Assassin’s Can’t Be Women?
Feminism and the video game industry do seem to be clashing a lot recently, don’t they? If the egrigious reaction of the MRA-verse to Feminist Frequency’s series in ‘Tropes vs Women in Video Games’ is anything to go by, we still have a long way to go until the gaming world accepts the fact that 48% of their community is women and therefore deserve to be represented in this art form in a way that is not to women what Cole Train from Gears of War is to black men.
But when Call of Duty, of all things, is allowing female playable characters, you’d better hope that your franchise can keep up. The Call of Duty series generally gets a bad rap, largely due to its short and extremely linear campaign modes, yearly releases with little change in between each edition, and its tendency to have a white guy swoop into a room and casually murder everyone who can’t share his make-up without looking like a reverse minstrel. Still, there are women in it now. So why is Assassin’s Creed, another series that has become bogged down with yearly releases, unable to do the same thing?
This confusion stems from E3 2014, this year’s electronics entertainment expo and a treasure trove of gaming news for the upcoming year(s) for beloved franchises, studios and consoles. During the demo for the upcoming title ‘Assassin’s Creed: Unity’, set during the French revolution, 4-player co-op was showed off to great effect, the graphics were beautiful, and everyone and their mother was trying to get a good look at the characters involved. So, it turns out that it was four men, and in fact, four of the same man, a generic French badass called Arno Dorian. The fact that there were no women obviously caused an uproar, especially given the history of the assassin’s creed series. From AC: Brotherhood onwards, a multiplayer mode was available in which female characters could be played. In addition, a spinoff game for the PS Vita, later ported over to home consoles, called ‘Assassin’s Creed: Liberation’, had a female protagonist that worked just as well as her male counterparts in the main series games.
So why can’t this be done? Well, Ubisoft’s answer to the outrage was that it would simply be too much work. Now, that might ring true. Voice actors are expensive, 3D models take time to create, etc. However, they have done this before with the same schedule, and have hired female voice actors and had female assassin’s before. In fact, in response to this news, the animation director for Assassin’s Creed 3, now working for a different company, announced that female animations would only take a day or two of work.
In my opinion, it would be worth delaying the game to put female characters in. If your aim is to create a game in which people from around the world can customise their characters then come online and work together, then you’re doing a disservice to your audience by forcing them to play as some gruff white dude. There’s certainly been enough of a backlash that Ubisoft have to know that people want it, surely?
Perhaps it’s something we will see in a later game. Since we saw it in an earlier game you’d certainly hope they haven’t lost the technology or ability. As with Nintendo’s recent life sim on the 3DS: ‘Tomodachi Life’, when it’s too late, promise to do it in the next game at least. Nintendo screwed up by not allowing same-sex couples to exist, despite the game working by importing your friends’ likenesses, thus passively denying the existence of non-straight people. However, they said they would include it next time.
As of now, Ubisoft have announced no such plans.