Lots of Nervous Energy
With today’s fans demanding higher accuracy, especially in depicting foreign cultures, Sucker Punch was nervous developing Ghost of Tsushima. As an American studio creating a game about feudal Japan, their fear was coming off as appropriators. Thankfully, the game has been positively received by gamers everywhere, including Japan.
Looks like their key to success was the fact that they were so concerned with this fact, and that they took all the professional advice they could. Check out the interview by the producer Brian Fleming during PAX:
“We didn’t know: could we do it? and even more importantly, could we convince Sony Japan that we could do it? An important litmus test for us was, Ok, if we aren’t able to convince Shu (Shuhei Yoshida) — who was actually the person we went to — that this was a good idea and that we could do this, obviously with plenty of help, then we couldn’t do it.
So the pitch wasn’t widely shared inside Sucker Punch. It was maybe six or seven people who knew about it, and we took a meeting with Shu and Scott Rhode first just to vet this issue because we were so nervous about a western team tackling this material.
It was on the strength of Shu’s encouragement that we would embark on this journey. We sort of pre-vetted our concerns and I think Shu encouraged us and I think his advice was very sage. As you know Shu can be really really helpful. He’s a very wise guy.
His take was “You’re never really gonna fool anyone about this game having been made by a western team, but you can surround yourself with resources — some of which are inside Sony and outside resources — to do this well.”
He’s like “Your goal isn’t to pretend you’re something you’re not. Be a great version of yourself. Go on this journey and you can do well.”
It was on the strength of his support, which then turned into support from Sony Japan, and of course, the consultants that we used here in the studio, in L.A., and around the world… All of that contributed to us tackling it.”
My personal favourite part of the interview was that they said that they never advertised the game as “authentic”. They didn’t hide the fact that they were westerners, trying to pretend like they knew something they didn’t. They stayed humble and stayed open to feedback and changes. This is how you create something from cultures you are not a part of.