Sexism controversy surrounds Last Of Us box art

The Last of Us

If you’ve spent any amount of time playing video games or absorbing gamer culture, you’re undeniably aware that our collective pasttime tends to skew toward a prominently male demographic. Traditional wisdom dictates that girls just don’t play games, and so most publishers largely ignore the distaff segment of the population when it comes time to promote and sell their high-profile titles. As a result, we rarely go a full week without witnessing another outcry from female gamers who claim that the portrayal of women in video games is blatantly sexist and chauvanistic (assuming, of course, that this hypothetical game even features female characters).

Despite these frequent controversies and the inarguably swelling ranks of players who identify themselves as ladies (and would thus like to see their gender appropriately represented in games), developers still find themselves pressured to aim their big-budget titles specifically at those with male genitalia. Normally this sort of exclusionary marketing goes unnoticed by the general public; Publishers won’t readily admit to ignoring women and developers would rather not speak out against the practice, lest they be summarily fired from a profession that is increasingly difficult to work one’s way into.

However, that hasn’t stopped Naughty Dog employees from speaking out against a recent, disturbing instance of this sort of systemic sexism. In an interview with VG247, Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann and Ashley Johnson who provides the voice for Last Of Us protagonist Ellie (pictured above, at left), claim that while designing the game’s box art, the developer was repeatedly pressured to remove Ellie from the front of the packaging, or, failing that, to push the young lady to the back of the box.

“I feel like they don’t put women on the covers because they’re afraid that it won’t sell,” Johnson stated. “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.”

““I agree with what Ashley said,” Druckmann 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.”

As GamesIndustry.biz points out, this controversy rears its head just days after BioShock Infinite creative director Ken Levine publicly defended his game’s bland box art against claims from the Internet masses that it did nothing to properly portray the intelligent, cleverly-designed BioShock franchise, and was instead the kind of art you’d expect from Cookie Cutter First-Person Shooter #9. “We went and did a tour … around to a bunch of, like, frathouses and places like that. People who were gamers. Not people who read IGN. And [we] said, ‘So, have you guys heard of BioShock?’ Not a single one of them had heard of it,” Levine told Wired. “I wanted the uninformed, the person who doesn’t read IGN … to pick up the box and say, ‘Okay, this looks kind of cool, let me turn it over. Oh, a flying city. Look at this girl, Elizabeth on the back. Look at that creature. And start to read about it, start to think about it.’”

If we can play devil’s advocate for a moment, perhaps Levine’s motivation (living up to his company’s fiscal responsibilities) isn’t all that different from that of those executives who pushed Naughty Dog to remove Ellie from the box art for The Last of Us. Was their demand sexist and appalling? Absolutely, but at the same time “sexist and appalling” are depressingly apt descriptors for a broad swath of those people most likely to purchase the game. We would never defend the idea that a woman should be pulled from a game’s box art purely to sell more copies to stereotypically Neanderthalic male gamers, but despite their moral shortcomings and unenlightened world view, the money sitting in these boys’ wallets spends as well as anyone else’s and so it just makes sense that those in charge of maximizing a developer’s profit potential might ignore ethical qualms in favor of aiming for as large a pay day as possible. Such is the depressing state of games publishing.

Smart Home

GE Appliances shows off wall oven with built-in air fryer, food dehydrator

GE Appliances is taking the air fryer trend to its logical conclusion and adding one to a wall oven. The company's new oven, on display at this year's Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, also includes a food dehydrator.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (February 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Smart Home

Amazon Echo Dot vs. Echo Dot Kids Edition: What’s the difference?

The Echo Dot Kids Edition combines a free year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited with a two-year, worry-free warranty. But is the Kids Edition really all that much different than the regular Echo Dot?
Smart Home

Perlick brings a bigger, bolder version of its high-tech fridge to KBIS 2019

Milwaukee-based manufacturer Perlick has been making refrigerators for nearly 50 years. It will be unveiling a bigger, bolder version of its popular column refrigerator at KBIS 2019.
Gaming

Transform into a tetromino master with our Tetris 99 tips and tricks

Tetris 99 is the latest battle royale game to stir up quite a bit of commotion. The Nintendo Switch Online exclusive adds a few new unexplained quirks to the Tetris formula. We've got you covered with our Tetris 99 tips and tricks.
Gaming

Need to perform a factory reset on your Xbox One console? Here's how to do it

Whether you're upgrading to a One X and giving your old console to a friend, or troubleshooting a technical issue, sometimes your Xbox One needs a clean slate. Here's our quick guide on how to factory reset an Xbox One.
Computing

Metro Exodus update brings DLSS improvements to Nvidia RTX 20-series PCs

Having issues in Metro Exodus? A February 21 update for the title recently delivered enhancements to Nvidia’s deep learning supersampling feature and other fixes for low-specced PCs. 
Gaming

Battle royale-style Tetris 99 is the first Nintendo Switch Online-exclusive game

If you want to play online multiplayer on Switch, you'll need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Here's what you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online, from price to features to the awesome library of NES games.
Gaming

The best PUBG weapons to win you that coveted chicken dinner

Which weapons in PUBG are worth the time to scout out and fit with attachments? Which are going to help you become the last player standing? We've got the answers you need in our best PUBG weapons guide.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

Want to play as Iron Man or Waluigi in GTA V? Our favorite mods make it possible

Grand Theft Auto V is best on the PC for many reasons, and modifications may be the most important. You can cause riots, spawn unique cars, and play as a cop with just a few extra files.
Deals

Walmart slices prices on PS4 DualShock 4 controllers just in time for Anthem

The standard black PS4 controller is what usually comes with the console itself, but if you want to add something a bit more customized your gaming experience, Walmart is offering a wide variety of colorful DualShock 4 controllers at…
Gaming

How you can give your PS4 a fresh start with a factory reset

Learn the many ways you can factory reset your PS4. From reverting your settings to factory to doing a full wipe and reinstalling the latest PlayStation firmware, we cover it all here, step by step.
Gaming

Here's everything you need to know to trade with friends in Pokémon Go

After literally years of waiting, Pokémon Go finally gives trainers the option to trade Pokémon with others. It's not easy, though, and the cost is quite high if you try trading with strangers.