Here’s something cool about Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the newest installment of one of gaming’s largest franchises: for the first time in the series’ history, up to four players will be able to “explore the open world and engage in narrative-driven missions.”
Here’s something far less cool: None of those players can be represented by a female avatar.
Though women make up 45% of gamers, the industry continues to ignore, neglect, and/or marginalize female characters and players. Assassin’s Creed: Unity takes place during the French Revolution and, as The Mary Sue helpfully points out, one of the most famous assassins during the Reign of Terror was a woman.
But of course, this isn’t a matter of historical accuracy. Rather, it’s about sexist bullshit. Apparently a female character was intended to be a part of the game during the planning stages, but was scrapped because it would have “doubled the work” on animation and costumes. Which sounds vaguely reasonable, until you learn that Technical Director James Therien and his nine development teams spent a couple of years animating all sorts of clothes for the four male avatars that do come with the game.
The “we can’t afford female characters” argument is an old one in the gaming industry, as well as a pretty unjustifiable one. In fact, Jonathan Cooper, the animation director of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, which features a female character, recently tweeted, “In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two’s work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations.”
TheMarySue writer Susana Polo wisely argues that creating a female character for the game would only double the work “if your idea of ‘female character’ necessarily demands a completely different way of dressing and moving than a male character.”
In addition to angering countless fans, the Assassin’s Creed: Unity team has caused some rancor within Ubisoft, the company behind the game.
Anna Megill, a game writer at Unisoft Quebec, said, “The entire narrative team on my Ubi project wants more female characters. I’d love to see more female characters in all games.”
Another female Ubisoft Quebec writer, Jill Murray, concurred, “On my project, I’ve got a project-wide narrative team that’s about 50/50 male-female and we’re always looking for ways to diversify casts. Yeah, so this news about playable women characters in AC Unity is pretty hard to take.”