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Talkingship – Video Games, Movies, Music & Laughs | April 20, 2021

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No, Ubisoft Doesn’t Hate Women. Here’s Why.

No, Ubisoft Doesn’t Hate Women. Here’s Why.

If you’ve been on Twitter this morning, you’ll have seen that there’s a lot of controversy surrounding Assassin’s Creed Unity, the latest open-world title from Ubisoft. The issue is that the game doesn’t feature any female assassins, but the rest of the gaming media have unhelpfully put a misleading spin on the story (and Ubisoft’s mixed messaging doesn’t exactly help). Here’s why Ubisoft aren’t sexist, and why it makes perfect sense for AC Unity to only have male assassins.

So, what’s the specific problem?

The main problem people have is with the co-op mode. In this, four player co-op seamlessly integrates into the main storyline, and the question some are raising is why one of these four characters can’t be a female.

Sounds like a valid point. So, what’s the reason for it?

The resolution is surprisingly simple, and it’s insane that people don’t understand this. In your game, you are always playing as protagonist Arno. When you start the co-op, you are still Arno: the other players appear on your screen as generic hooded people. For player 2, however, you look like a generic assassin: they think they are playing as Arno. Thus there is, in fact, only one playable character in Unity: the protagonist. It would be impossible for Ubisoft to include multiple playable characters without completely overhauling the narrative and story, and I think that we can all agree that this would be an unfair demand. Creative choices like this should be defended.

Oh. That makes a lot of sense, actually. But wait…why can’t one of the other three assassins be female?

What would that achieve? The issue people are raising is one of player agency and a lack of female playable characters. If one of the other assassins was female, you would not be playing as them! Your customised female character would simply appear on someone else’s screen: you would never see them (because you’d be seeing Arno). Do you really care enough to want Ubisoft to implement a form of female characterisation that would never be seen by the player, except for in the background as a random co-op partner?

But what about the thing Ubisoft said about how implementing female characters would have used up too many resources?

Yeah…Ubisoft shouldn’t have said that. That was pretty much nonsense: they spend enough time implementing random features that they could have put women in if they wanted to. But creatively, it wouldn’t have made sense. And we have to respect their decisions here: they prioritised a seamless multiplayer experience over a hyper-fragmented co-op mode that wouldn’t really have worked. I can’t blame them for that.

So female representation in games isn’t an issue then?

No: it’s still a huge issue. We need more female protagonists, we need more female writers and developers…but this particular instance of the debate isn’t a debate worth having. There are things that Ubisoft could have done: female side characters or a female companion, and I’d be shocked if there were no women in the game (I mean, AC Liberation had a female protagonist, and Black Flag had some really strong women!). But talking about Unity’s co-op mode obfuscates more important problems: ironically, by calling AC Unity misogynistic, you’re hampering the real debate about misogyny.

  • Gaffering

    This author has it on point.

    Just think for a second where this mindset will bring us. No one
    will ever take games seriously as a form of art, if all games are
    being demanded to be all inclusive. By the end of all this political
    correctness we will be left with a gimp white paste of a game, with no
    artistic merit.

    The reason the Last of Us or GTA V received such acclaim is because they
    were daring. They were not politically correct, nor would I want them
    to be.

    Enough with this. After all, you would never tell Susan Collins to make
    a male version of Katniss in the hunger games, just to appease the male
    readers or J.K. Rowling she needed to rewrite Harry Potter with Harry
    as a girl to appease the women in her audience. . .

    Diversity is good. Telling other people how they must create, their work of art is bad.

  • Luke Batt

    More people need to read this.

  • Joe Cain

    I disagree. We do not have to respect their decision to completely disregard half the audience.
    “They should be able to make whatever game they want.”
    Yeah, they should be able to spit in the faces of half their audience, and prove just how hypocritical their claims of diversity are. Five stoic, bland protagonists for no other reason than marketing.
    They should be ASHAMED of themselves that at least half the core games havent stared females.
    The artistic integrity argument is bullshit. These were not artistic statements, they were cowardly marketing ploys.

  • A.

    Ubisoft explicitly stated that there are no playable female characters because of production costs and work, not because Arno is the only character you play. Take what Ubisoft said at face value first before they realized they were too honest and had to save face by changing their story. Otherwise, you’re just a sucker spreading their PR story for them for free instead of honoring reality. Ubisoft only brought the Arno argument up later on, after criticism, as a form of damage control after one of their people said that there are no playable female characters because it’s too much work (and too expensive – like $90 for AC: Unity isn’t enough to cover that).

    The people at Ubisoft must have had a diversity crisis after that developer comment on playable female characters brought them backlash. They must have had a pow wow and said to each other, “Drat, one of you really screwed up and told them all that stuff about non-playable female characters. Worse, you started off your statement with ‘to be honest’ and then when into why there are no playable female characters. It’s hard to get out of that but we’ve got to change this story or we’ll lose come release. Anyone have any ideas?” And then they came up with that Arno bit and everyone clapped each other on the back because it will fly with those who will believe anything Ubisoft tells them, so they can sell more of their product.

    Some of us aren’t stupid. Listen to what Ubisoft said first about production costs and work. That is the real reason there are no playable female characters. There are no two ways around it, though it’s always interesting to see Ubisoft fan boys and apologists try to make excuses for them.

  • A.

    As soon as diversity doesn’t make them money, they will have none of it. I can just see them calculating it. “Well, yes.. hrm, diversity is important but the analysis shows us that we will have to do X amount of extra work to be inclusive, so that’s not going to happen. Forget diversity.”

    It’s that simple, isn’t it?

    The thing that disgusts me with Ubisoft is they are still claiming to be diverse with AC: Unity. They are defending themselves, even after their statement that creating a playable female character would cost them too much. It’s like they are digging a deeper hole by twisting it around so now they say they don’t have playable female characters because everyone plays Arno, so it makes sense. Not only are they not diverse but now Ubisoft is dishonest and slimy too.

  • A.

    There’s nothing bad about criticizing sexist video games. We buy them; they are subject to criticism, “work of art” or not.