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Absence of Playable Female Characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity Should Not Be “A Reality of Game Development”

When I first saw the gameplay demo for Assassins Creed Unity I was literally squealing in excitement the realisation that I could team up with 3 other people to become a French hit squad was too much. I was even more excited to learn that I could customise my assassin, tailoring him to how I want him to be.

However that excitement has since disappeared, whilst I was expected a diverse hit squad, it has since been revealed that there will be no playable female assassins.

In an interview with Videogamer, James Therien, Technical Director explained why we wouldn’t be playing a s a female assassin:

“It was on our feature list until not too long ago, but it’s a question of focus and production. So we wanted to make sure we had the best experience for the character. A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation, a lot of costumes. It would have doubled the work on those things.”

He then added:

“And I mean it’s something the team really wanted, but we had to make a decision. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality of game development.”

Now I don’t know much about the development of video games, but it appears that the main reason for the gender bias is because it would require more work, and not one of the nine studios working on the game were able to spare the time to create a female playable character.

Apparently in revolutionary france, only men can be assassins
Apparently in revolutionary France, only men can be Assassins

I’m not trying to brand Ubisoft as the face of sexism here, far from it. In the past the Assassins Creed series has included some strong female characters, Brotherhood allowed female Assassins to be recruited, Assassins Creed IV Black Flag had two of the most notorious female pirates featured in it and Assassins Creed Liberation featured (for the first time) a female protagonist.

It’s the videogame industry itself which features a severe lack of female representation. A Penny Arcade report showed that out of 669 games used in the reports sample, 45% gave players the option to have a female character (such as Mass Effect, Skyrim) and only 4% of the sample featured exclusively a female protagonist (such as Tomb Raider.)

Penny Arcade conclude that the lack of representation and also sales (games with female protagonists received lower scores) was due to developers not supporting them as much, on average these games only received 40% of the marketing budget compared to male led games.

Despite the facts, there are developers who are getting gender representation right, Bethesda and Bioware are among some of the well known developers who leave the gender and sometimes even sexual orientation of their main characters to whatever the gamer would prefer, and developers like these look like a shiny beacon towards the future.

Femshep was incredibly popular with thousands of mass effect fans
Femshep was incredibly popular with thousands of Mass Effect fans

I’m not the number one expert for misrepresentation, being a white male I’m far from it. But what I do know is that gaming is not male exclusive and videogames should start to reflect that.

What do you think about Ubisoft’s decision to not include playable female characters in Assassins Creed Unity? Do you believe there is no sexism in videogaming? Let us know in the comments or Tweet me @JonathonAalders.