Quit The Excuses Ubisoft, We Need More Female Assassins


“It was on our feature list until not too long ago, but it’s a question of focus and production,” James Therien explained. “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 [inaudible]. It would have doubled the work on those things. 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.”

Since the storm of controversy that came with Ubisoft’s excuse about the lack of women in Assassin’s Creed Unity, I had thought the arguments had run their course and we were pretty much decided as a community that it wasn’t good enough.

However Ubisoft have now offered a lukewarm statement saying that diversity of “characters and worlds” is something they will work on in the future. It’s not the bold statement we needed to hear but it’ll do for now.

My mistake after reading this news was that I then turned my eyes to the comments below. I was met by the familiar sight of several men discussing the issue of female representation and diversity. “But there have already been a woman and a black guy, why are you complaining?” and “How can you moan about this incredible diverse series of games.”

It’s understandable to want to defend the games you love but it’s important that we can step back from the stuff we are fans of so that we can understand them better. Otherwise you risk getting in the way of very important discussions that need to happen.

I’m a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series but that doesn’t mean I can’t point out they need more women in their games. So allow me to take you through some of the defences I’ve heard for Assassin’s Creed and what I have to say to each of them.

Assassin’s Creed is already diverse

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Is that true? Is Assassin’s Creed more diverse than we give it credit for? Let’s have a look and count its playable characters.

Desmond Miles, Altaïr, Ezio, Aveline, Haytham (while not the main character you played him for a good four hours), Connor, Kenway, Adéwalé and in Unity we’re getting Arno.

That’s eight men to just one woman.* And five of those men are white. In fact I’d argue that Altaïr practically was too, seeing as he was designed to look and sound like Desmond (agree or disagree on me with that one but when I see him I see another white guy).

My biggest issue, however, isn’t just the lack of women, it’s the fact that the only woman was used in Assassin’s Creed Liberation, a PS Vita game that sold less than a million copies globally (because no one actually owns a Vita), while Assassin’s Creed III (which was released on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC) has sold over 11 million.

Even Assassin’s Creed’s only playable black character, Adéwalé, was used for additional DLC. Do you see the problem here?

When you place female and POC characters in games that are secondary to the “real deal”, that’s not real representation. That’s a tacky bonus prize.

“It’s too expensive for them to add in”

Okay, it’s fair to say I have little to no insight into how a game is built. But Ubisoft has made millions off of the Assassin’s Creed series alone. They are a huge company that can afford to put an entire team onto one facet of a game. You can’t say that women are expensive to put in when you’ve made a perfectly scaled version of Paris and its enormous crowds.

So either something is very wrong at Ubisoft for this to be such a problem or they’re making excuses. But you know what? If female characters really do cost you a bundle and require extra man-hours, that’s money and effort well spent as far as I can see. They pushed back Watch Dogs an entire six months to get right but they can’t put a bit of extra cash aside to animate women?

There’s another reason it’s frustrating to see this argument emerge. If there was only enough money to animate one gender, how come the male version wins out every time? You’d never hear someone say “We ran out of resources so we abandoned our male characters.” Imagine if the makers of Tomb Raider had said all the villains would be women because “Men are just more difficult to animate”. No, it just doesn’t happen.

“You’ve got it wrong, it’s not customisable co-op, everyone is playing Arno”

The big issue people seemed to have was that they saw four co-op characters and assumed they were four different people. However the truth isn’t that this is a “choose your character” situation because in fact everyone is playing as Arno.

The customisations are for clothing, skills and equipment only. The idea is that everyone plays the same game, as the same person but focuses on different abilities and skill-sets. A bit like how you can equip Aiden with different clothes and weapons whilst having skill points to spend on various abilities.


In other words it’s not Arno, Jim, Dave and Bob, it’s Arno, Arno, Arno and Arno. Many people are arguing that making Arno female should have been an option from the beginning, Mass Effect style. Or that the option should have been there for different characters in co-op mode. But my own argument is a little different.

avelineIf there was only ever going to be one main character, why was that character not female from the start? When Ubisoft sat down to sketch out their next big hero for the franchise, why did they have to default to male?

It’s already pointed out that having a female assassin in this particular era makes perfect sense, what with female assassins being an actual thing at the time.

So I guess my argument actually has little to do with customising characters. Time and time again we are presented with games that star the same white-male-with-stubble archetype. But I want more women starring in my games. I want them on the box art, I want them to be the heroes, I want them to take the centre stage. But most of all I want more stories with a female perspective.

Female characters shouldn’t just be a customisation option, they should be main characters too. So Ubisoft, please stop thinking of them as an afterthought or a possible addition, female characters deserve so much more.


Ubisoft are not the only studios making these mistakes but when Assassin’s Creed happens to be your favourite game series, it hurts to not see its developers do more for female representation. Women play these games too and we want to be represented.

And, actually, there are men that would argue that they want to play as female characters too, because it’s not just about representation; it’s also about variety in the things we play. We’re all getting sick of playing the same white-dude-with-stubble in our AAA games. Give us something new.


* I’ve purposefully not included multiplayer characters because they’re not a part of the main story. Though I will admit that it’s great to see such variety in that department.

Sales Figures via: VG Chartz

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