Assassin’s Creed Unity: Do We Need a Female Assassin?June 12, 2014
By now, many of us have seen the beauty that is the Assassin’s Creed Unity Cinematic Trailer that premiered at E3 Expo on June 9th during Ubisoft’s press conference. Taking place in Revolutionary France, 1789, against a backdrop of chaos in the streets and featuring a multiplayer that gives you the choice between four assassins — four male assassin’s — it seems Ubisoft has unintentionally stirred the pot with some gamers wondering why they haven’t included a female assassin. But why should they?
There has been recent controversy surrounding the issue of the lack of female playable characters in the Assassin’s Creed universe — that is of course if you are ignoring Liberation which featured Aveline de Grandpré.
Up until recently, many gamers thought that with Unity, a vision of a female assassin would grace their screens to make the cobblestone streets of revolutionary France run red with blood. Then, it was revealed that while Ubisoft had originally intended to include a female character, the idea was put to the side with the excuse of ‘it would double the work’.
Ubisoft technical director James Therien recently told VideoGamer:
[blockquote]”It was on our feature list until not too long ago, but it’s a question of focus and production. So we wanted to make sure we had the best experience for the character. A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation, a lot of costumes [inaudible]. It would have doubled the work on those things. And I mean it’s something the team really wanted, but we had to make a decision… It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality of game development.”[/blockquote]
I can’t speak on whether or not the production time would double on a lot of the animation and costumes, and sure I think that it was a weak reason why they didn’t include a female character, but in the end, does it even matter?
Some gamers would say yes, of course it does. Some want what games like Fallout and Mass Effect offer, with the ability to change the race and gender of your character at will. This isn’t the case now with Assassin’s Creed but maybe it will be in the future if the company decides to listen to what it’s fans want (like Nintendo has recently learned to do)
Has Ubisoft tried to be historically accurate with their games in the past? To some extent, yes, and this could be one of the reasons you won’t be seeing a woman running around France as an assassin. (But, for those history lovers out there, Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont was a female assassin who was beheaded for performing the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat…) Or the reason could have been that they didn’t want to spend the man hours designing other characters as stated by Therien.
To be fair, even if there was a female assassin, it would be believable if she made herself look as much like a male as possible with short hair and loose robes or armour plating covering her chest. But, maybe some people would want her to look more womanly, with exposed skin perhaps, and an ample chest to accompany her. Who needs armour anyway when you have breasts?
I’m not saying that this is the direction they’d take it in, of course (as Aveline did have a fantastic and well covered outfit), but I don’t think the fact that they don’t have a playable female assassin is a reason to boycott an entire company. If they oversexualized a female character, there would be complaints about the objectification of women in video games. If it wasn’t remotely historically accurate, there would be complaints. Every step they take people will be critical of, and we all know you can’t make everyone happy. Such is life!
The point is, if it wasn’t Ubisoft that took the brunt of abuse this week, it would be some other company.
Sure, I don’t really think that Therien’s excuse was reasonable and yeah, it felt like a little bit of a cop-out, but I’m not a gaming designer and I have no idea how long it takes to create something as visually stunning as Unity regardless of whether or not ten studios worked on it. Could he have come up with something better to say? Probably, but he didn’t. I’m just happy there is going to be another Assassin’s Creed game. Do I think we need more female protagonists in video games? Sure, why not! Do I think they’re being sexist? Will I boycott a company because an idea they had didn’t come to fruition? Absolutely not.
I’m a female gamer who doesn’t care about the gender of the character that I play. I won’t buy a game based on whether or not I can change my characters gender or looks. I need a great storyline, beautiful graphics and characters that really help me feel a part of the world in which I’m playing. Male or female.