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Even Ellie from The Last of Us thinks the lack of women in Assassin’s Creed is bullshit

Thursday, 24th July 2014 00:03 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The Last of Us star Ashley Johnson has strong words for Ubisoft on its failure to provide a playable female character in the core Assassin’s Creed series.

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Johnson, whose The Last of Us performance netted her a Bafta, is an experienced voice actor and well aware of what roles are available to women in video games.

Speaking to VideoGamer, Johnson said there isn’t enough diversity in women’s roles.

“I’m sort of coming at this as an actress but also as a female gamer,” she said.

“Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a great example of when I saw the gameplay and saw that [in] their multiplayer you do not have the option to play as a female.

“I was like, ‘Give me a fucking break! It’s 2014! How many video games do you have to make to realise maybe have an option to have a female be in there?’ And maybe not just on PS Vita.

“But it did make me upset. There are so many female gamers. 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.”

Johnson also said video games in general need to step up and provide better characterisation and narrative, so that male roles are more fulfilling, too.

Thanks, Polygon.

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25 Comments

  1. Jonabob87

    It doesn’t have multiplayer. The closest it comes is co-op that is seamlessly integrated into the singleplayer. That is to say that everyone plays as Arno, and simply looks like a stock assassin co-op model on the screens of others.

    There’s no customisable co-op assassins, no selecting which model you are (probably). Just a randomly assigned model that you don’t see yourself as. Some of them are probably female, too.

    This is all just shit kicked up by Ubisoft come up with shit excuses when they have valid reasoning to lean on. Complete madness.

    #1 5 months ago
  2. eTitan

    Just because people who play Angry Birds and Cut the Rope on their iPhone counts as gamers doesn’t mean a majority of people who play Assassins Creed etc are also female gamers.

    Yes, there I said it. Hate me.

    #2 5 months ago
  3. salarta

    @Jonabob87 Ubisoft has a whole website dedicated to showing off and sharing customizable Arnos, and even the promotional material itself is based around presenting the idea of differently attired Arnos working in connection. They can put in that kind of work, but consider being a woman to be far less important than tweaking clothing styles. And that’s just one element of the issue. There’s more yet that builds a strong case of showing Ubisoft is clearly in the wrong and screwed up hard.

    @eTitan 1) That’s not the point, 2) Give proof or you’re just parroting crap people say as justification without any real evidence to back it up.

    #3 5 months ago
  4. salarta

    I’d just like to mention really quickly that the Hyrule Warriors team had absolutely no trouble at all providing female playables, considering out of 9 playables announced so far 7 (6?) of them are women and 2 (3?) are men (or one is transgender). Maybe it’s because they realized polishing up those windows and super realistic cloud fluff and the like aren’t more important than women.

    https://twitter.com/ABCBTom/status/492080141095284737

    #4 5 months ago
  5. eTitan

    @salarta I would like to provide you with statistical facts to back my previous statement up. But I can’t because there’s no research whatsoever done when it comes to that field. The only statistics that exists just take all type of games in mind.

    When you base your “catering” on such research it would be like adjusting the Star Trek TV show to cater to the people who sit down to watch Jersey Shore. It’s fucking bullshit is what it is.

    I’d like for retailers and devs to actually go out with some proper statistics how many games people buy and how much they play. Then split it up by gender. My network of gamers is huge. But few of the girl “gamers” (I use the term gamer loosely because the sims and angry birds) actually enjoy triple A titles such as Gears of War, Assassins Creed, The Witcher, Dark Souls, DOTA 2, The Last of Us, Dragon’s Dogma, Metal Gear, GTA and Saints Row.

    Also, amongst the few that actually enjoy these type of games. There’s an odd thing where they’d rather watch someone play it than actually playing it themselves.

    I’m not saying there aren’t alot of female gamers. I’m just saying that you can’t use the statistics of over all players to decide who your game is made for.
    Since we all know the big corporations like EA, Ubisoft and whatnot are all after money in the end (we hear you all complain about it every fucking day, even though that’s what corporations do).
    It would be more than fucking retarded of them if they actually missed out on a huge group of potential customers only because they had some made up misogynistic thoughts. Do you not think that if there actually was a large crowd of people who would buy the game only if there was a female character, that they would implement it if it was worth the money?

    The idea that companies do this because they’re sexist is all out fucking retarded.

    It is as they say, it costs too much. However they forget too mention their statistic on how many of their potential buyers are actually female compared to male. Every petition ever that has been made when it comes to “add female character” have only had a few hundred signs. There’s a reason for this, the majority of people buying these games don’t give a shit.

    Actors like Ashley only comes out and complains about it because it’s good PR. She doesn’t give a shit in the end either.

    Also, since the first “statement” about this is “There are just as many female gamers as male gamers, so you should cater to them.”. The burden of proof lie with the people who argue this is the truth, and just an overall statistic of ALL that are considered gamers is not enough in that regard.

    #5 5 months ago
  6. Not The Eyes

    How many times does this have to be explained?

    - They’re all male in coop because the player sees themselves as the main character

    - The AC series has featured not only a female protagonist already, but also other protagonists of various races.

    - Females likely make up about only 20-30% of the core/hardcore games audience (this is best evidenced by the fact that ME3 [a game praised for its female protagonist, which many males chose over the male protagonist] still only saw 17% of players play as female.

    - By last count of proper research, the EEDAR found that 51% of games with a discernible gender of the main character, allowed the player to play as a female.

    Thus, this sort of thing does not evidence sexism in games, by any stretch of the imagination.

    #6 5 months ago
  7. ddtd

    I get her sentiment, and I agree that there’s a lack of strong female leads in games (along with characters other than white makes), but in response directly to this:

    “Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a great example of when I saw the gameplay and saw that [in] their multiplayer you do not have the option to play as a female.”

    You don’t have the option to play ANYONE BUT the main character. Why don’t people understand this?

    I mean, yeah, they could add female avatars to the co-op, and that would be great, but even if they did you’ll never play as one because you’re ALWAYS Arno, just like you’re always Aiden in Watchdogs.

    #7 5 months ago
  8. ddtd

    @salarta (#3) I get what you’re saying, but with that logic should Naughty Dog make Narhan Drake a male or female character, or Crystal Dynamic give you the option to play a male Laura Croft?

    AC games are narratively driven linear stories that focus on a single character. If your argument is that they could have made the main character a woman instead of a man, then that’s a totally different thing. Not every developer is a Bethesda or Bioware, thst makes games built on tons of choices. Some just want to write stories around specific characters they find interesting.

    #8 5 months ago
  9. The_Red

    @eTitan
    Congratulations! You just sent gaming back a 100 years. Come on. Don’t skimp on your “brilliant” thoughts. Enlighten us! (Though I understand this is a pure troll comment / account so have fun).

    Back on topic. I used to be torn on this issue but after reading about how co-op in AC Unity works, I HAVE to agree with protesters. Sure, making a new, detailed female body with exquisite new animations and features is expensive but guess what?
    The co-op partners are just RANDOM STOCK male characters so in other words, Ubi couldn’t even be bothered to use a single stock model.

    Now there is the Aiden Pierce issue of players always being the main guy / Arnos even when joining others and while I understand that, it just shows that MAYBE this model of co-op where every player is the hero may be a bit broken. Imagine if Tomb Raider had 8 player co-op using this model. There would be 8 female players because they all had be Lara in their main / own games. Diversity? WHAT’S THAT?

    #9 5 months ago
  10. polygem

    This woman speaks truth!

    #10 5 months ago
  11. TheWulf

    This is going to be depressing, isn’t it? So I think I’m going to leave most of this to salarta, who handles this issue better than I do. Still, may have to comment on one or two, for sanity and humour’s sake.

    @5

    So, you initially made a claim that you had absolutely no evidence to back up. Obviously, an intelligent person is going to ask you for some citation based in reality to substantiate your wild fantasies.

    You don’t have any proof, so you snap back with specious arguments which aren’t even relevant? A person’s preference for sitcoms is the same as the equal representation of gender, is it? Is it? Goodness, you must have a very negative opinion of women, then.

    Right. Okay. So we shouldn’t consider statistics, and we shouldn’t consider equal rights; what should we consider, bucko? You can just come straight out and say it. Here, I’ll do it for you.

    The only people they should consider are people who have privilege and entitlement, like me. Basically? Extroverted, healthy, straight, white, cis-gendered men and fuck everyone else to hell and back! I don’t want women, disabled people, gay people, black people, nerdy people, or anyone else I wouldn’t understand in my games. I want my games to be as thick as I am. Service the herd and no one else!

    That’s what you’re actually saying, now. It’s very transparent.

    No amount of back-pedalling or changing your argument is going to make it any less clear how you really feel. You’re that kind of person I dislike, the kind I’ve drawn a line in the sand against. You’re unintelligent, regressive, generally lowbrow, hateful of anyone who isn’t a part of your herd (and oh how you wish you could assimilate everyone to be like you), and incapable of hiding your vileness to any degree.

    And for the record, snacky, the person who scores highest in ME3 MP in my group is a woman; you sanctimonious, insufferable little prat.

    I wish your post was satire, but I can always smell satire a mile away, as I did with Pat’s post, and Xbone, and so many others. The sad part is is that you actually believe all of this bullshit you’re biliously spewing, like so much verbal diarrhoea!

    When I talk about disliking extroverted sensors, you’re the sort of deeply unpleasant person I’m always talking about.

    You’re not very bright, but you are so very angry.

    Frankly, our world would do better without your sort.

    @6

    And how many times do mendicants like you need to be told that these co-op drones are heavily customisable? Why, then, can’t that customisation go as far as having a woman as an option? Torchlight II, Fable III, and many other games have incidental co-op, yet they include women as options.

    Furthermore, the game you list as an Assassin’s Creed game featuring a woman? It was a budget title for a handheld, which basically resigns women to an inferior position. They’re not allowed to be in a full priced game, are they? Gotta hide them in budget games, on handhelds. You and yours absolutely love to ignore the facts.

    But you’re not interested in facts, you’re just interested in your own privilege, and you’re afraid that those big, mean, nasty women are going to take your games away from you.

    You and those like you? You make me sick. What I said to #5 applies just as much to you, too.

    @7

    You’re always a heavily customisable version of Arno, whose customisation could have been extended to an option to switch genders.

    Why does nobody understand this? That’s what I believe you said? Yes?

    @8

    [...] but with that logic should Naughty Dog make Narhan Drake a male or female character, or Crystal Dynamic give you the option to play a male Laura Croft?

    Wat. What?????? Fuck me, people are stupid.

    First of all? Lara. LARA. It’s LARA Croft. I don’t like the character, but the amount of times I’ve seen people get that name wrong grates on my nerves immensely. Holy shit.

    Secondly? I’m sure women would love for you to have more options, marginalised concerns are more supportive of that than people like you. By which I mean stupid, angry, privileged people.

    Thirdly? You’re comparing single player games with no customisation with a co-operatively played game that has extensive customisation which is as illogical an argument as you could make!

    Finally? Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please don’t use the word logic in arguments when you clearly have no idea what it actually means to use logic. Okay? Okay?? That gives me a headache and makes me feel a bit ill.

    I’m sorry. But god damn, you’re just not very bright. None of your ilk are.

    And the rest of your post is just white noise related to nothing, so I’m ignoring it. Okay? Good.

    @9

    Eh. It’s fun counter-trolling them. I know how to get under their skin, because they’re very simplistically minded people, lacking articulation, who’ll only get angrier the more you prod them. It may be a troll account, but it’s not a satire or parody, sadly. They actually mean what they say.

    So… there’s going to be fireworks!!!

    And the privileged, angry, dumb white man does not like diversity. Their thought patterns are more akin to…

    UNGA BUNGA! ME AM NO LIKE UM WOMINZ IN GAME. WOMINZ NOT LIKE MENZ. MENZ SMURT. MENZ ARE… UH… STRONG!! LOOK DIS, ME LIFT THING! NO, DIS NOT ABOUT WOMINZ ARE BETTER BEING AT GAMES! NUH-UH! ME AM NO FEEL THREATENED BY WOMINZ! YOU AM FEEL THREATENED BY WOMINZ! YOU AM WANT TO BE WOMINZ!

    Man, I could have written dialogue for Fallout.

    #11 5 months ago
  12. ddtd

    @The_Red “Now there is the Aiden Pierce issue of players always being the main guy / Arnos even when joining others and while I understand that, it just shows that MAYBE this model of co-op where every player is the hero may be a bit broken. Imagine if Tomb Raider had 8 player co-op using this model. There would be 8 female players because they all had be Lara in their main / own games. Diversity? WHAT’S THAT?”

    I disagree that this system of coop is broken. Maybe it’s a matter of preference, but I love this idea of merging single player and coop, and not breaking or halting the narrative by keeping the player as the main character through out the game regardless of the activity. Nothing is outside if the main experience this way.

    However, you bring up a good point with your Tomb Raider example. The question if why would all the characters have to be female in that example applies to AC Unity as well; why do all the assassins you’re running around with in coop have to appear as men?

    Just because you won’t personally play as a female character in the game, doesn’t mean they couldn’t have represented women as assassins by having the random coop assassin models that the other players would appear to be controlling be a mix of men and women.

    And that whole animation excuse they gave is a load if bs. In ACB, ACR and AC3 the male and female assassins in your brotherhood shared the same animation set.

    #12 5 months ago
  13. ddtd

    @TheWulf Okay. First off; Fuck you. For someone who puts on the heirs of enlightened person, you seem to easily and quite comfortably insult and ridicule others like a child, and create strafe and argument when there was just a debate.

    Next, I’d like to point out that AC Unity isn’t a coop game, but first and foremost a single player game with some optional coop missions. Also, the design goal Ubisoft had in mind was to keep that single player/narrative experience upfront and to not break it even when the player engages in a coop mission.

    Ubisoft writes very linear story driven games that focus heavily on not just the plot, but the main protagonist as well. For the most part (Watch_Dogs excluded) they write pretty compelling main characters that are fully fleshed out. Characters–actually people–are an algamation of their experiences. Changing a character from a man to a woman in a narrative story that focuses heavily on that character’s story completely changes them because the experiences a man might have in any given situation, especially how other people feel about that person and react to them, would likely be different then what a woman would experience. This also carries over to race, sexual orientation, and even nationality. For example, if Edward were the star of the Freedom Cry DLC, his experience would be VERY different than Adéwalé’s from just the color of his skin, let alone his motivations.

    Also, when has any of the assassin characters in an AC game been heavily customizable? You mean the fact that you can change their weapon or color their clothes? If you think that’s heavy customization you’d be blown away by a game called Skyrim.

    #13 5 months ago
  14. ddtd

    @ddtd Also, I’d like to ask at what point did I troll anyone that commented on this article?

    Maybe someone else can point that out. Or us having an opinion that may be counter to your own trolling in your book?

    #14 5 months ago
  15. ddtd

    @TheWulf Oh, and one last thing (because there’s no edit button and I can’t add to my posts); I did use the word Logic correctly. :p

    #15 5 months ago
  16. Legendaryboss

    I forget what Act we are up to so lets say we are at Act: 12.

    #16 5 months ago
  17. salarta

    @eTitan “But I can’t because there’s no research whatsoever done when it comes to that field.” I was fairly sure this would be the case, but for the sake of fairness I decided to ask.

    Without no evidence, you immediately imply and assume that 1) the majority of women playing games are ONLY playing mobile games, and 2) within the very specific area of Assassin’s Creed’s audience, it’s majority make interest. You have no statistics, you’re just assuming both of these are the case, then acting like your assumptions are fact.

    Even if we chose to assume your claims are accurate, that most women are only playing mobile games, that’s not the point. The point is fair and equal representation where applicable, and it’s very applicable in this case. Even if we assume women are only playing mobile games, those are women that could transition to games like Assassin’s Creed, and if not them, then their children. You might think excluding women in this way is harmless, that if women really care they’ll “get over it,” but if you think that way, it’s false. Excluding women like this is a deterrent, and an asinine and unnecessary one at that. Stupid, pointless elitism turns people off, and it’s only hurting the industry because any men that have a brain and a soul wouldn’t boycott a game just for having a respectable, playable woman in it.

    Petitions get WAY more than a “few hundred” signatures, and those are an extremely poor indication of the real desire and need for change because those are only the people that think a petition will do anything. Online petitions have a stigma of not getting taken seriously, so many will disregard petitions altogether.

    And with the “Actors like Ashley only comes out and complains about it because it’s good PR. She doesn’t give a shit in the end either.” bit you pulled there, I’m done talking to you. It’s one thing to suggest it’s POSSIBLE, it’s another to try to dismiss a real criticism from someone with clout under a bullshit and unbacked claim that caring about what happens to her own sex in an industry she works within somehow must be all about her career and nothing else. It’s a bullshit dismissal with a strong hint of desperation.

    @Not The Eyes And yet, the team behind Unity had “be a woman” on their “features list,” showing even they didn’t think “you’re Arno” was a legitimate cause for exclusion. Citing how Liberation had a female protagonist is partially fair, and partially a straw man because 1) it was a spinoff portable game, and 2) it was made by ENTIRELY different teams. Liberation was Ubisoft Sofia and Ubisoft Milan, Unity is Ubisoft Montreal. You may as well say I’m allowed to blame Yoshinori Ono for Resident Evil 6 and DmC.

    As for games with playable women, what I want to know is the specific criteria. Are they counting ALL games out there? Because if they mean all games, I can absolutely believe that because indies exist to do what mainstream games won’t. But if it means major AAA games, I find that hard to swallow. And even if it’s true after all, being playable is quite different from being the focal character, how much time during the game the character can used as a playable, and how they were depicted and could be used as playable characters. Ashley Graham, for example, counts as a playable character but she was only available briefly and couldn’t fight at all, only run and dodge. Other times, a woman is purely an unlockable extra with no story of her own to speak of, meaning she’s playable but isn’t a real, proper character.

    @ddtd While I understand where your examples come from, it’s flawed. Nathan Drake is a defined character you play in the story mode solo, as is Lara Croft. There’s no reason to change the sex of either character. My complaint as far as Unity is simply that since it’s co-op, and even the team themselves realize women should be playable, then it stands to reason they should, in fact, be playable. I can’t comment on the exact nature of how that would be done, but that’s solely because I don’t know all the details about how Unity handles co-op. How Ubisoft could provide playable women in the multiplayer is only a matter of what makes sense for the mechanics and narrative. Again, the team themselves knew it was possible and made perfect sense.

    #17 5 months ago
  18. salarta

    Aaaand I see spelling and grammar errors. It’d still be really nice if an edit button existed again.

    #18 5 months ago
  19. Not The Eyes

    @salarta At the start of the project, they planned to have women in the multiplayer (Which they’ve already had multiple times), but during development, with the coop system that was eventually decided upon – everyone looks like Arno, so they couldn’t really do it this particular time in this entry to the series.

    It’s a complete cop out to dismiss Liberation as a ‘budget title’. Because it’s not true. It’s one of the best selling PS vita games (an expensive device itself) and tells a full story with all the features of a regular AC game.

    I don’t have the raw data for the EEDAR research, but it did specify that in ‘HD titles’, with the option of a female protagonist (not just an unlockable on something like Smash bros). And considering that females don’t make up 50% of the core audience (something you failed to address from my post), I’d say that’s pretty good going – certainly shows there isnt any sexism.

    #19 5 months ago
  20. ddtd

    @salarta I totally agree with you that’s there’s no reason that they couldn’t find a way to have female characters within how they have coop set up.

    I guess my point was (which I guess I didn’t articulate well), is that in the context of how ACU’s coop works, it’s similar to a single player game since the player’s perspective doesn’t change. In that regard, I can’t fault them for not having fully customizable characters that the player uses in coop as it was their design choice for us to always be Arno.

    But yeah, as I first noted in this post, there’s no good reason given why the other players couldn’t appear as female or male assassins.

    The argument about art and animation costs is ridiculous. They already have female character models in the game. How long would it take the art department to model an assassin garb for one of them? Animations? Well, walking animations for women are already in the game, and I would suppose the normal run animation as well, since the NPCs do both. So what’s left? The fast run and parkour? Why can’t they use the assassin animations already in the game? Men and women don’t move so differently that the animations can’t be shared (unless you believe those Skyrim modders who make those creepy over sexualized animation mods).

    Now I don’t think the devs are being purposely exclusive, but there’s a certain amount of insensitivity that they didn’t even consider that good portion of the gaming community might want to see themselves at least represented in the game, even with idea in mind that they’re always playing Arno.

    #20 5 months ago
  21. ddtd

    @Not The Eyes “At the start of the project, they planned to have women in the multiplayer (Which they’ve already had multiple times), but during development, with the coop system that was eventually decided upon – everyone looks like Arno, so they couldn’t really do it this particular time in this entry to the series.”

    I get what you’re saying, but I don’t quite buy it. At this point in development the artists and animators are usually done and are freed up to maybe start working on assets for DLC, or little tweaks here and there for the main release. They’re more than likely not very busy and could easily add in stuff like that. And yeah, even though the player is always Arno, they could still have female assassins as the avatars that you see for your coop partners.

    #21 5 months ago
  22. Not The Eyes

    @ddtd But that’s the point – they cant, because everyone is arno – so the people who did want to play as female, wouldn’t look female to themselves, so it would be pointless, and also visually confusing

    #22 5 months ago
  23. ddtd

    @Not The Eyes Why would it be pointless to have the coop characters that show up in your game be either make it female, and how would that be confusing? Ubisoft appears to have no plans to make the “other three” actual characters, so does it really matter what they look like?

    #23 5 months ago
  24. Not The Eyes

    @ddtd It’s really not hard to understand. You guys seem to be complaining that girls out there don’t get to play as girls. But in this case – even if they made the other coop characters look like females for the other people, the person who wants to be a female wouldn’t see themselves as a female anyway, so what’s the point?

    If everyone is going to be Arno, it makes sense to make all the characters look as close to Arno as possible – especially since animations would be different with females etc.

    #24 5 months ago
  25. bradk825

    This issue has been so overdone, the fucking horse is dead, people need to stop kicking it.

    The guy said the wrong thing this one time, when he should have just said “Everyone sees themselves as Arno in co-op, so since he’s a male, you see the others as a male, since they see themselves are Arno.”

    But ever since he said something about money instead, which wasn’t even correct, it’s been all about sexism. Then in Watch Dogs people are crying racism, while in Assassin’s Creed the same company is giving us protagonists of various races, and they are one of very few to do it.

    Again, the proper target for rage against sexism and racism in video games is NOT Ubisoft!

    #25 5 months ago

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