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Naughty Dog forced to request female focus testers

Naughty Dog forced to request female focus testers

Tue 09 Apr 2013 7:54am GMT / 3:54am EDT / 12:54am PDT
Development

Original The Last of Us research group was men only

Naughty Dog's creative director has revealed that the company had to demand that women were included in focus testing for The Last Of Us, after the research company presented them with only male testers.

"Another aspect that influences how a game is promoted is focus-testing. Players are rounded up and are asked to view materials and answer some quantitative and qualitative questions about it," Neil Druckman explained to The Escapist.

"My big surprise during this process is that the research group wasn't planning on focus-testing female gamers - it's something we had to specifically request. I hope this is a relic of the past that will soon go away."

Naughty Dog recently faced a similar battle over inclusivity when it came to packaging for the post-apocalyptic title, after the company was asked to push lead character Ellie to the back of the retail box.

"I believe there's a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less," said Druckman in December.

"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 Last Of Us is due for release on PS3 in June.

18 Comments

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
Popular Comment
"Forced" seems a bit of a strong word - It sounds likely to me it just never occurred to the research group as opposed to them deliberately avoiding it. On the other hand, good on Naughty Dog for not overlooking it. This is one of those cases where diversity IS vital as opposed to just desirable. While dev team members are all taken on individual merits, focus-testing is all about getting wide coverage of as much of the demographic as possible. There's no point having a whole group of people all telling you the same thing.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7
Popular Comment
Naughty Dog forced to request female focus testers
I don't know about anyone else, but I read that headline as "Naughty Dog didn't want to include female testers, but were forced to." Not "Naughty Dog had to specifically ask the research company to include female testers." Bit of a misunderstanding there, is some fugitive from the Daily Mail writing your headlines? ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 9th April 2013 12:52pm

Posted:A year ago

#2

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7
@Tom: That was what I was saying. ;)

Posted:A year ago

#3

Jonatan Crafoord
Neuron

33 55 1.7
Popular Comment
While dev team members are all taken on individual merits, focus-testing is all about getting wide coverage of as much of the demographic as possible. There's no point having a whole group of people all telling you the same thing.
I just wonder, how does the last part of this statement not apply to having employees in a dev team?

There is a whole lot of talk about individual merits before diversity, but somehow we're forgetting that game development is fundamentally a team effort. I do agree that talent is important, and that diversity of knowledge background (programming, art, sound etc.) is perhaps the most important kind of diversity. Obviously we cater to this by advertising for specific diverse competencies.

However, other forms of diversity (gender, social category, values, age) have been proven over and over to have an impact on team efforts as well, in all kinds of directions - good and bad. Why should we pay attention to this when focus testing, but not when hiring?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jonatan Crafoord on 9th April 2013 10:33am

Posted:A year ago

#4

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

734 429 0.6
@ Jonatan - Maybe I'm in the minority with this opinion, I have no idea, but I think positive discrimination when filling a role is really bad. In my workplace we're around 85% female and 95% locals and I'd hate for them to start saying "we need to hire more men and foreigners because we're not getting the right stats".

I think focus testing can cover some of the problems that might arise from a team with a narrower-perspective and life experience but ultimately I think you need to match the project to the team you have otherwise you're going to end up firing people for no other reason than they are not helping to make up the stats...

Posted:A year ago

#5

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
@Jonaton - That's why I said it was still "desirable", but I still think it's wrong to take a weaker candidate because he/she is from a particular ethnic group/age group/gender. If you need someone who's an expert of something relevant, that just counts as "individual merits" to me. Like for instance, if you were making a game set in a certain country then hiring a writer who lived in that country all his life would probably be hugely beneficial. But filling up the team with people who are only there because "we haven't got many Argentinians on our team" or something equally arbitrary is discriminating against the other candidates. By giving someone a job based on their gender that inversely means you denied someone else a job because of their gender.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Jessica Hyland
Character Artist

239 799 3.3
Diversity in employment absolutely does not mean 'positive discrimination' or 'hiring weak candidates just because of their gender/ethnicity'. For one thing, making hiring decisions(hiring or firing) based solely on the gender/ethnicity/sexuality of a candidate is illegal, in the UK at least.

What it does mean, as far as I am concerned, is taking a candidate's experience into account, and valuing candidates who can bring a wealth of interesting and underserved perspectives to a team. Just like hiring an artist who also knows how to script, even if it's not part of the job description but is a nice extra, hiring equally talented people who also know what it's like to be female/foreign/gay/disabled/etc can help inform your game design, hopefully making the finished product more well-rounded and inclusive of potential customers who may not fit into the straight white male mold. There are plenty of 'non-job-related' facets of someone's personality(friendliness, sense of humour etc) that can make or break a close decision when it comes to hiring, and 'brings some diversity of experience to the team' is, in my opinion, a valuable facet.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7
@Tom: Ah, got you. I thought I wasn't being clear enough! ^_^

Posted:A year ago

#8

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
"Naughty Dog forced to request female focus tester"

The title is misleading... I read it and thought Naughty Dog was the villian here. But I read the article and its the other way around. It should be changed.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Paul Smith
Dev

189 148 0.8
Title definitely needs changing, Things like this need to be proportional, if 10% of your potential audience is women then at least 10% of your focus groups should be women.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Smith on 9th April 2013 2:39pm

Posted:A year ago

#10

Bonnie Patterson
Freelance Narrative Designer

158 425 2.7
It baffles me that after so, so many reports showing the substantial potential female audience for games, it seems so many developers, marketers and research companies still think the demographic for all games is a 17 year old white male, instead of the older and far more mixed population you actually have.

Posted:A year ago

#11

John Kauderer
Associate Creative Director

32 4 0.1
When you're this desperate to try and make news for your next triple A, it's time to start worrying. Yeah we get it, there's a girl in your game and you guys seem to feel like this is the first time this has EVER happened. Oh OK there's a girl on the cover... amazeballs, because Mirror's Edge didn't do that five years ago (an asian no less stop the presses!!!!). But wait there's a depiction of a girl in a game and she's not forced to dress promiscuously nor is she a weakling or princess that must be saved or protected.... This is not the first time this has happened even in a third person survival horror game. For that we have to go all the way back to 1996! Looking at you original Jill Valentine . Wasn't news about the cover... certainly isn't news now.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,148 1,061 0.5
I think Rockstar Games had the BEST focus groups (at least back in the GTA III era - I haven't done one in AGES). They used to post notices in game shops here in NYC near their offices asking for people to come test their upcoming games as part of a focus group. There was no specification as to gender, but I recall the groups being made up of a wide range of ages and yep, there were gals as part of every session i attended.

Posted:A year ago

#13

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

887 1,312 1.5
Slightly off topic I'm still wondering why Activision refuses to include female avatars in their Call of Duty games despite tons of request from their female fan base. Gearbox almost didn't include them in Aliens: CM either until enough people complained about it. Call of Duty is long overdue for this. Anyway, back to the discussion...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 10th April 2013 12:43am

Posted:A year ago

#14

Ian Lambert
UI Developer

17 18 1.1
@ Paul: Surely 50% of your potential audience is women? :) Sorry, cheap shot - I think you've actually got a point:

@ Tom: "the point of focus testing is to find out which markets your game is hitting, not pre determine if it's hitting one specific market"
Surely that very much depends on your company/scale. I doubt there are any AAA games made without a marketing team checking that there is a audience for the game before it gets anywhere near full production. In that case, focus testing is to check that the people you predicted will buy your game actually will do, which is exactly your second case. Given that, it's just about possible that an 100% male test group is, in that sense, appropriate (Dead Or Alive maybe? BMX XXX?).

It seems a bit self-fulfilling and narrow on the face of it, but on the other hand it would be irresponsible to spend $30m on a game and THEN find out if anyone wanted it.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Ian Lambert
UI Developer

17 18 1.1
@Tom. Yep, fair point.

I guess for a game as big as The Last of Us you'd want to do both; check whether you are appealing to the audience you expected to, and whether you are interesting people you didn't expect. Whichever this test was, the group they were given clearly didn't fit; their core isn't 100% male (it would be a bit depressing if it was), and they aren't exactly going to find out how broad their appeal is by excluding so maybe people that might be interested.

Also: "what happens if you get a focus group in and it turns out women 30-45 love your game you aimed squarely at men"?
If its both, I dunno - order a Ferrari? :)

Posted:A year ago

#16

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,148 1,061 0.5
I think the problem is trying to "target" TLoS at all, dammit. It's basically an adventure game with action and choice driving things, and the bit fat elephant here is the ones who think "women don't like these types of games" (referring to the violent content) when in fact, if the violence works in context of the story, ANYONE (of age to buy it) should like the game. Naughty Dog knows they have a great story to tell and I'm sure the game mechanics are sound, so what's the issue with finding people other than thinking girls are "different" as gamers. They're not, period.

I say just grab a bunch of gamers of both sexes (even it out if possible), sit them down and have them play. Don't listen to the ones who want "more action!" because they play too many shooters and keep an ear out for those who have actual issues with characters or plot points they don't quite grasp.

Posted:A year ago

#17

Carlo N. Diaz
Professional Secondary Teacher

3 0 0.0
There has been an increase number of female gamers and I guess they too deserve equal bearing. I think the issue is if the game is suited for female gamers. I would say yes it is depending on how you view the game itself. I think there should be female during focus testing and they should not be forced.. No matter what they say if its "forced" then there is something wrong with it. Besides, there have been a lot of female protagonist that have hit the heart of gaming industry. Faith of Mirror's Edge, Lara Croft, now that she has been rebooted with a new look which is better, Ada Wong and Jill Valentine of Resident Evil series. Games should be well-rounded whatever the game is. It must appeal to both genders.

Posted:A year ago

#18

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