Gender equality controversy has once again struck the video game industry. This time Ubisoft has come under fire for what many believe are flimsy excuses regarding the absence of female character models in Ubisoft’s new Assassin’s Creed game, AC: Unity. The controversy began when Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio intimated that female assassins were left out of the game due to “the reality of production.” “It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” Amancio said, implying that there just wasn’t enough time and resources to include female character models in the game.
The excuse is a wobbly one with weak justifications. Perhaps the strongest argument for the exclusion is actually within the context of the game’s narrative. For although up to four players can play cooperatively during the story, each player sees themselves as Arno, the game’s main character. So regardless of how you’d like your assassin to look to others you’d never ever see it because you will always be the main character.
The problem that Assassin’s Creed runs into is that every story is actually based in history with real people making up the main cast. The writers at Ubisoft obviously take some liberties with the lives and personalities of some of these people but a lot of Assassin’s Creed is steeped in actual history. The stories they tell then must adhere to certain guidelines and when telling a story from one historical figures perspective, to arbitrarily make that person female wouldn’t exactly jive with what the team has set out to do. With that in mind I offer Ubisoft a solution.
The online cooperative model that was shown off at E3 for Unity looks very cool. The option to play with a small team of assassins to take out Templar targets offers a variety of possibilities in how problems are approached. It allows for teamwork in taking out multiple guards at a time while maintaining the element of surprise. While the challenge of infiltrating a large fortified keep alone presents a slew of logistic challenges for the player to remain undetected, there is something to be said about coordinating with the actions of three other assassins to achieve difficult goals.
Ubisoft has the unique advantage of having created a universe that has untapped potential in the form of online multiplayer. Unity scratches the surface of what I think could be a standalone multiplayer Assassin’s Creed. Beginning with the core idea that the player is a recruit in the Assassin’s guild, it allows the use of the Animus to train said assassin, granting access to every single time period that the team has created so far. Assassin outfits, weapons and other tools and items could be unlocked as the player’s skill and rank grows. Missions could potentially be created using a procedural method, creating unique experiences and targets each time the game is played. Considering the formula and resources the teams at Ubisoft already have for mission layouts and design in Assassin’s Creed it’s an idea that gets me excited to think about.
Each player would then have the option of creating their own unique assassin avatar that would represent them in the game. Ubisoft could then release additional items, resources, and gear in the form of DLC add-ons to further monetize and extend the life of this pipe-dream multiplayer game. I sympathize with all the gamers out there that are disappointed and upset by the statements from Ubisoft. And when considering the historical boundaries created by the stories Assassin’s Creed tries to tell, this was one way I thought Ubisoft could take advantage of the universe they have created that would allow for unique player expression, and dynamic cooperative multiplayer experiences.