Unisex Assassins

I thought I’d take a moment for a brief reprise of last week’s topic (a real blog post will come soon).

This week, as many of you will be aware, is E3 week, where the big video gaming companies strut their stuff and hype their future releases. I don’t take a lot of active interest, if I’m honest, because there have been plenty of high-profile turkeys emerge from E3 in the past, ones that have left me wondering whether less money should be spent on fancy-dan presentations, and more on the games themselves.

But anyway…

The reason I’ve ended up putting digital pen to virtual paper, is that Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio has stated that there’ll not be any female playable characters in co-operative play for the forthcoming Assassin’s Creed: Unity. The reason? Because it’s resource intensive* (I’m paraphrasing for concision).
Assassin's_Creed_cover
On one level, fair enough. Games design costs money, and you can’t always put in all the features that you want. (The Thief reboot notably skimped on many things in final release, including a plot that hung together, and characters you could give a damn about). Furthermore, I know from my own experience that the realities of business’ challenges are not often reflected accurately in the fanbase or the media. However, the message sent out regarding Assassin’s Creed: Unity is that female characters in games are expendable. They can be cut, and it doesn’t matter.

This is all especially disappointing that it’s happened in an Assassin’s Creed game. This is a big franchise now, with six console titles, and one handheld title to its name. Tellingly, only the handheld title features a female player character. I love this series, and I admire the way it attempts to be even-handed about the religious aspects of its background material. There’s even a disclaimer at the start, explaining how each Assassin’s Creed game is a product of a multi-faith team. All of which makes the gender bias all the more puzzling.

I’m not making the case that all games, or even half of them, should have female protagonists. However, when girls and women are excluded from both the single player and multiplayer aspects of your game, it probably behooves you to take a step back and think about why that is. Prejudice is unthinking more often than it is deliberate, after all.

Come on, Ubisoft. You can do better.

*As reported on Polygon.com

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