Sony apologizes for interview it says ‘misrepresented’ Last of Us creator

Enlarge / Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann, seen here not questioning the accuracy of a PR interview.

Sony has removed an interview with Naughty Dog Studio head Neil Druckmann (Unexplored, The last of us) that the company now says contains “several material errors and inaccuracies that do not represent its perspective and values.” The surprising move comes after Druckmann took the extreme step of publicly questioning a portion of the public relations interview conducted by publishing an extensive transcript that conflicted with the heavily edited version that Sony posted online.

The strange media saga began last Thursday, when Sony published the interview (archive here) under the title “The Evolution of Storytelling Across Media.” The piece was part of the Creative Entertainment Vision section of Sony’s corporate site, a PR-driven concept that explores how Sony will “seamlessly connect multi-layered worlds where physical and virtual realities overlap to deliver unlimited Kanto, through creativity and technology, working with creators.” Whatever that means.

Druckmann’s brief interview began to attract attention almost immediately, primarily due to Druckmann’s apparent promotion of the use of artificial intelligence tools in game development. These tools “will allow us to create nuanced dialogue and characters, expanding creative possibilities,” Druckmann is quoted as saying. “AI is really going to revolutionize the way content is created, although it does raise some ethical questions that we need to address.”

Not so fast…

However, on Friday, Druckmann ended a months-long drought of social media posts by observing that, in at least one case, the words published by Sony “were not exactly what I said. In editing my rambling answers in my recent interview with Sony, unfortunately some of my words, context and intent were lost.”

As evidence, Druckmann posted this “rambling” 457-word response to a question about a “personal vision or dream project” he hoped to create:

Well, I’ve been very lucky because I’ve already had it. I had the opportunity to carry out several of my dream projects. I’m working on a new one right now. And it’s perhaps the most excited I’ve been about a project so far. I can’t talk about that or our bosses will be very angry with me.

And I guess overall there’s something happening now that I think is cool. And there is a new appreciation for games that I have never seen before. Like when I was a kid, games were more of a kid’s thing. Now it is clear to everyone. But it’s like if you’re a gamer, you know the potential of games, and non-gamers, they don’t really know what they’re missing.

But my hope was that when we did The last of us as a television show we could change that. And why I got so involved with it. I wanted it to be good so much, because I wanted this to happen, that it’s like someone saw the show and really liked it. And fall in love with those characters in the same way that we fall in love with those characters and their story. And at the end you realize, “Wait, that’s based on a video game?” and then go and watch the game and see the richness of narratives and everything that happens in the games.

So now I feel like there’s kind of a focus on games. And know, Fall just came out. And that’s a huge success for Amazon. And I find that really exciting. Not because games have to be movies or TV shows, but I think it just opens the eyes of a group of people who just weren’t aware of the type of experiences that exist in games. I think we’ve reached a tipping point right now where it’s about to take off and where people are realizing, “Oh my gosh, there are all these amazing moving experiences in games!”

So not only am I excited about this game that we’re making, and it’s something really new for us, but I’m also excited to see how the world reacts to it. Because The last of us, and the success of the show, people, even outside of the gaming world, are looking to us to see what we’ll release next. I’m very excited to see what the reaction will be to this, and I’ve already said too much about it. I’ll stop there. So you’re asking me about my dream projects. I’ve been very lucky to have worked on my favorite games with incredible collaborators and I’m very grateful for them.

For reference, here’s the 127-word summary of that answer posted by Sony:

I’ve been lucky enough to work on several dream projects and am currently excited about a new one, which may be the most exciting yet. There is a growing appreciation for games that transcends all age groups, unlike when I was a child. This change is highlighted by our foray into television with The last of us, which I hoped would bridge the gap between gamers and non-gamers. The success of the program has put the spotlight on games, illustrating the rich and immersive experiences they offer. This visibility excites me not only for our current project but also for the broader potential of games to captivate a global audience. I’m excited to see how this new game resonates, especially after the success of The last of usas it could redefine general perceptions about gaming.

While the essence of Druckmann’s original answer is more or less preserved, the condensed version loses many of the specific details and flavor that Druckmann highlighted in his answer. The edited version also inserts some key phrases and ideas that Druckmann didn’t use at all, such as his supposed hope that his new project “could redefine dominant perceptions about games.”

Although we don’t know to what extent Druckmann’s other responses were cut or modified during the editing process, Druckmann’s public annoyance with the edits was apparently enough to get Sony’s attention. Shortly after Tuesday evening, the PlayStation maker replaced the public interview with the following message:

In revisiting our recent interview with Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann, we found several major errors and inaccuracies that do not represent his perspective and values ​​(including topics such as animation, writing, technology, artificial intelligence, and future projects). We apologize to Neil for misrepresenting his words and for any negative impact this interview may have caused him and his team. In coordination with Naughty Dog and SIE, we have removed the interview.

Journalists often edit interview responses for conciseness and clarity, but this interview skips the usual step of pointing out such edits near the top of the article. And although press releases often contain executive quotes that have been carefully crafted in consultation with public relations professionals, there is no indication in this article that the responses here were anything other than Druckmann’s own thoughts and words.

Game publishers and console manufacturers have a long history of sharing developer interviews directly with the public rather than having those developers’ opinions leaked through the press. This is the first case we can remember where the promotion process itself has become a source of controversy.

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