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Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation writer says no “magic touch” required for diversity

Thursday, 28th February 2013 00:30 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation writer Jill Murray has downplayed Ubisoft’s decision to feature a black, female protagonist, instead calling on the rest of the industry to catch up.

Speaking to Kotaku in an interesting feature on Aveline’s creation, Murray said some of those arguing in defence of all-white, all-male casts are being creatively lazy.

“[There's a] fear that ‘diverse’ characters are risky and might offend or alienate players by their simple inclusion — that including them requires a magic touch, special bravery, a trembling sensitivity, or a mandate to ignore sales,” she said.

“Creating “diverse” characters is no different than creating any character, and I believe that those who struggle with it need to address deeper issues within their own creative process.”

Murray said writers and designers need to be able to make any kind of character relatable; that’s their job.

“I strongly believe that if an audience can’t connect to such a character, it’s not because women, brown people, old people, queer people, or any type of character at all doesn’t belong at the helm of a game; it’s because the creator didn’t dig deep enough to find a way to connect with that character,” she said.

“A good writer should be able to make you weep for, laugh with, even aspire to be an amoeba if necessary. Blaming a character for failure is like blaming a hockey stick for losing the game — a hockey stick you made with your own hands, to use in a game of your own invention. I call shenanigans.”

Murray also expressed frustration with the idea that creators don’t need to push to create diverse characters because it will “just happen” if the story calls for it.

“Of course it’s not going to just happen. If it did, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” she said.

“It’s necessary to fight these assumptions, and stand up for our characters. If we believe in them, we have to rise to the occasion and show ourselves and the people we work with how to bring them to life successfully. But this does not require magic, scary effort — it’s effort anyone can put in. It’s fun, it adds variety, and it makes a lot of players feel good. It’s more than worthwhile and we should definitely try to do more of it.”

Murray and her co-writer at Ubisoft Montreal picked up a Writers Guild of America award for the Vita-exclusive Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, which the writer noted is selling pretty well.

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15 Comments

  1. DSB

    It’s funny how this game just sounded so much better than all the other Assassins Creeds.

    Why don’t they have any imaginative people working on the main series?

    #1 2 years ago
  2. FeaturePreacher

    Still wish the character in liberation was a guy so there wouldn’t be any need to do the charming lady bs. Give me a guy like Connor any day so I can just make with the stabby, stabby whenever I want.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. YoungZer0

    “Aveline rocks
    The lead character in Liberation is Aveline, and she’s the best protagonist the series has ever had. It’s not just that Aveline is a woman. It’s not just that she’s black. It’s not just the accent. It’s not just that she’s an orphan with a Mysterious Past. It’s not just that she’s a capable businesswoman shipping cotton to Havana. It’s all five of those things.”

    Wow, such a convincing argument. To be honest that is a pretty terrible list.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. DSB

    @3 How do you figure? You see a lot of black female protagonists with business skills in games these days?

    I mean I suppose we could trade her for a white male bartender from New York with absolutely no personality. I mean, we actually can.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. YoungZer0

    @4: Just because it has never been done before, doesn’t make it automatically good. I certainly don’t care about her businesswoman capabilities.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. DSB

    @5 I’m just judging it as a concept, I’ve never played it.

    I think there’s something to be said for novel characters. We’re all different from eachother, I think it gives entertainment a little spice when it reflects that instead of just succumbing to the easiest tropes.

    I think she sounds like a character that has an actual foundation, unlike a lot of the other characters in Assassins Creed. It tends to be full of a lot of blank canvases that stay blank, most likely so bad writers could do whatever they wanted without ever worrying about credibility.

    This girl doesn’t seem nearly as easy, at least on paper.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. OrbitMonkey

    A game needs to be made about Harriet Tubman!!

    (That name deserves a google, you lazy swine).

    History will always trump corporate approved fantasy.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. YoungZer0

    @6: Well, if you put it that way, then yeah, I think I can definitely agree with that. But that list is still terrible. “It’s on Vita!” Who gives a shit?

    #8 2 years ago
  9. MadFingerz

    Yeah, the list is stupid, I actually liked the Desmond bits on Brotherhood (haven’t played Revelations nor AC3 yet).

    Anyway, this lady speaks sense and it would be nice if most games had well thought characters that you can actually relate to and give a damn about.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. DSB

    @8 The last two are a little silly, but at least you’re imparted that it’s decent on the Vita and it has terrible multiplayer.

    The rest sounds pretty good to me, and it’s a pretty fast read.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. salarta

    This… doesn’t feel like a question that needed to be answered. The issue of diversity in race, gender, sexuality, etc in games. I might be completely out of the loop on this matter, but I don’t recall seeing anyone say that games can’t star diverse characters.

    Everything she said is good and I agree with it after having read it, but I don’t see why it needed to be said. The whole idea that you need an all-male all-white cast has always been a stupid one to me.

    The thing she said that I do think needed to be said is that a “failure” in story or characterization is not the character’s fault. I’ve seen so many people act like the story of a game was set in stone, as if the writer is just a vessel of transmission and these stories were created in the same manner as the Bible supposedly was. Completely and utterly ignorant to how a game’s story and characterization could have been handled differently, hating the character and not how the character was written.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. salarta

    @6: The complaint you make there runs up against a question of what would be best for story-telling in an interactive medium. Everything you stated is definitely true for most mediums, but since video games involve the player participating in events, a blank canvas could help the player’s immersion. Easier to relate to a character when they’re more ambiguous, harder when they have every facet of their lives fully fleshed out.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Agt_Pendergast

    @12: It kinda depends on the type of game, but I think a more story driven game should have a character that’s a little bit fleshed out. I could immerse myself as a blank slate, but I don’t necessarily relate to one.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. theevilaires

    I think StarHawk did a great good and that had a black male lead. It was different and the industry does need to have a more diverse character role. It was rumored that Master Chief was a black dude but after the rumor got out Bungie got tons of hate mail from ignorant racist bastards saying that they would never buy another Halo game if that was true.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. DSB

    @12 I think the opposite is every bit as likely.

    To me, asking the player to project everything into a character so you don’t have to make an effort is just lazy.

    I don’t think there’s a huge difference between books and videogames when it comes to that.

    Both bring you very close to the characters they portray (unlike movies that often have to sketch everything) but if you brought a blank slate into a book, people would see it for what it was, because it can’t hide behind gameplay mechanics and “kewl” particle effects.

    #15 2 years ago

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