Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

While Ubisoft desperately and successfully tried to gravitate attention towards Far Cry 4, The Crew, and Rainbow Six Siege, one of the biggest stories from E3 was not only their lack in female assassins in their upcoming Assassins Creed Unity’s 4 player co-op, it was their justification for the exclusion: “too much additional production needed”.

To be fair, the way in which co-op works in Unity is, indeed, centralized on the main protagonist: Arno. Players will always be seen and play as Arno in multiplayer, but they’ll appear as other characters in another player’s game. With that in mind, just having customizable genders that will only be seen by another player is pointless.

 But a proper question to ask would be: “Why was co-op set up where players will only control Arno in the first place?” It doesn’t help that Unity has cut out the franchise’s excellent competitive multiplayer, which would have been the ideal outlet to allow for female assassins.

For a multi-million dollar production funding a several hundred man and woman project, it’s difficult to buy the argument that animating a female assassin is too much extra work. Some would say, “Just stick a girl in there.” Sure, but is this woman written in the game from the perspective of a woman, or from the narrow-field and un-researched perspective of a man? “Well, where are the creative female leads?” Ah, now we’re asking the right questions.

But of the many publishers that churn out long running franchises, Ubisoft is certainly one of the more progressive. And within the context of E3, just look at Rainbow Six Siege.

Originally reported on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, technical artist Oliver Couture confirmed that there won’t only be female hostages, but male hostages as well. Though we’ve certainly saved male hostages in military shooters before, it’s nice to see that this is another tactical military shooter that won’t juts have the relied-on female damsels. Perhaps even we can customize the gender of the defenders and attackers to truly meet gender equality.

There is a “but” to this story though, as Couture stated that the reasoning behind showcasing the female hostage was to generate more empathy; they didn’t feel that seeing a male hostage would trigger an emotional reflex of protection. It was a candid honest answer. And to be candid and honest myself, I saw a movie over the weekend where a little girl was shot and killed. Immediately after I thought to myself, “Would I have felt as bad if it was a little boy?”

We seem to be giving Ubisoft more of a hard time than they might deserve, or perhaps not giving everyone else an equal amount of attention. This is the same studio that has had a woman, a Native American, and a Black as leads in their Assassins Creed titles. Not many publishers can boast such a wide range of diversity. But the unsatisfying answer of “not enough time and/or resources” does inadvertently reflect on the larger problem sexism, gender representation, and gender equality in the games’ industry.

Just check out these GDC reports

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