Ubisoft’s Lack of Female Characters

For the past few days, I’ve been playing Ubisoft’s ‘Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD’. Having played this before (on PSVita rather than PS3), I knew exactly what to expect in terms of story and protagonist, with the latter actually swaying me to purchasing the updated version. This is the only ‘Assassin’s Creed’ title that has a female protagonist; Aveline de Grandpré, daughter of a wealthy merchant and a slave. She has the ability to change her persona – from slave, to Assassin, to Lady. She’s strong, able, intelligent, and beautiful – everything that a female protagonist should be. So why do games companies keep insisting on omitting female characters from video games?

Aveline de Grandpré

Aveline de Grandpré

Browsing through Twitter during the E3 conference, I stumbled upon an article which made me feel as though I personally should not be playing video games such as the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ franchise because of my gender. Shown below, Ubisoft’s technical director explains exactly why they have chosen not to include any playable female characters at all in their newest game, ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’, which included leaving out any playable female multiplayer characters regardless of having them in previous games. In the article, women characters are called a “feature” – similar to an optional extra that has no merit to the game itself. Calling the matter “unfortunate”, James Therein has seemingly alienated almost half of the game’s potential audience, and what for? So that the game can be released earlier? So that they can focus on another game? It’s not a valid excuse to me, and I’m sure others will not accept it either.

Ubisoft's "Explanation"

Ubisoft’s “Explanation” (Click to Enlarge)

Continuing to look through the replies and comments on Twitter regarding this article, I found Naughty Dog’s Animator, Jonathan Cooper, to also be appalled at this response to Ubisoft’s biased view. He claims that, instead of doubling their work in order to create female characters, it would simply take a day or two – and who better to trust than the guy who is actually animating characters himself?

Bringing it back to Aveline, Jonathan Cooper backed up his statement with a fact that this strong, relateable, amazing female character shares most of her animation with a male character who was the protagonist in the next game in the franchise – Connor Kenway. He even went so far as to say that their newest male protagonist (Edward Kenway, from ‘Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’) shares less animations with Connor than Aveline does.

It’s amazing how a high profile video game company such as Ubisoft can ignore the fact that there are millions of female game players who aren’t asking for much, but would like at least one female character to relate to whilst playing. I, personally, didn’t mind playing as a male protagonist, but enjoyed being able to choose a female during multiplayer sessions and seeing the different traits and strengths they had. An all-male video game is isolating genders and creating a society whereby it will continue to be known as a male pastime to even play video games.

Heading to Twitter one final time, I noticed that a new hashtag has been created in response to Ubisoft’s announcement; #WomenAreTooHardToAnimate, which shows both women and men ridiculing the idea of limited resources. I’ve included a few that I liked reading below.

I used to have faith that the video gaming industry would get better in their diversity, and some studios have definitely proven that right, but this new-found excuse for not creating a more gender-equal game has made me re-evaluate. Why is it so difficult to become more female-friendly? Women have learnt to accept that they don’t have as much choice in regards to characters than men (which shouldn’t need to happen), but including just ONE female playable character in Ubisoft’s newest game could have saved a lot of this unwanted publicity.

If you have time, I’d recommend searching through Twitter’s #WomenAreTooHardToAnimate hashtag and see the amount of support female gamers are gaining. I also found this petition, which it may/may not help to sign, but it’s worth a shot!

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/ubisoft-discontent-at-lack-of-representation-in-ac-unity-protagonists

I’ll leave you with a selection of my favourites from the hashtag now 🙂

Michelle x