Archive | March, 2014

Amy Hennig’s departure from Naughty Dog shows how much growing up the gaming community still has to do.

7 Mar

Speculation. It’s what the Internet does best (or as is so often the case, worst). It requires a reason for everything, every decision, every action and every outcome a reason for being. It is the sad nature of the modern world that we must know why one coincidence collides with another, setting off a chain reaction of further coincidences until it eventually becomes nothing but a conspiracy theory. Those who yearn for answers will often seek to invent their own in the absence of the evidence that brings them that deeply sought-after grain of comfort.

So it has transpired with the news that Amy Hennig, now formerly of Naughty Dog, the development studio behind such classics as Crash Bandicoot, the Jak & Daxter series, and more recently the magnificent Uncharted trilogy – on which Hennig served as creative director – and last year’s magnum opus The Last Of Us, a game which has won over 300 Game Of The Year awards. The circumstances surrounding her departure are unknown, as they should be, but as is the Internet’s (read: IGN‘s) want, it began to guess and believe a “source” informing them that Hennig was “forced out” by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, creative directors of The Last Of Us. Quite how this could even happen is beyond me, as surely the decision would rest with the presidents of the studio and/or Hennig herself.

What has happened since this story broke sheds some damning light on gamers themselves, and not Naughty Dog and the industry itself as so many have deemed fit to do so. Everything from accusations of sexism, to the fact that Uncharted 3 was a “disaster” and that Naughty Dog or Druckman thought that someone else could do a better job with the Uncharted series, has been thrown around numerous message boards, social networks and forums. It makes for depressing reading.

When someone leaves their current job, it is up to them whether they discuss the reasons for their departure with anyone else. No one is under any obligation to inform the world of the details of what led to it. It is utterly irrelevant whether someone is in the public eye or not, and speculation about an individual’s departure is downright invasive and hurtful. In Amy Hennig’s case, the focus from some quarters has been on her gender, which shows the majority of gamers for the narrow-minded ignorami they are. If we didn’t have laws in place ensuring equal employment opportunities, and her gender was such an issue, why would Naughty Dog have employed her in the first place?

The more important question is, why does gender even matter? By making that the basis of an accusation, the accuser shows themselves to be a prattling chauvinist. It does no one any good and does a huge disservice to the women currently working in the games industry who have got to their place within it based on merit and talent.

And then there are those suggesting it was because Uncharted 3 wasn’t very good. Idiots. Yes, it had a reasonably troubled development and was no improvement on its predecessor from a story-telling point of view, but it was still a wonderful title full of memorable and jaw-dropping moments. However, because it wasn’t a huge improvement on Uncharted 2, followed by the adoration and acclaim lavished upon The Last Of Us, that somehow Hennig’s job was on shaky ground and she needed to go. That goes beyond the realms of absurdity, and into the far reaches of idiocy. Are Druckmann and Straley really that rammed up their own arses that they think they have a God-given right to take over another project due to the success of their last? I highly doubt it.

The search for the “sinister truth” is what informs today’s culture and has done since time immemorial. It has been exacerbated by real-world events such as 9/11, and then only made worse (and proven somewhat right) by the Snowden revelations. Unfortunately, this has spiralled into pretty much every facet of existence. It has affected how we engage with people we know, trying to work out why someone you needed to talk to about a serious personal matter didn’t come to meet you for a drink and didn’t call to let you know; what do we tend to do in such a situation? We speculate, coming up with something sinister or untoward that might explain their actions (or lack thereof). Sometimes, people just are. They’re actions are absolute and do not always require explanation. People need to get over themselves and stop with the self-entitlement.

Not wishing to end this on a speculative note, but for all you know, it might be something health-related. It might be a new distraction, an opportunity too good to pass up. It might be related to family. We’ve all heard people say, “something came up”. In Amy Hennig’s case, whether it did or not is none of our business until she says otherwise.

In the meantime, we should all be eternally grateful for the contribution she has made to games and the industry as a whole. Her focus on character and narrative in theĀ Uncharted games is what might possibly have led to Druckmann and Straley creating The Last Of Us. She has been an almighty influence in the direction games have taken, with their focus on story and character. Here’s to her getting back to doing what she does best.