While Naughty Dog co-founders Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin are widely regarded as being the creators of iconic PlayStation mascot Crash Bandicoot, a group of video game designers who worked on the original game feel they’ve not been given the credit they deserve.
Endorsed by Crash 1 producer David Siller, the Untold Story of Crash Bandicoot Facebook group claims that the trio of former Universal Interactive Studios contractors Siller, Charles Zembillas and Joe Pearson have been “totally forgotten about” in the history of the beloved franchise, while Siller directly accuses Rubin, Gavin and former Universal head Mark Cerny of “systematically eliminat[ing]” his contributions to the original PS1 game from receiving any mention.
Siller goes on to claim that he was “black-balled” by Naughty Dog and publisher Universal’s head honchos due to differences in opinion and personality, rendering him unable to make a living, while singling Jason Rubin out as being a “bully”.
Alongside a number of other rather inflammatory accusations about the conduct of a number of Naughty Dog employees – many of which we are unable to verify – the crux of Siller’s grievances seem to be that the work of Rubin, Gavin and Cerny in developing the character, design and gameplay of Crash Bandicoot has been greatly exaggerated, with Pearson, Zembillas and Siller himself playing a much greater role in the conceptualisation stages than they have received credit for in the 20 years since the title’s release.
Joe Pearson had a somewhat more measured perspective on events, explaining:
“Andy and Jason didn’t ‘steal’ from Charles and I. We were paid to work on the game on a standard “work for hire” contract. Perhaps our contributions were arguably worth three or four times what we were paid for, but it was our choice to accept the terms of the contract and the money offered. So, I never had an issue with that…
I did have an issue with the way Naughty Dog initially excluded Charles and I from any real credit for what we did (aside from being “a couple of outside artists that were brought in to ‘tweak’ the look of the game”). I broke off my relationship with ND after that.
To his credit, Jason called me… and left a long message, apologizing for that. To my regret, I never responded. I should have. Or perhaps not. Now that I understand how ND systematically went out of their way to cut David out of the credit loop for his HUGE role in the game, my walking away from ND was perhaps the best idea.”
As fascinating and astonishing as these claims are, perhaps of even more interest to fans of the beloved platforming series is that a number of previously unpublished design documents have been uploaded to the Facebook page by Siller in the hopes of corroborating his side of the story. Showcasing early conceptual artwork and notes of stages, gameplay mechanics and Crash Bandicoot himself, they provide a fantastic insight into the origins of one of the most successful games of all time.