that suggested they move her to the back of the cover. I wish we could get some clarification but all signs are pointed in that direction anyway.
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters3 years ago
@Greg Wilcox - I don't think it has anything to do with people being "offended". I think it's a lot more subtle than that, it's more about what subconsciously draws eyes towards the box rather than all the other games on display. I don't imagine many people go "oh, I was about to buy that game, but eww, there's a girl on the front". I'm sure if you ask most customers why they paid attention to some items more than others in a shop they wouldn't have a clue unless they thought about it for a while. People are manipulated by marketing all the time without even realising. Just look at how the average supermarket is laid out, it's very deliberate.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 3 years ago
Woman dont appear, in video game covers? A bad ass male guy will sell more than a hot chik on a cover? Seriously? Lollipop Chainsaw, Catherine, Blades of Time, DOA, Bayonetta, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy XIII, etc. I dont think wether ellie is in or out of the cover is a big deal. I personally like having her on the cover because she is one of the main characters. It would suck if she wasnt on it.

I mean look at God of War, an extremely pissed of albino white dude on the front cover sells.

Ultimatly, the cover should reflect the theme of the game, and the one for The Last of Us does a good job. If the theme of the game is good, it should be ok to put any character in, female or male.
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Eric Leisy VR Production Designer, Nike3 years ago
I think it's wonderful they are sticking to their guns on this. Ellie should be first on the cover! Ladies first right?? :) It's silly all of this debate about box covers, especially with the whole Bioshock Infinite cover fiasco and how they backed off their original cover. I love games with females on the covers...
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Pier Castonguay Programmer 3 years ago
That's strange, I would bet big money that putting a girl on the cover actually help sales. That's just some marketing firms bullshit as usual trying to do the worst decisions possible.
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Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster2 years ago
This is not news. There are a gazillion games with females front and center on the artwork and a gazillion reasons that they could have asked Ellie to be moved back. How childish are we being as an industry by throwing around the sexist word in response to everything involving girls.

Maybe someone didn't want what looks like a kid front and center on the cover of a mature rated game. Maybe a taller adult actually fit on the cover better, hell, maybe their art department came back with some sketches and everyone agreed that the one with the male at the front simply looked better...

Maybe this sexism thing is going waaaay too far.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Ihegbu on 21st January 2014 3:51pm

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Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop2 years ago
This is not news.
You're not kidding, it's an article from Dec 2012.
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