Thanks to Kotaku, we now know that there’s going to be a female assassin playable in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. This is, of course, a move that’s coming in response to the backlash over Assassin’s Creed: Unity last year, where Ubisoft claimed that animating women would take too many resources, or would otherwise be too difficult. While many would be quick to congratulate Ubisoft on its decision to add a female playable character, it’s important to note that this is no reason to so quickly give them a pat on the back, or hail them as the reigning feminist champions come to deliver us from an industry stuck in the misogynistic trenches.
It’s absolutely fine to celebrate a woman becoming a playable character in a main entry in the Assassin’s Creed series, but you shouldn’t for a second believe that this is anything more than a stunt meant to appease the malicious echo-chamber that is the internet. The key word in this breaking news is that this female character is “A” main character. Not the only one. If Kotaku’s source is correct, the male main character will still be the primary focus in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate’s narrative, and this olive branch to the feminist masses will likely be swept to the side so as to stay out of the way of their true protagonist.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing inherently bad about having male main characters. What’s to be taken issue with here is the fact that after 8 main entries in the Assassin’s Creed series (there was one spin off that had a female leading character, but those are spin-offs and don’t require nearly the same investment required by an assassin from the main Assassin’s Creed titles.) they haven’t gone about creating a female protagonist. There’s no conceivable reason for a company to make this call, other than the fact that they’ve deferred to a focus group that says that men sell better.
Until Ubisoft gets the courage to take the “risk” on a true female protagonist, I won’t be throwing them any parties. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is a start, but if we truly want some progress towards representation, we shouldn’t settle for less than a full commitment in an Assassin’s Creed title.