The Angel Of Assassination & Why Ubisoft Should Have Just Kept Quiet
Where there is an E3, there is controversy. Every year we have one, and every year it gets mighty contentious. Last year it was the unending console war between Microsoft and Sony. This year it’s Ubisoft absolutely putting its foot into its metaphorical mouth with some truly stupid statements.
Let’s disregard the underwhelming press conference which substituted gameplay footage for cinematic trailers, featured a bunch of developers using more colourful language than I’ve seen on an HBO special, the publisher’s wanton lust for franchises nobody cares about anymore, and of course the biggest disappointment of all the press conferences for anyone who isn’t a Sony fanboy; the lack of anything related to Beyond Good & Evil 2. Assassin’s Creed Unity features a male protagonist, and that’s fine. But then Ubisoft goes and says… what?
Now I’m not going to repeat what has already been said. You can read that for yourself. I’d like to point out a few other things, instead. But yes, very quickly, Ubisoft stating that it would cost too much to develop a female character is complete bullshit and they were very obviously talking out of their asses with those comments. Yes also, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation has a female protagonist who has more animations borrowed from Assassin’s Creed III’s Connor than are lent to Edward from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. And finally yes, this actually gives me some understanding of why Beyond Good & Evil 2 went entirely unannounced this year.
I actually feel quite annoyed at myself now for previously defending Watch_Dogs about a similar thing. Even if there it was justifiable.
Here. I mean, just no. There are two big issues I have with Ubisoft, right now.
The first is that I don’t think they should have opened their damn mouths in the first place, unless it was an honest thing they were saying. There are so many ways in which this PR nightmare could have been avoided. Explaining that it costs too much to have female characters in a series of games that has spanned multiple locations between the past and a fictional future setting, including an entire other civilisation of characters and a story so complex and convoluted that an encyclopaedia had to be commissioned, is a little fucking difficult to believe. Disregarding the almost unanimous and immediate industry response that discounted Ubisoft’s words entirely, some from their own employees (past and present), there’s also the fact that this is a series of games that prides itself on historical accuracy, at least to some extent. A lot of the big events in each game have actually happened. Which astounds me given that even having not studied the French revolution, I know of the significant role played by women.
And this is a series that, mind you, has had some very strong female characters with the likes of Lucy, Juno, Minerva, as well as various characters interacting with the ancestors in each game. It is entirely possible that Ubisoft have a few massive characters planned for inclusion within the game, who are female. In fact, the biggest character of them all could well be Charlotte Corday, who is probably the most famous of all the big players in the French revolution. That’s right, a female assassin. Her posthumous nickname was l’ange de l’assassinat, literally the Angel of Assassination. How motherfucking badass is that?!
Now couldn’t she have been the ancestor we got to play? Surely Ubisoft is aware that ancestors can be both male and female without needing to consult a qualified geneticist? Or is this like the Mutant X gene and so it can only be carried in males? I would call bullshit on that given Liberation’s inclusion of Aveline, but hey. But again, I’m not particularly fussed about their choice of protagonist. I’m really not. I don’t care that he’s male, nor would I have cared if he was actually female under the hood. What matters a lot more to me is what Ubisoft said, the so-called justification for their actions.
Remember that context is everything and what Ubisoft basically said was that they care more about money and profit than about equal representation — an admittedly hot topic right now — which then leads me to my second issue: This game is called Unity.
Now we could all be dead wrong and basically because of some embargo or NDA, Ubisoft can’t tell us outright that Charlotte and other strong female presences will feature in this game’s story. Absolutely. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m wrong in that case. But having dropped a multiplayer mode that included playable female characters, they’ve included a cooperative mode not unlike the old Wolfpack mode from Assassin’s Creed III, only implemented within the singleplayer this time, and it’s a bunch of white male assassins, and they’re calling it Unity.
Nelson Mandela is turning in his grave right now.
There are undoubtedly some compelling reasons for why games include only one type of character — the likes of CoD doesn’t bother because of the extra load caused by loading separate player models with their own physics. In these cases I prefer to look at the characters not as all male but as generic constructs, avatars if you will. They don’t matter insofar as they’re just targets for me to shoot. But here, in this type of game where female characters have previously been added, and the industry as a whole takes issue with the words you’ve used to justify your actions, to go and dare to call a game Unity when it is anything but… I believe we have what’s called a gross conflict of interest.
And I have to admit, it’s making me not want to buy or play Assassin’s Creed Unity. Which is kind of sad when you think about it, because I’ve played every single damn one of these games to 100% completion, and I have vehemently defended the likes of Assassin’s Creed III in the past. I too gawked at the gameplay footage for Unity at E3 2014. But Ubisoft’s comments have left a sour taste in my mouth. “The reality of game development” is that I can simply opt out of a game I feel is not respecting me as a consumer. And I think I just might…