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Why Assassin’s Creed Killed Off All Its Women

3 minute read

More bad news for women gamers—or anyone who wants to play a female avatar in the uber-popular Assassin’s Creed series: Assassin’s Creed: Unity will not have any playable female characters in cooperative mode.

That’s right, none. How come, you ask?

Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio told Polygon in a recent interview that the team ran into “the reality of production.”

“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” Amancio said. “Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.” He went on to explain they started the process of creating female avatars but had to stop because it would require 8,000 extra animations.

Women gamers are no stranger to discrimination in the industry: even though 45% of all gamers are women, too few games feature playable female characters. And those games that do have women are often misogynistic (see: sexism in Grand Theft Auto) or objectify women (see: Lara Croft’s measurements). There was even a recent controversy over a sexual assault scene in the new Castlevina game.

The lack of playable women characters is particularly disappointing in this instance considering that previous Assassins games did include female avatars. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation featured the series’ first female protagonist, Aveline de Grandpré, an African-French assassin in 18th century New Orleans.

Which may explain why Jonathan Cooper, who was the animation director on Assassin’s Creed III, took to Twitter to explain that adding female characters would not have been as labor-intensive as Amancio says.

In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations. http://t.co/z4OZl3Sngl

— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014

Man, if I had a dollar for every time someone at Ubisoft tried to bullshit me on animation tech ;-)

— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014

Ubisoft responded with the following statement:

We recognize the valid concern around diversity in video game narrative. Assassin’s Creed is developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs and we hope this attention to diversity is reflected in the settings of our games and our characters.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is focused on the story of the lead character, Arno. Whether playing by yourself or with the co-op Shared Experiences, you the gamer will always be playing as Arno, complete with his broad range of gear and skill sets that will make you feel unique.

With regard to diversity in our playable Assassins, we’ve featured Aveline, Connor, Adewale and Altair in Assassin’s Creed games and we continue to look at showcasing diverse characters. We look forward to introducing you to some of the strong female characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com