This week we learned that the newest “Assassin’s Creed” game, “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate” will have a playable female character. Fans of the franchise will likely recall that when the last version of the game, “Assassin’s Creed: Unity,” came out, it had none. None that were playable, that is. They’ll also remember exactly what angered many fans: Ubisoft’s creative director Alex Amancio said that it was too hard to put in a playable female character: “It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.” Yeah, ladies are so hard to draw. So much extra work!
Female fans of the franchise, and no small number of men, were outraged. Difficult or not, it showed a complete tone-deafness to the number of female gamers out there, and male gamers who just wanted another option. Kind of like the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” toy set which replaces Black Widow in her own motorcycle scene with Captain America. Seriously, Marvel?
According to a recent study by the Entertainment Software Association, women make up 48 percent of gamers. That’s almost half the market! People in the gaming community spoke out about their disappointment. We wrote articles. We tweeted. We wrote the company. And you know what? Something changed.
This time around we get to go back and forth between playing as twins Jacob and Evie, with each getting equal time. (Click here to check out a nine-minute preview.) We’re also going to see quite a number of female villains. And you know what? The world isn’t going to end. Despite the venom about the insistence on playable female characters on social media, games haven’t gone all pink and sparkly. Adding playable female characters to “Call of Duty: Black Ops III” didn’t also add fatigues with the option for bedazzling. “World of Warcraft” has managed it for years. “Dragon Age,” “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic,” “Destiny”…they all did it and no one perished in a glitter bomb apocalypse. We all just had more options.
I write this because speaking out matters, no matter how much flack you get for it at the time. Eventually, if we’re loud enough, people will listen. A very loud 48 percent of the market is going to make you stand up and take notice. Hear that, Marvel?