During E3 last month, Ubisoft found themselves in a tub of hot water when answering questions about not having any female playable characters in their newest version of Assassin’s Creed. When pressed on the matter, Ubisoft essentially offered a “soft punt” by explaining there wasn’t enough time to add a female version, as it’d increase the workload on the developers. That answer, of course, drew even more ire and has led to numerous clarifications, explanations, and Ubisoft essentially being crushed by media outlets and internet comments alike. Ubisoft has been getting slammed by cosplayers, commenters and most recently, a very popular female sidekick. I get it. Outrage is sexy, but this is overkill.
I, unlike most of the comments I saw, found myself tickled by the spectacle. A series that has already featured a playable black character (Adewale from AC:4, pictured above) and created a game with a black woman as the central character (Aveline from AC: Liberation) was answering questions about diversity. There’s something to be said about gamer outrage, but this isn’t the place to say it. Suffice it to say, I found most of the rage misplaced and directed toward the wrong people. As a black man and lifelong gamer, I appreciate ANYBODY who’s willing to argue against the constant “white guy saves everybody and everything from the evil villains of wherever the fuck” trope, but I’d appreciate if those on the crusade targeted those who are running afoul. Attacking Ubisoft, even though I understand why, is a sucker move. While Ubisoft made themselves easy targets with their statements, attacking them is ignoring the bigger issue at hand.
Diversity has always been a prevalent issue in gaming, though lately, it has taken the form of people in the games, and not the games themselves. Gamers from all walks of life, backgrounds, sexual preferences, and races want to see and control people they can relate to. And that’s fine. What’s NOT fine is, expecting developers to fit EVERY single person of various backgrounds, sexual preferences, etc., into the game. It’s been said on numerous occasions that shoehorning in a diverse character to check off the “diversity” box is insulting. And it’s true. Don’t include a black character just to say “hey, we have a black guy in our video game!” It’s an insult to my (and other black people’s) intelligence. Ubisoft was wrong for saying they didn’t want to do the extra work of bringing in any female characters. What they should’ve said was “we didn’t put a female playable protagonist in our game because it didn’t fit what we wanted. And in reality, we just didn’t feel like it.” I understand they can’t keep it THAT real, but I think they’d have been better off than what they said before.
In conclusion, I found the “rage” against Ubisoft misplaced. For one, they’ve shown a willingness to be diverse with their series in the past. I believe gamers attacked Ubisoft because they made themselves an easy target and lastly, I don’t want to see “diverse” characters shoehorned into games just to check off a box. Yes, I want more diverse characters in gaming but only if it fits the narrative. Attacking a company who has already shown their willingness to make games that don’t have strictly white protagonists (AC series and most recently, Child of Light) is ridiculous.