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.


Previous post

Reality Checks: Emma Watson, Colorado Teen Birth Rates, Anti-GMO, and Keeping Your Pets Cool

Next post

Reality Checks: Smelly Gorillas, Teen Finances, Disappearing Birds, and Gallifrey

Cat Strickson

Cat Strickson

Cat, or Elly, or Eddy, or whatever name they're going by these days, is a British palaeontologist and fantasy author. It's a pretty awesome skill set, but it doesn't pay much right now. They enjoy science, history, vidyagames and all things SFF.


  1. July 10, 2014 at 3:34 pm —

    Assassins can only be women if they are incredibly conventionally attractive. See: Mr & Mrs Smith, Femme Nikita (all the versions), Avengers films, Bond films, etc, etc, etc.

    The Bond films are a little unfair because so many of the people in them are very attractive, but originally male assassins could be ugly: Jaws, for example.

  2. July 13, 2014 at 7:31 am —

    Dear Edward and Hanoumatoi,

    This was an interesting article, but I have to say I think it is somewhat superficial issue to focus on assassins creed and complain that because you cannot play a female character it is a sign of deep seated sexism in the games industry.

    Now, I am not claiming that there is no sexism in the games industry, I would assume that there is, although I have very little contact with games developers so I don’t really know there general attitude. The only games designer I know seems to be a pretty ok guy and does not seem to habour any deep seated hatred for women. However, that is my experience with one person so I would not feel comfortable to generalize. Now, confessing my ignorance on the subject, I would make some observations. followed by which I will explain the reason why I think it is perhaps unfair to singleout UbiSoft

    1) Firstly, I would assume that the games industry does recognize that many females play games. Indeed, I notice that some of these mobile phone games seem to be, in fact, marketed towards women. An example, I guess, is that “candy crush” game which is full of ‘traditional’ female colours and cute stuff which apparently appeals to women. Now, frankly I do not see why a puzzle game of this sought would be regarded as specifically female but it seems to be… It may in fact indicate a female predilection (for whatever reasons) for puzzle games, which, smart company’s have picked up on and tried to make a buck from.
    2) I had heard of this issue about Feminist Frequency’s series in ‘Tropes vs Women in Video Games’ – but had never really checked it out. So I had a look around online, I noticed that there were two strands of attack on Ms Antia’s work.
    a) there seems to be many many trolls out there who posted very nasty things which were extremely offensive, not just to women but to ALL right thinking people. I mean seriously, wishing someone would be raped and killed over a youtube video is not only nasty and rude, but also a bit strange. Many of these posts seem to have been written by kids or teens – although I am sure that there were some older fellows who have the mentality of kids who posted.
    b) However, I also noticed a number of videos and articles offering seemingly quite legitimate criticisms of her approach to framing the issue. I mean many games objectify both women and men (i.e. bad guys). Unfortunately, a productive debate has not grown out of these criticisms.
    c) My only direct point I guess is that I don’t see why a story driven game such as assassins creed is automatically sexist if it does not have a female protagonist.

    • July 15, 2014 at 10:12 pm —

      Saying that they objectify men and women is something which has been brought up, and Sarkeesian’s videos address the issue.

      Further, objectifying both the villains and the girls still leaves the heroes as role models. There are very few female role models in games. Also, I recommend looking up the Ping Pong comic which was posted recently on overt vs unconscious sexism.

  3. July 15, 2014 at 11:39 am —

    This whole thing is even more ridiculous once you know that the most famous assassin during the French Revolution was a woman, namely Charlotte Corday…
    But I understand the physics of the boob jiggle are complex and difficult to create.

Leave a reply