In June, to the delight of fans all around the world, Ubisoft announced the newest version of Assassin's Creed, a title set in Revolutionary Paris with new, fresh faces and the promise of a whole new way of playing. Anticipation rose during E3, when it was revealed to be the franchise's first multiplayer title, the main character joined by three companions who assist the player in overthrowing the villains in this new installment. However, the excitement didn't last long; even though nearly 50% of all gamers in the US and UK are women, none of the new characters announced were female.
To the uproar on social media regarding the distinctive lack, Ubisoft said that it would simply be too hard to program (as they boasted their 5000 NPCs in any one given space). Subsequent comments on the subject from game developers, critics, and other fans have shown decidedly that this is untrue, and that female representation in the line-up of protagonists would not have taken all the hours that Ubisoft claimed. I have been a gamer and fan of Assassin’s Creed for years, and I am sorely disappointed at the flippant treatment that questions regarding inclusion of a female protagonist have received. That is why I am asking Ubisoft to take a stand as a leader in the gaming industry and vow to include more playable female characters in their games from now on.
I have been playing video games for thirteen years, and I have spent countless hours playing franchises such as Assassin's Creed, Metal Gear Solid and The Elder Scrolls series. I love gaming, and it has been so exciting for me to see it becoming more and more accepted in mainstream culture over the last few years. I have also loved seeing more and more of my friends become interested in games, and have met many more new friends through various game communities.
I believe games are an art form. They can be incredibly beautiful and complex worlds to become immersed in, and they inspire me and others to be creative in our own lives. And yet, even with games becoming so complex and dynamic, and gamers becoming more and more diverse, I am saddened by the lack of difference depicted in the characters inside the games themselves. The overwhelming majority of characters available to choose from, especially in the most popular games played today, are white men.
White male characters do not accurately represent the demographics currently playing video games. As of 2013, 48% of gamers in the US are women, with similar numbers in the UK. Female gamers are also the fastest growing portion of the gaming world, and are set to overtake men as the majority of players within the next few years.
When Ubisoft responded to journalists and fans who criticized them for not including a female playable characters in Assassin’s Creed: Unity by saying that it would take too long and require too many resources to produce, I didn’t believe it. Ubisoft is the third largest game developer in the world, and Assassin’s Creed alone brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits for the company. They employ hundreds of programmers and developers, and yet they cannot find enough time and resources to create a female co-operative avatar? Even though nearly half of their audience is female? I don’t buy it.
To be clear, I am not asking Ubisoft to change their games to include solely female characters, or even to include female characters in all of their games -- I am simply asking that they recognize the importance of representation and include more female characters across multiple games.
Recent events within the gaming community have made it seem as though women are not welcome -- with a small group of male players verbally abusing and threatening members of the female gaming community for their views on the subject -- but I do not believe that is what the majority of gamers believe, and I do not want my friends and my community to be defined by these few voices.
Gaming should welcome everyone, and everyone should be represented in the worlds that we inhabit on a daily basis.