Sony apologizes for interview it says “misrepresented” a Last of Us creator

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Sony apologizes for interview it says “misrepresented” a Last of Us creator
Enlarge / Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann, seen here not questioning the accuracy of a PR interview.

Sony has taken down an interview with Naughty Dog Studio Head Neil Druckmann (Uncharted, The Last of Us) that the company now says contains “several significant errors and inaccuracies that don’t represent his perspective and values.” The surprising move comes after Druckmann took the extreme measure of publicly questioning a portion of the PR interview by posting a lengthy transcript that conflicted with the heavily edited version Sony posted online.

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

Druckmann’s short interview started attracting attention almost immediately, primarily due to Druckmann’s apparent promotion of using AI tools in game development. Such tools “will allow us to create nuanced dialogues and characters, expanding creative possibilities,” Druckmann is quoted as saying. “AI is really going to revolutionize how content is being created, although it does bring up some ethical issues we need to address.”

Not so fast…

By Friday, though, Druckmann ended a months-long drought of social media posting by noting that, in at least one case, the words posted by Sony were “not quite what I said. In editing my rambling answers in my recent interview with Sony, some of my words, context, and intent were unfortunately 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, in that I’ve already had that. I got the chance to make several of my dream projects. I am working on a new one right now. And it’s maybe the most excited I’ve been for a project yet. I can’t talk about it or our bosses will get very mad at me.

And I guess in general, there is something happening now that I think is very cool. Which is there’s a new appreciation for gaming that I’ve never seen before. Like when I was growing up, gaming was more of a kid’s thing. Now it’s clearly for everyone. But it’s like, if you’re a gamer, you know about the potential of games, and non-gamers, they don’t really know what they’re missing out on.

But my hope was, when we made The Last of Us as a TV show that we could change that. And why I became so involved with it. I wanted so badly for it to be good, because I wanted this to happen, which is like someone who will watch the show and really like it. And fall in love with those characters the way that we have fallen in love with those characters and their story. And then realize at the end, “Wait, that’s based on a video game?” and then go and check out the game and just see the wealth of narratives and everything that’s happening in games.

So now I feel like there’s kind of a spotlight on gaming. And you know, Fallout just came out. And that’s a big success for Amazon. And I find that really exciting. Not because games need to be movies, or they need to be TV shows, but I think it just kind of opens the eyes of a bunch of people that just weren’t aware of the kind of experiences that exist in games. I think right now we’ve hit a tipping point where it’s about to take off where people realize, “Oh my God, there’s all these incredible moving experiences in games!”

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

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

I’ve been lucky to work on several dream projects and am currently excited about a new one, which is perhaps the most thrilling yet. There’s a growing appreciation for gaming that transcends all age groups, unlike when I was growing up. This shift is highlighted by our venture into television with The Last of Us, which I hoped would bridge the gap between gamers and non-gamers. The show’s success has spotlighted gaming, illustrating the rich, immersive experiences it offers. This visibility excites me not only for our current project but for the broader potential of gaming to captivate a global audience. I’m eager to see how this new game resonates, especially following the success of The Last of Us, as it could redefine mainstream perceptions of gaming.

While the gist of Druckmann’s original answer is more or less preserved, the condensed version loses a lot of the specific details and flavor 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 mainstream perceptions of gaming.”

Though we don’t know how much Druckmann’s other answers were clipped or amended in the editing process, Druckmann’s public annoyance with the edits was apparently enough to get Sony’s attention. Sometime after Tuesday night, the PlayStation-maker replaced the public interview with the following message:

In re-reviewing our recent interview with Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann, we have found several significant errors and inaccuracies that don’t represent his perspective and values (including topics such as animation, writing, technology, AI, and future projects). We apologize to Neil for misrepresenting his words and for any negative impact this interview might have caused him and his team. In coordination with Naughty Dog and SIE, we have removed the interview.

Journalists often edit interview responses for concision and clarity, but this interview skips the usual step of noting the existence of those kinds of edits near the top of the piece. And while press releases often contain executive quotes that have been carefully crafted in consultation with PR professionals, there was no indication in this article that the responses here were anything other than Druckmann’s own thoughts and words.

Game publishers and console makers have a long history of sharing developer interviews directly with the public rather than having those developers’ views filtered through the press. This is the first instance we can remember where the promotional process itself has become a source of controversy.

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