We Spleen: Excluding Women Characters from Popular Video Game

assassins_creed_unity_wallpaper_by_bucksfan5-d7eh4dvJames Therien, video game developer Ubisoft’s technical director, said their upcoming game Assassin’s Creed Unity will not feature any women characters. The Assassin’s Creed series focuses on historical moments, and the upcoming edition—which is set to be released on Oct. 28—will be modeled after revolutionary France—just without all those pesky women, Therien told VideoGamer.com,

[Including women characters] was on our feature list until not too long ago, but it’s a question of focus and production … 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.

Of course, as Ubisoft’s website brags, the company includes 29 studios and 9,200 team members, 7,800 of who focus mainly on production. Although those 7,800 team members had time to construct the series’s largest city to date—a 1:1 model of revolutionary France—it appears they ran out of time to build a single woman character.

As one angry Tweeter mocks,

Moreover, Ubisoft, the third largest independent video game publisher in the world, has found the resources to design female players before. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, an offshoot of the game, featured their first playable woman assassin named Aveline. They have also frequently included women on-call assassins in their games. Given their available resources and previous designs, it doesn’t seem like a significant stretch for Ubisoft to add a woman character to the upcoming game.

Therien insists this is just “a reality of game development,” a point Ubisoft has emphasized many times over the past years. Edward Smith noted in the International Business Times that Ubisoft’s game Rainbow Six: Siege is a perpetrator of the “sexist/fridging/women as prizes” logic typical to the video game world. According to Smith, Rainbow Six: Siege features two teams that battle for control of a woman hostage. The game perfectly objectifies this woman by simply stating “HOSTAGE DROPPED,” each time her captor is killed, suggesting she is nothing more than an object to be picked up and later disposed of.

Similarly, the creative director of Assassin Creed’s III, Alex Hutchinson, said that it would be “a bit of a pain” to include women characters in the game which was modeled after the American Revolution. According to Hutchinson, “the history of the American Revolution is the history of men.” While this statement utterly ignores the women who participated in founding and liberating the United States, Hutchinson does do a lovely job of capturing this country’s early leaders’ significant efforts to exclude women from the freedoms won in the war.

If you find Ubisoft’s treatment of women utterly disgusting, join the mass of gamers on social media telling Ubisoft that sexism will neither be tolerated nor purchased. You could also help some of their game designers learn how to sketch a woman’s body, because it seems like they’re having an awful hard time with it.

Photo of Assassin’s Creed Unity courtesy of Reddit.



Margaret Nickens is a senior at Brown University and an intern with Ms. magazine. Check out her blog or follow her on twitter



Margaret Nickens is a senior at Brown University and an intern with Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.