They're Just Not That Into You: The Truth to Understanding Developers

Breaking up is hard to do, especially when it's with one of your favorite developers.

By Artemis, Posted 27 Feb 2015

Everything started out so great: you two hung out together all the time, had the same interests, the same hopes and dreams. But then you started to grow apart; they started to hang around a different crowd that you may not be okay with, you worry that it’ll be a bad influence on them, and it is. Soon they don’t want to hang out with you anymore and you wonder sadly to yourself, “What happened?” And they respond, “It’s not you, it’s me.” No, this is not an editorial about relationships between two people, but about gamers and what to do when the developer you once knew and loved decides to stop making games that influenced your childhood.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened in the gaming industry, but the most recent example has been brought about by Game Informer’s interview with Naughty Dog’s Josh Sherr back on January 30th stating:

"No, I don't, because we've got an amazing team of people making some really expressive performances with our current stable of realistic characters. I mean, animating the stylised stuff is a lot of fun, but the stories that we're trying to tell right now are a little bit more grounded and a little bit more grown up than they were back in the Jak and Daxter days."

This statement ruled out a return to the cartoonish style of Jak and Daxter or Crash Bandicoot in favor of wanting to stick to their new, more mature style. Many gamers took offense to this and it is still a hot button issue to talk about on countless forums. Now, why is that exactly? Part of it is the idea of being “grown up,” which also signifies time passing and things changing, which is a touchy subject. Let’s face it, people don’t like change, in fact they’re downright averse to it. Many constantly say they want something new, but instead they buy the same games from the same franchises over and over again, not wanting to risk their money on a new IP that might fail. Rather than take a risk, many are content to stay just where they are. It’s the nature of the beast. When they find out that a franchise they grew up with – and have been hoping for a sequel ever since – is officially over, everybody loses their minds. How are they supposed to deal with the changes from a company that produced games they loved so much?

The Last Of Us,Jak and Daxter,Jak,Crash Bandicoot,Naughty Dog,Nostalgia,Growing Up,Break up,Lost Love

The problem here is that people put a lot of weight on things that they enjoyed when they grew up, and for many gamers the Naughty Dog games were a massive part of their childhood. It’s comparable to a childhood friend you grew up with and have a lot of memories with; good memories, bad memories, scary memories, all sorts of memories. Not just for Naughty Dog games, but any gamer who has experienced a plethora of emotions while playing a game will more than likely have an attachment to the game in question. But when it comes to childhood, a thing that many people view with rosy tinted glasses and might not see things that many people see, things change.

You can be disappointed all you want, but it’s not going to change the fact that the company has made a business decision. That’s also a thing many people don’t really keep in mind: that Naughty Dog is not your friend. It’s a business, and a business will do what they want to make the most money. At the moment, Uncharted and The Last of Us are selling very well and they’re doing extremely well critically. To them it more than likely makes the most sense to stick with something that they know will make money rather than taking a risk on resurrecting an old franchise. Other companies have done it and did well like with Sly 4 and the upcoming Ratchet and Clank but then there are failures like Duke Nukem Forever.

The Last Of Us,Jak and Daxter,Jak,Crash Bandicoot,Naughty Dog,Nostalgia,Growing Up

From a business perspective it’s understandable why Naughty Dog wants to stick with the sort of games they are making now, and while Naughty Dog might be one of the better companies out there right now, they are still a business. They want to please their audience and at the moment the audience seems to want more of The Last of Us and Uncharted, where the numbers are concerned. Fans can say whatever they want, but there’s a reason why the term “vote with your dollar” exists. If people really didn’t like the grim universes or storylines of Naughty Dogs’ other games more than the Jak games, then why did they sell better? Is it because of mass appeal for the more “realistic” styles? No, because if that was true then bright quirky games wouldn’t be made as much anymore and they’re saturating the market just as much if not more so than grim gritty games.

The Last Of Us,Jak and Daxter,Jak,Crash Bandicoot,Naughty Dog,Nostalgia,Growing Up

Not only this, but Naughty Dog has evolved as a company over the years, the creators themselves have changed and as they said, they’ve grown up. The Jak and Daxter series might have been considerably lighter than Naughty Dog's current games but it did cover adult subject matter, just not to the same extent. As the series went on, it went through a massive tonal shift and became far darker than the original lighthearted game. You can even see influences of the Jak and Daxter games in other Naughty Dog titles. With Uncharted sometimes making jokes and being lighthearted in contrast to the grim situation the characters are in, something that Naughty Dog learned to master as time went on. Even The Last of Us, as dark as that game is, does show some lighter moments in it and they seem very reminiscent of the old Naughty Dog games. The writing in The Last of Us and the Uncharted games is a lot better than the writing of Naughty Dogs’ past, not because of the subject matter but because they’ve had time to sharpen their wits and grow as a company. The fact of the matter is  Naughty Dog wants to go in a different direction creatively and make a good business decision.

As for Crash…Naughty Dog stopped working on Crash Bandicoot a long time ago and the franchise has long since been in the hands of other game developers, which means they don’t have much of a control of the IP that they created.

This isn’t the first game company that that’s done this either, but gamers tend to cut far more slack to those companies because they aren’t making “Oscar bait” games like they think Naughty Dog is doing. Nintendo has still yet to translate/export Mother 3 to the States yet for reasons of business, and they’ve gotten a lot less flak than Naughty Dog has. BioWare isn’t planning on making a sequel to Jade Empire, which was very well received and they haven’t been criticized nearly as much has Naughty Dog as. But why? Why is that?

Because Naughty Dog used the words “grew up.”

The Last Of Us,Jak and Daxter,Jak,Crash Bandicoot,Naughty Dog,Nostalgia,Growing Up,Memory

Growing up is a part of life, and when Naughty Dog said that they have moved past those two beloved franchises, gamers were devastated. Because for them, it felt as if they lost a friend. It’s a common phrase that people use that they just “grew apart” from their friend and when that happens it hurts. It stings. Especially if it ends badly, which this relationship with certain gamers seems to have. It’s almost like a bad break up in a way. People have become so attached to these good memories that there is a fear deep inside them about making new ones, about moving onto the next thing or becoming someone else’s friend. This is why indie games that emulate older styles do as well as they do, they remind you of something you felt was lost.

But you never really lost it.

Your favorite games will always be a part of you and you can go back and play them any time you want. You never lost Jak and Daxter, they’re right here on your shelf, eagerly awaiting you to replay them again. It sounds great to have a sequel or a remake to one of your favorite games, but will it really give you the same experience? Maybe. You don’t know for sure, though. We can be as disappointed as we want to be that Naughty Dog isn’t making more cartoony games, but don’t stand in their creative way for other games that people might really love. You’ve had your great experience with them that you can have fun with any time you want; now it’s someone else’s turn to have fun with Nathan Drake’s treasure hunting or to get emotionally involved in The Last of Us story.

Nothing will ever take away the good experiences you had with your favorite games and while their stories might have ended a long time ago, they will always live on in gaming history as part of the greats. No amount of corporate decisions can change that.

Angelina Bonilla, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information

Platform(s): PS3
Publisher(s): SCEA
Developer(s): Naughty Dog
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Survival Horror, Post-Apocalyptic
Release Date: 2013-06-14

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