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Assassin's Creed: Unity - No female assassin models a risible "reality" of Ubisoft's choosing

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Assassin's Creed: Unity, Female characters, Ubisoft, Ubisoft Montreal

Assassin's Creed: Unity - No female assassin models a risible "reality" of Ubisoft's choosing

So there are to be no playable female models in Assassin's Creed: Unity.

Unity introduces co-op to the Assassin's Creed formula, allowing you to play with up three of your friends. In order to make this fit in with the story, each player will see themselves as Arno in their own games but be able to choose and customise their public appearance -- i.e. how they present themselves in the games of other. You'll still be able to customise your gear, and you'll have all of that with you when playing with others, you'll just appear as a different character to other players. And that character will have to be male.

It's annoying that were back here again with a company that's actually been fairly good at fostering inclusion of late. Assassin's Creed actually flipped the script in terms of delivering a protagonist that didn't fit the white, male stereotype when it came to Liberation, and did so in a way that was pretty relaxed given the scrutiny Avaline would come under. That's just the nature of things that deviate from established norms, even when those norms are somewhat lamentable. Anything different -- in this case to traditionally white, male protagonists with voices like a cement mixer -- will attract extra attention and pressure. But, to Ubisoft's credit, they let the game do the talking, and it was a cracking little game, with Aveline proving to be a wonderfully drawn character. Before that, we had female assassins in Brotherhood and Revelations, female avatars in the multiplayer components. There's precedent for this, and Ubisoft Montreal themselves set it!

So why not here, in Unity?

Assassin's Creed: Unity - No female assassin models a risible "reality" of Ubisoft's choosing

"It's unfortunate, but it's a reality of game development," said Ubisoft technical director James Therien, speaking to Videogamer. "It's not a question of philosophy or choice in this case at all.

"It was a question of focus and a question of production. Yes, we have tonnes of resources, but we're putting them into this game, and we have huge teams, nine studios working on this game and we need all of these people to make what we are doing here."

Ubisoft Montreal is one of the biggest studios in the industry. Assassin's Creed is one of the most lucrative IPs in entertainment. Therien admits that they have "tonnes of resources" and "huge teams" working on this game. And yet somehow, in amongst creating an enormously detailed facsimile of Revolutionary France, perched upon thrones presumably made of money given the ridiculous success of this franchise, the excuses for not having one, just one, playable female character model in this game that's been in development for at least two years are "it's a reality of game development" and "it's a question of focus".

That sounds suspiciously like bullshit to me.

It's a reality of development that men outnumber women four to one?

It's a reality of development that you can create an enormous replica of 18th century Paris, fill it with huge crowds and dynamic, systemic missions but can't spare one of your nine teams and buckets of money for even one female assassin model?

It's not difficult to believe that creating a female playable character would have taken some work. "It's double the animations, it's double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets," Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio told Polygon. "Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work."

Assassin's Creed: Unity - No female assassin models a risible "reality" of Ubisoft's choosing

That's a given. Creating a model for female motion with the new engine would certainly be more work. The thing is, though, if Ubisoft Montreal can't leverage their enormous development base to do this (when much smaller studios find a way), what sort of a message does that send? The fact that smaller studios find a way only reinforces the notion that in spite of the waffle above, what Ubi are basically saying is "we couldn't be fucked, really".

And I'm not sure what's worse -- that Ubisoft deliberately excised the option for female characters from a series that has already had playable female characters in a co-op game set in an era where that would have actually been totally acceptable (and potentially made it more awesome), or that Ubisoft's excuse for doing this amounts to "We've got loads of resources and manpower but we couldn't do this because of resources and manpower." You must have known that this backlash would be coming, Ubisoft. You can't have been this naive. How we present ourselves online has always been important. More pertinently, the likes of Borderlands and Saints Row and GTA Online and pretty much every Bethesda and BioWare RPG seem to be able to handle it, why not Ubisoft Montreal?

That phrase "extra production work" Amancio uses is telling because it suggests that having female characters is a luxury and that's a fairly risible message to be sending in a series that has managed to deliver inclusive experiences better than most. With Unity, Ubisoft could have finally put to bed the flimsy "because..erm...story" reason for not allowing for female characters by creating a game where you can play the male lead and also present yourself to the world however you like. Instead, they've basically said that their female audience isn't a priority, echoing the mutterings of boardroom suits who even today are actively stifling games with diverse leads and refuse to acknowledge that there is a broader gaming audience out there than ever before.

This stuff matters, and Ubisoft Montreal know it. This is one of the biggest, brightest studios in the industry. And they've utterly embarrassed themselves here.

Add a comment14 comments
Breadster  Jun. 11, 2014 at 14:03

In this case it is a little disappointing that you can't play as a woman, considering it's 4 player and you can customise your online character.

However I do have to kind of agree that it is a lot of work for a character that you're not even going to see yourself, but as you point out, Ubisoft are one of the biggest games companies and this is one of the biggest franchises so they probably should have sorted it out.

If you actually properly played as a custom character though it would be a bigger deal for me.

Last edited by Breadster, Jun. 11, 2014 at 14:05
Jerec  Jun. 11, 2014 at 14:22

Another requirement is that all the French cast have to speak with a perfect accent-free English dialect, just to make it authentic, coz thats how the French spoke in those days. Apparently.

Last edited by Jerec, Jun. 11, 2014 at 14:24
tr0r  Jun. 11, 2014 at 19:58

A question.

Is it REALLY that important?
Would it add or detract anything from the game if there was a female character? Sometimes it seems like a reason to complain about anything. If the MC was a woman, would people compalin then about it giving a bad impression of women as sneaky & murderous?

LifelongGamer  Jun. 11, 2014 at 20:32

Ooooohhhh the feminazis will be spitting acid.

Anarchist  Jun. 11, 2014 at 21:46

A question.

Is it REALLY that important?
Would it add or detract anything from the game if there was a female character? Sometimes it seems like a reason to complain about anything. If the MC was a woman, would people compalin then about it giving a bad impression of women as sneaky & murderous?


+1

I remember not so long ago, a certain journo going medieval on other journos for being overly PC about Far Cry.

It really does seem these days, that you're not anybody unless you're publicly calling people out as sexist, racist or gaycist.

sophistry  Jun. 11, 2014 at 21:57

Yes it is that important. It might not seem so to you or the other hordes of man babies who feel instantly threatened whenever something comes along that even remotely challenges the imbalanced status quo, but it matters to a lot of us women. That there's such hostility to something as small as asking for a female character model just shows how screwed everything still is.

And Feminazis? Really? You're going to compare arguing for some small piece of female audience representation to **** Hitler. You are the reason people like me need feminism you worthless cowardly sack of ****. Yeah sure, asking for a playable female character is the same thing as invading the Rhineland. Isn't it past your bedtime?

Section8Loco  Jun. 11, 2014 at 22:50

A question.

Is it REALLY that important?
Would it add or detract anything from the game if there was a female character? Sometimes it seems like a reason to complain about anything. If the MC was a woman, would people compalin then about it giving a bad impression of women as sneaky & murderous?


So you think all the female gamers would prefer to play as a male instead of female? What about them?

Zeipher  Jun. 11, 2014 at 22:52

And Feminazis? Really? You're going to compare arguing for some small piece of female audience representation to **** Hitler. You are the reason people like me need feminism you worthless cowardly sack of ****. Yeah sure, asking for a playable female character is the same thing as invading the Rhineland. Isn't it past your bedtime?


Although it's not a nice term, it refers to those that refer to themselves as feminists, but take it too far. I've had a woman scream in my face just for holding the door open to her. Thing is, I would hold the door open for a man too, it's just she was already reaching for the door.

There's nothing wrong with considering oneself feminist... but calling someone a worthless cowardly sack of ****? Yeah, there's something wrong with that. Learn some manners!

Regarding the game, I imagine they figured that the majority of their user-base will more than likely play as a man. Also, the main character will need to have very detailed, dynamic animations. Walking, running, fighting, climbing. Doing this twice, along with all of the modelling, texturing, would take an extremely long time, and it's likely the ends do not justify the means. It's looking to be a great game, so people will buy it whether they can play the co-op mode as a female or not.

Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you always should.

Anarchist  Jun. 11, 2014 at 23:27

A question.

Is it REALLY that important?
Would it add or detract anything from the game if there was a female character? Sometimes it seems like a reason to complain about anything. If the MC was a woman, would people compalin then about it giving a bad impression of women as sneaky & murderous?


So you think all the female gamers would prefer to play as a male instead of female? What about them?


I have to play as a female when I play tomb raider. Or bayonetta. Or perfect dark. Or in many other games.

Have you ever heard any man ever moan about this? No.
Has anybody, man or woman, ever really whined about this before, up to the current trend of it being fashionable to call everything sexist, or racist, or homophobic? No.
Does it make any difference to how the game plays? No.
Hence, Does it make any difference to your enjoyment of the game? No.

Its a game. its supposed to be a simulation that allows you to experience situations that you dont encounter in real life. It is not meant to mimic real life, otherwise we would have a game where Ezio is sat in his bedroom staring at facebook, crying that his ex boyfriend (!) is out at a party and that he has no friends.

Grow the **** up and stop acting like a bunch of spoilt little vaginas.

Although, its fairly obvious matt, that you only wrote this to spark some heated debate...!

Where does it stop though? When every game has to have a character generator for every character in the game, where you can select every single characters gender (male, female, transgender, whatever else there is these days), colour, religion, sexual preference, size, weight, age, etc, etc, etc.

Is that what it's going to take before the fricking whiners eat a slice of shut the **** up? Seriously, ITS A GAME WHERE YOU GET TO BE SOMEBODY THAT YOU'RE NOT IN REAL LIFE.

Sigh.

Last edited by Anarchist, Jun. 11, 2014 at 23:34
Anarchist  Jun. 11, 2014 at 23:37

Yes it is that important. It might not seem so to you or the other hordes of man babies who feel instantly threatened whenever something comes along that even remotely challenges the imbalanced status quo, but it matters to a lot of us women. That there's such hostility to something as small as asking for a female character model just shows how screwed everything still is.

And Feminazis? Really? You're going to compare arguing for some small piece of female audience representation to **** Hitler. You are the reason people like me need feminism you worthless cowardly sack of ****. Yeah sure, asking for a playable female character is the same thing as invading the Rhineland. Isn't it past your bedtime?


Quite fitting, that your chosen username actually means an argument that while sounds plausible, is completely wrong.

GTFO feminazi.

MattGardner  Jun. 12, 2014 at 00:19

I'm going to request that we stop the insult-slinging please before I have to close the comments. "Feminazi" is an utterly deplorable term and calling someone a worthless sack of the proverbial is hideous and lends nothing to the discussion either.

Back on topic...

I wrote the article because a company the size of Ubi Montreal taking a backwards step and hiding behind the excuse of manpower and resources is utter bol1ocks.

And also because if Saints Row and GTA and Skyrim and every BioWare game and MMO under the sun and COD can include a female MP customisable option, why the hell can't the first truly next-gen Ass Creed?

You're entitled to your opinion, of course, but I believe it does matter. Choice is important, we've been banging on about that for years. That's why I wrote about it.

LifelongGamer  Jun. 12, 2014 at 08:08

Actually "feminazi" is a very appropriate term. It reflects the actions they use which are very similar to how Nazi's in WWII demonized people they didn't like. Feminists use demonizing tactics against men.

History of women and video games:

look at the stupid man child and his toys
men will be boys
games are for babies
oh my god stop playing games and give me attention
girls can play games as well you know
yeah i am a grrrl gamer
games are sexist
games must cater to my needs
games are rape vessels

anyone stupid enough to believe feminism is a force for good seriously needs reeducating.

Tsung  Jun. 12, 2014 at 08:38

Well that escalated quickly!

If video games are a work of art, who are we to tell the artist they are wrong?. Catering to every possible combination of gender / color / disability is just not plausible. It might be disappointing they haven't included a female model, but I honestly believe it never crossed their minds to do it.

Gamers are generally the most socially acceptable / tolerant group of people I know. From the people I've met at lan parties I can tell you no-one cares about any of these -isms. All they care about are the games and enjoying the experience. Even if these models are included there is no guarantee the person playing is the same gender.

Personally when playing a 3rd person game, if I had a choice of looking at Lara Croft bum or Nathan Drakes, I'd choose Lara's everytime..

Last edited by Tsung, Jun. 12, 2014 at 08:39
Ilium  Jun. 12, 2014 at 10:02

I'd like to see some honesty. This whole "reality of development" rubbish is ridiculous. I find Ubisoft's excuse to be the worst thing about it. This industry is steeped in white male stereotypes, and as a black man I sometimes feel under-represented in terms of playable characters (though that's definitely getting better).

It does matter, maybe not to everyone, maybe not to you, but certainly to some, and certainly to me. People flip out all of the time about customisation options. Why? Because it matters, because how we're able to present ourselves online makes a difference, whether that's role-playing as yourself or as Anarchist says, someone completely different. I play a lot of multiplayer games and MMOs, and in those games, it really does matter. No-one talking about changing Arno into a woman, but like Matt said there's a chance to have your cake and eat it - to be the male protagonist and yet present your own custom badass assassin to the world. Unless you'd like to be a woman, it seems, and that's a shame.

Good games are good games. But being inclusive and making a good game aren't two opposing things. It's not about dumbing things down or taking anything away but rather giving more people a way in. Why wouldn't you want that?

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