E3 2014: Ubisoft Clarifies Assassin's Creed Unity's Lack of Playable Female Leads

The publisher addresses the controversy involving the lack of female playable characters.

Over the last day, a controversy has emerged surrounding the lack of playable female characters in Assassin's Creed Unity and the developer's explanation that including such characters would have "doubled" its work. Following comments from a former Ubisoft developer refuting these claims, Ubisoft has published an official statement on the subject.

"We recognize the valid concern around diversity in video game narrative," Ubisoft said in a statement issued to GameSpot. "Assassin's Creed is developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs and we hope this attention to diversity is reflected in the settings of our games and our characters.

"Assassin's Creed Unity is focused on the story of the lead character, Arno. Whether playing by yourself or with the co-op Shared Experiences, you the gamer will always be playing as Arno, complete with his broad range of gear and skill sets that will make you feel unique.

"With regard to diversity in our playable Assassins, we've featured Aveline, Connor, Adewale and Altair in Assassin's Creed games and we continue to look at showcasing diverse characters. We look forward to introducing you to some of the strong female characters in Assassin's Creed Unity."

In an interview with VideoGamer, Ubisoft technical director James Therien explained that female characters were planned for Unity before they were cut due to the amount of work involved. He claimed "the team really wanted" them, but described the cut as "a reality of game development."

This explanation was met with a great deal of criticism, in part because a total of 10 studios are working on the game, so it seemed absurd to suggest female characters would be too much work. This was only made worse when Assassin's Creed III animation director Jonathan Cooper estimated it would take only "a day or two's work" to make happen. He also claimed that, at one point, an Assassin's Creed prototype allowed you to play as a female character just by entering a particular name.

Assassin's Creed Unity is scheduled for release on October 28 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

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Twitter/Xbox Live/PSN/Nintendo Network: TheSmokingManX

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Discussion

137 comments
Ardus
Ardus

This is the most idiotic "controversy" I've ever seen. The fact that Gamespot has already written three articles on it speaks volumes.

It's GTA 5 all over again, the sad part is that Ubisoft has actually had female leads in the past and at least tried to put one in this game before scrapping the idea and these whiners are still after them.

I for one am glad that they chose to scrap it and hold to the Fall release date rather than push it back for something as superficial as this. Hey, at least people are talking about it now.

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

I haven't heard any complaints about a lack of female assassins. Damn feminists need to leave video games alone they've already ruined alot of fun stuff.

Hurvl
Hurvl

A clarification that doesn't say anything, how completely surprising! About as surprising as Ubisoft's previous explanation being a load of ass(assin) manure, if that ex-Ubisoft employee is correct. Yeah, yeah, whatever. It's not like any of this will affect anything and I don't care about the gender of the protagonist in this or other games. However, I do like seeing a big company being called out on their BS excuses.

tgrist
tgrist

I had a big meaningful speech written down that pointed out that overly conservative execs that rely on logical fallacies are the heart of the problem not the programmers let alone the audience and that what the execs do borders on a mix of racism/sexism/homophobia. Sadly due to a page error it all got wiped. So this is what I've got.


Nice to see Ubisoft is getting called on the BS. Cost saving my ass.

Raphy_Turtle
Raphy_Turtle

It's a reality in gaming that the 'male', 'violent', 'mass killing' character is favoured among the greater demographic of customers; hence these trends and lack of female protagonists in most games. When a developer chooses to make the main playable character a female lead, they have to consider their core group of fans who have grown comfortable playing a pseudo reflection of themselves in games for ages.

That's not to say it can't be pulled off in just about any genre. Certainly in AC already having had female playable characters as part of other modes and even as a protagonist in a handheld game, it could be done so again. The conflict is again to make the games feel as 'natural' to most gamers as possible, which as experienced in various games and movies, some female leads feel forced and just a man in a women's body to appease to diversity standards. Like an action flick where this 5'4'' 110lbs supermodel is overpowering men 3 times her size and strength without even any life like finesse that would make this more feasible (even by entertainment standards).

Now I've LOVED the latest Tomb Raider entry; and regardless of how some make fun of Lara's mass murdering rampage dichotomy with her initial vulnerable nature. I thought it worked perfectly in a gaming environment. Let's be honest, if an action game made a female character that was so believable, you'd maybe kill no more than a handful of people in the whole game, it would be the most boring game ever. Considering it would have any action. Tomb Raider took a relatable Lara Croft which I genuinely both loved playing and loved as a women. For once it did not feel like forced tough girl dialogue of a man/girl in a frail attractive body. As Lara you would struggle when grappled by larger and stronger men, and use real life finesse as (we/I) would teach in self defence by kicking in the groin, biting, using dirty tricks and mind over sheer strength to survive. It made sense!

To conclude with the situation at hand with AC Unity, a female lead could definitely be pulled off in an assassin game. As it has been already. Only I have to partially agree with the developer in saying it requires more tweaking to make a female lead which feels 'right'. One where your female lead isn't crossing swords with brutes and somehow not getting crushed under the weight of their great axes when trying to block them with a sword. Again, it is the 'harsh' reality about men typically being physically stronger and superior fighters than women. It is biological in nature and much less tongue in cheek to see a male character survive through a game of adversity. Until the day AC makes an assassin game where the assassin is frail and barely capable of squaring off in combat, a female lead remains an additional challenge if wanted to be done right. This isn't an RPG where the main focus of the game is to give choice and mould the story and characters around yours...

jewell21
jewell21

Is a lack of a female protagonist in this game disappointing?  Sure, to anyone who would like to play as a female character.  Does it neglect a large portion of the game's potential customers, therefore decreasing the game's profitability?  Probably, yes.  Should it be labeled as controversial? Not in the least.


Assassin's Creed is a video game franchise, a piece of entertainment.  Nobody is forced to buy or play it.  Ubisoft has developed a game the way that they want it to be, as an expression of their talents, interests, and what they wanted to create and share with the public.  It's not fair to condemn an artist's creation as sexist or prejudiced, just because their product didn't represent your interests as well as you would have preferred.  Neither is it fair to demand that other people make things the way that you want and then accuse them of being insensitive when they don't do it to your liking.


If you really want more games to feature female protagonists, then instead of complaining about what other people haven't done, maybe you should devote your own time and energy to developing games that star females.  Otherwise, vote with your dollar and refrain from buying games that you don't want to play.

fede018
fede018

Male gamers really get upset when women demand more representation in the gaming industry, don't they? You set us 15 years back to the "basement dwelling nerds" days

rolla020980
rolla020980

Why would an AC game have a female protagonist? To satisfy Gamespot? I don't think so. Think about the characters, the times they lived and how they got to their positions. In the eras where AC games occured, do you think Women would have the opportunity to do these things? It is possible, but Women had no rights in those eras. It seems that Gamespot is more concerned with some false sense of equality that they forget that historic times were not even close to equal. 

brijo00
brijo00

I'm sure if every game developer puts playable female characters in their games, these people will still find something to bitch about. "She's wearing a skirt! Her boobs are too big! She's got too much cleavage! Her deaths are too gruesome!"  It's not even about their cause anymore, it's just about finding anything to criticize just for the sake of criticizing. Pathetic.

baszzer
baszzer

It's not just about female writers though. Remember Lara Croft's latest outing? The reboot one. Well it was gritty, quite "acty", and natural. However, I'd say the female role was misrepresented there. It was both overly torturous yet invincible at the same time. The degree of punishment both emotional and physical was all over the place yet, did we see apparent changes? No we did not. The culprit? I'd say it was the disparate connections between the creative director and the lead. Males could only guess as to what the other half truly feels and undergoes. Well they could try and guess but still excellence and consistency is but a reality.


What we truly need is just a single woman, a true female to lead the helm of developers in creating the perfect game in which the feminine role is not fantasized nor excessively advertised, but correctly represented in a cohesive experience.

baszzer
baszzer

You know it's hard for males to write specifically from a woman's perspective right?. While the need for female protagonists must indeed be given importance at this time we must also understand that the abundance of male archetypes could have only stemmed from the overabundant male demography of creative writers and directors. If we're that desperate then let the women writers arise! 

kgallis21
kgallis21

I think we need to be honest here. If there is aa woman in A/C what would she be doing? The story takes place in a time when women didnt have any rights. They are trying to be as accurate as possible

toddx77
toddx77

I'm going to call it now.  Next years Assassin's Creed will feature a female Assassin and Ubisoft will go on and on about how great this female character is and they should done this years ago and they will get nothing, but praise from the media lol.

shawn_schwartz
shawn_schwartz

After reading all of the comments on this article I am a bit sickened by the level of misogyny that is coming from fellow male gamers. Though there were some good points brought up such as the real role played by women in the french revolution such as Charlotte Corday. Other comments beg the question regarding the inclusion of people of color, disability, weight and so forth in a way to diminish and ignore the the issue at hand. The problem here is that men do not see women as equals in reality or digitally. They are not much more than a prize to rescue or a pretty sight to be viewed and not heard. But please lets not forget Tomb Raider, the single drop of water in an ocean of male led games. Your arguments are meaningless and shallow, they lack any real thought or common reasoning beyond your small world outlook where women are beneath you. Now I know I will be attacked and labeled as some sort of whipped jellyfish of a man and a slave to feminists. Well I hate to burst your bubble but this is simply not the case. I am an adult man who sees the inequality of men and women unfounded and ridiculous, they are every bit a part Homosapien species as we are. You can call me a feminist if you wish and I welcome that as the philosophy of feminism is not the destruction of men but the equality of men and women. The creators of this game got lazy and rather than take any hints from the factual history of this time period they just cut and pasted an incarnation of the previous male protagonists and calmed it was in an effort of time management in development. I'm going to call them on this as in the previous game there were women character models used in the online co-op mode which if the development time scales were a consideration these models could have been utilized much as the previous male models were. Women fight alongside men in militaries across the globe and contribute just as much as men do to this would you all live in. So please grow up and realise that it's not just white men that can make a contribution to the world, Women are every bit as equal as men and should be treated that way. 

black_nirvana_
black_nirvana_

Next thing you know they'll take the significance of the single protagonist and make it like gta; forcing to split time with a female lead.

black_nirvana_
black_nirvana_

By having two main protagonist (to choose from male or female), you take away the significance of the characters. Imagine if Ezio had a couterpart call Ezel. The story could be oh yeah well Ezio and Ezel were great they did absolutely the same things; and that sucks.

the8thalchemist
the8thalchemist

In an interview with VideoGamer, Ubisoft technical director James Therien explained thatfemale characters were planned for Unity before they were cut due to the amount of work involved. He claimed "the team really wanted" them, but described the cut as "a reality of game development."


translation: NOBODY IN OUR STUDIO KNOWS HOW TO DRAW BREASTS. WE TRIED. 

ashtonrenae
ashtonrenae

I don't want female assassins at all, and I'm a girl. I love playing as the guys. They're a lot cooler, in my opinion, and way better looking.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@tgrist I've lost long well thought out comments, because of stupid, random errors, so I sometimes paste it into a Wordpad sheet. 

It is indeed good that a company like Ubisoft is scrutinized and questioned like this, showing that they can't say anything and get away with it. That, in itself, is more important than their "offence", of which I generally don't put much thought into. Male protagonist, female protagonist - whatever. As long as the protagonist isn't annoying or that other parts of the game compensates for that, I don't care about gender.

bridget210210
bridget210210

@Raphy_Turtle I don't understand why you think that a female character has to be a frail, young, vulnerable women to be believable. Is that what you think a realistic woman is like? If your so concerned with the characters being realistic, well a 6' 7" body builder male lead character is barely even human! And it is an extremely sexist idea that it isn't believable for a woman to have the emotional strength to kill people! I'm a 5' 6" 135lb girl who benches 100lbs and squats 200lbs. I also do competitive knife throwing and martial arts. Am I not a realistic woman?? Because I exist! Why can't a character like me be in a video game?

Gambi84
Gambi84

@Raphy_Turtle wow ....just wow...how old are you?....did women beat you up when you were small?

pip3dream
pip3dream

@Raphy_Turtle Not to be overly rude, but this is pretty sexist and biased thinking.  Thinking like this is why gaming is in such hot water with female and more open minded groups.

tgrist
tgrist

@jewell21 Nice rhetoric. Doesn't help though, developers and execs routinely block alternate protagonists because they are 'risky' and 'too much hassle' or my personal favorite 'theirs no audience interest'. It's all well and good saying vote with your wallet when they aren't even on the menu. Making reasonable well thought complaints WORKS (at least if you complain en masse) look at Disney and their toy debacle; they went from 'we have no girl toys planned' to 'they'll be forthcoming' practically overnight because people kicked up a stink about it. Passive 'I'll think about it; maybe tomorrow' never helps

Billieguy
Billieguy

@fede018 As a male gamer the problem I have is that it was not a big deal until now. All of a sudden everyone has an inner need to be a woman in video games. It's not like we haven't seen some really strong female characters recently! (e.g. Clementine from TWD, the new Lara from Tomb Raider etc.) Criticizing Ubisoft (or any company for that matter) is absurd. They have are not forced to have female leads in their games. It is a pure development choice. If people have that much of a problem about it they might as well not play said games. I think it's plain stupid having articles discriminating developers for something they are not obliged to do.

Demanding something is fine by itself. Acting as if Ubisoft has done something illegal is not.

tgrist
tgrist

@rolla020980 Nice to see you missed the entire point of ACIII. Your right history has been mostly male dominated, the assassins however are not. They prize freedom above all else; petty bigotry is for others. Plus Female assassins have been present since day one from a story perspective. Plus as purists love to point out; this is fiction why do we have to stick to history on this single matter?

discordiankitty
discordiankitty


@rolla020980 *sighs* *says it again*

Literally the most famous assassin from the French Revolution period was a woman.

rolla020980
rolla020980

@baszzer 

Yeah, because Women could do so much in historic times with all the freedoms they had. I think AC writers do a better job of thinking of history than trying to make an excuse to have a female protagonist. A modern setting would make sense, but not a historical one.

kate_jones
kate_jones

@baszzer wasn't the uncharted series written by a woman, not to mention the millions of authors that do it.

Foppe
Foppe

@baszzer >implies they don't already have female writers

discordiankitty
discordiankitty

@kgallis21 Literally the most famous assassin from the French Revolution period was female. So, erm, no.

ZOMGMiki
ZOMGMiki

@kgallis21  I'd sort of understand more if they'd said that as a defence, but they haven't mentioned anything about the lack of women's rights at the time having anything to do with the lack of a female character. Also, I'm not sure that women having no rights at the time would really have anything to do with it, since I doubt even men would have had the 'right' to be an assassin. I don't think this is an issue with accuracy.

rolla020980
rolla020980

@toddx77 

If it made sense to the story, then OK, but if they add a female character just to say they did, I would be upset. It wouldn't be about them being sensitive to feminists, it would be Ubisoft saying "FINE! We will add a women into the story. WILL THAT SHUT YOU UP?!?!?!?"

rolla020980
rolla020980

@shawn_schwartz 

Your example of Tomb Raider is not a very good one. She was designed with ample qualities to be interesting to men, not to give women a voice in gaming.

The fact is that there are female protagonists who are not designed to be sex symbols. Look at Claire Redfield and Jill valentine from RE, or Samus from Metroid.Some games even give you the option of Male or Female (like Mass Effect), which I feel is the best solution, but adds another level of difficulty and cost in development.

I believe that developers have the right to tell their story in the manner they design. Should Ubisoft or any other dev be required to have a certain number of female characters? Hell no. It is no different with movies. How many female action hero's are there? Should we have cast a female lead for Rambo or Terminator? 

I have nothing against women's rights and I feel they can and should be permitted to do anything a man can do, but having a female character in an AC game (they have several female NPC's, BTW) does not add to equality. It is just another thing to complain about. 


discordiankitty
discordiankitty

@anann I'm sorry, how is this comment relevant and who cares? Dude, don't you have better things to worry about than women who want a female lead in a video game? I mean seriously, people are dying in wars, starving to death and being forced into slavery throughout the world, and you are worried about the fact that there are female gamers who want Ubisoft to put a female lead in a video game? Good god, this is exactly why society doesn't take the comment section seriously.

fede018
fede018

@black_nirvana_ yeah because having the option to choose between a male and a female ruined Mass Effect... d_mb_ss

lunevoyage
lunevoyage

@ashtonrenae The discussion is over, one girl speaks on behalf of the entire female gaming community to claim that potential female characters she hasn't actually seen are inferior in coolness and attractiveness to the dozens of playable white men by default.

shwingh
shwingh

@ashtonrenae Fortunately, you don't speak for all women. I've played all the games in the AC series, my boyfriend has played none. I have met more girls that play the series than guys, and most of them are huge fans (they cosplay as the male characters for god sakes). A little representation is always great, considering we do make up a large percent of the fan base.

immortaltech6
immortaltech6

@Gambi84 @Raphy_Turtle @pip3dream 


Because he actually said something with insight and critical thinking involved? Yes folks, now anything that speaks some truth is sexist and biased. Males aren't biologically stronger than women, he is full of it! What a closed mind you must have if you can't even see that. 


If anything, its your reply that has nothing to do with his points or argument that comes off as childish. 

rolla020980
rolla020980

@discordiankitty @kgallis21 

True, but assassin in the historical sense is not the same as assassins, the group in AC. An organization in historical times would have been unlikely to admit a female, so they would have been solo in their acts. A disassociated assassin would not make for good coop play in an AC game.

toddx77
toddx77

@rolla020980 But the feminists would love it either way because their their eyes it is a victory and Ubisoft will also win in their eyes because they will get good press from it.  Sad.

ashtonrenae
ashtonrenae

Was just stating my opinion. I didn't say I was speaking on the behalf of every female alive.

toddx77
toddx77

@rolla020980 @discordiankitty @kgallis21 What about all the other Assassin's Creed games?  Claudia, Rosa, Paola, Caterina (strong ally), Aveline, Captain Kid, the female assassin's you see in Black Flag, and all of those female assassins you can recruit in Brotherhood.

lovestoned
lovestoned

@rolla020980 @discordiankitty @kgallis21 ay yo the rapid inflation of the middle class and access to the ideological literature that drove the revolution meant women (esp. young women) - who were previously deemed second-class citizens, as they were for most of early modernity - were rapidly becoming one of the most politically literate and politically ACTIVE groups in paris during that time period.  because the philosophy of the enlightenment took female agency as a given, women found they could force their way into the social and political spheres that were previously dominated by men, and during the height of revolution they were active in literally every group, forming women's only clubs as well as joining up with larger political factions.  one such activist was charlotte corday, whose infamous political assassination of the jacobin zealot jean-paul marat galvanized the jacobins to put down their rivals the girondists, and kickstarted the reign of terror.  it's considered a watershed moment of the revolution.


it's not even that they were THERE or PRESENT, this is literally the point where women were making the most significant gains in intellectual and political society, it is a PRIME environment for a female assassin.  hell even from a straight storytelling perspective, that narrative has vastly more potential than the usual 'white boy's whole family is killed by [enemy group] and he sets out on a journey of revenge' formula that dominates AAA games.  but no, a game can have ancient mind-control orbs and cognitive memories that replicate with your dna, but "women weren't citizens and had no power and can't be protagonists".  SMH look at all you useless brodudes coming up in here, thinking you're bringing your a-game with your half-formed uninspired views on "history" when you're really sitting on the bench.  don't even try with me.