Comments from The Last of Us’ Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker on no female assassins in Ubisoft’s forthcoming Assassin’s Creed: Unity have stoked the fires in the ongoing discussions on the female gamer and video game characters. The game, set in during the French Reign of Terror, is producing anything but unity across the game industry with the revelation that no female assassin’s would be available in the four player co-op game.
Gamers who played Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us will recognize the name Ashley Johnson as the actress who voiced the leading young woman Ellie. In an interview with VideoGamer, the actress is quoted while discussing the lack of playable female characters in the current video game market, “‘Assassin’s Creed: Unity’ is a great example of when I saw the game play and saw that [in] their multiplayer you do not have the option to play as a female. I was like, ‘Give me a f**ing break! It’s 2014! How many video games do you have to make to realize maybe have an option to have a female be in there?’
Ms. Johnson’s comments were born from a growing frustration for the representation of both female and male characters in the video game industry. She went onto say, “But it did make me upset. There are so many female gamers,” she continued.
“I don’t know what the percentage is at this point but there are a lot of females that play video games and it would be nice to see stronger females in a game that are not just the damsel in distress, the love interest or she’s oversexualised. She doesn’t even necessarily have to be a badass. Just like a normal female character. And not just females. On a broader spectrum, also male characters. Have a good story, have real characters and… I think the audience is changing so hopefully that’ll change a little bit more.”
Developer Naughty Dog has a strong history with creating female characters that showcase a wide variety of personalities such as Elana Fisher, Chloe Frazer, Ellie, and others that have helped flesh out the worlds the developer has created. Troy Baker, who is well known to gamers from recent games such as BioShock: Infinite, Batman: Arkham Origins and as Joel in The Last of Us, also had a comment that simply adding a female to the game for the sake of having a female is as much a disservice if not more.
Speaking to VideoGamer, Baker stated, “What I don’t want to see happen is have the obligatory female character in there because that’s what marketing says we need to have. I think that’s almost even more disrespectful than not having women in the game.”
The controversy flowing out of E3 2014 and the reveal by Ubisoft that there would be no playable female characters in the four player co-op Assassins’ Creed: Unity has only served to throw fuel on the fire for the equal representation of women in video games. It has also become a central talking point in the mainstream games media as well as developers and publishers.
Polygon weighed in earlier this month with their own thoughts, as well as how indie studios are handling the problem which grows in complexity the bigger a production becomes and few projects are as big as an Assassin’s Creed title.
While it does seem to be too late for Ubisoft to change AC: Unity, attention to the issue from the likes of actors and gamers such as Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker on no female assassins have helped Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemont reiterate the commitment of Ubisoft to “diversifying its characters for future games.”
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