Editorial: Omitting Women From Games Because "It's Too Hard" is Unacceptable

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Editorial: Omitting Women From Games Because "It's Too Hard" is Unacceptable

Ubisoft isn't the first publisher to leave playable women out of its games because they're not worth the effort, but hopefully it will be one of the last.

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To be fair, AC Unity is not a design-your-character RPG but a single narrative, and it's co-op is just the one protagonist reskinned.

But even if Unity would have just one female protagonist, and all the co-op characters would be differently colored copies of HER, that still wouldn't come close to equal representation when looking at the whole franchise. Even if the whole Assassin's Creed franchise would be specifically about female assassins, that wouldn't come close to equal representation when looking at the whole gaming industry.

So why complain that in "this particular case" they chose to have a male protagonist with all that infinite artistic liberty? Because even if individually it would be justifieable, it isn't happening individually. And even if their justification would be kinda-sorta not quite incorrect per se, it would still be just an EXCUSE used to avoid a tiny little step in the direction of equal representation.

Really the whole "would take to long to animate" thing reeks of being a bold faced lie shoved out by executives who are extremely out of touch with their consumer base and truth be told, the very game that they're selling.

Not going to defend the stupid excuse, but you guys do know that even if they put a woman as one of the coop assassins you would never actually be the woman, right?
You see yourself always as the main character of the singleplayer game, just the other assassins that join your game will look like these other assassins to you.
Besides with the coats i saw in the E3 videos the characters might as well be women, they don't look particulary male or female. It's not like you can make out any body features of one sex or the other. The only thing giving away the sex is the face and with those really deep hoods it at least looked really hard to see under there.
Then again that makes the claim of the programmer even more stupid, so there's that.

Alterego-X:
To be fare, AC Unity is not a design-your-character RPG but a single narrative, and it's co-op is just the one protagonist reskinned.

But even if Unity would have just one female protagonist, and all the co-op characters would be differently colored copies of HER, that still wouldn't come close to equal representation when looking at the whole franchise. Even if the whole Assassin's Creed franchise would be specifically about female assassins, that wouldn't come close to equal representation when looking at the whole gaming industry.

So why complain that in "this particular case" they chose to have a male protagonist with all that infinite artistic liberty? Because even if indivisually it would be justifieable, it isn't happening individually. And even if their justification would kinda-sorta not quite incorrect per se, it would still be just an EXCUSE used to avoid a tiny little step in the direction of equal representation.

And that is extremely lazy. They're cutting out multiplayer too, which was very good at getting in a colorful variety of characters, so really this whole mess is just showing me how much the developers are phoning it in.

Like I said, then maybe the devs should stop being lazy and actually design more than one character model. Well, it has to start SOMEWHERE. And just avoiding it isn't going to make the problem better.

Because it's the French Revolution. Women played a massive part in the French Revolution, to the point where one of the most famous and influential acts of the revolution was performed by a woman. And it was an assassination. That would be perfect for an assassin's creed game but apparently Ubisoft decided that they weren't trying anymore.

There was an interesting post on Reddit about this that TotalBiscuit Tweeted about recently: http://www.reddit.com/r/assassinscreed/comments/27ut97/distinct_lack_of_female_characters_due_to/ci5z8i7

Creating female playable characters is a lot of work, and when you're on a very tight schedule you have to consider what to prioritise. When only a small segment of your target audience is going to care about not being able to play as a female character, it makes more sense to focus on something else.

INB4 "muh 45%". That falls under the latter category of "lies, damned lies, and statistics."

I must say, I approve of all the outrage that #womenaretoohardtoanimate brought.
I think the constant outrage and protest over each statement that might be perceived as sexist is... harsh, but a good sign that times are changing. That people see the issue and want a change.

erttheking:
Really the whole "would take to long to animate" thing reeks of being a bold faced lie shoved out by executives who are extremely out of touch with their consumer base and truth be told, the very game that they're selling.

It's the exact same reply as to practically every controversy from Tomodachi Life marriage equality, to always online DRM complaints and even expectations of something like the Mass Effect ending.

And not just from the direction of companies, but apologist fans as well: "well, what you are asking for would involve development of the game, and therefore more than zero time and money, and therefore you are too self-entitled for wanting to force them to do something for you".

Yes. Asking for changes in gaming, usually involves games being deveoped, code being written, characters being animated. That's their job in the first place, and how much of it they did is totally not above criticism.

The Plunk:

Creating female playable characters is a lot of work, and when you're on a very tight schedule you have to consider what to prioritise.

Like your own quote just said, making ANY character is expensive. Including male ones. This doesn't seem to stop the industry from churning them out by the thousands.

Alterego-X:
Yes. Asking for changes in gaming, usually involves games being deveoped, code being written, characters being animated. That's their job in the first place, and how much of it they did is totally not above criticism.

Beautifully put! Totally agree.

I'm working on my thesis and I included this little gem in it.

"We had some [publishers] that said, 'Well, we don't want to publish it because that's not going to succeed. You can't have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that," he told Penny Arcade. "We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin's private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy. We had people tell us, 'You can't make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that's going to feel awkward'" (Sterling, 2013).

Yeah, it must be because women are too hard to animate.

Thank God for Jim.

Alterego-X:

The Plunk:

Creating female playable characters is a lot of work, and when you're on a very tight schedule you have to consider what to prioritise.

Like your own quote just said, making ANY character is expensive. Including male ones. This doesn't seem to stop the industry from churning them out by the thousands.

As I said, men make up the vast majority of the audience for games like Assassin's Creed, so it isn't surprising that most protagonists are men. The return on investment for creating additional female playable characters would be much lower. Admittedly, it's a shame that art has to be constrained by profit motives, but that's just the way things are.

There is also the fact that Assassins Creed Brotherhood, Revelations and III all had female assassins (Templars if you wish to be pedantic) in multiplayer and had no problems there. The argument that the co-op couldn't have it due to technical reasons is grasping at straws.

#deadwomenaretoohardtoanimate

Demand equal gender rights for zombies antagonists(or protagonists if you want to get really crazy)!

Seriously though. Too hard? These people should talk to Team Ninja. They've been *cough* animating female characters for years.

The Plunk:
-snip-

I really wish this was put more, rather than the massive amounts of manufactured outrage that seems to go around.

Wait, that's really the excuse? Women are animated just fine in games. It never would have occurred to me that'd be an excuse for omitting them.
I would have gone with a real one, like its a no win scenario. Either the character is attractive and people harp on you for over sexualizing them, or they're not attractive and people harp on you for implying women can't be attractive and competent at the same time.
But really game companies, jiggle physics and long hair/ make up are too hard to do? REALLY?!

The Plunk:

Most protagonists are men for games like Assassin's Creed, so it isn't surprising that men make up the vast majority of the audience.

FTFY.

Besides, I'm not even sure that it is that predetermined even with a gender-based audience.

Men are watching most anime, and there is still a majority of characters are female, and not just the objectified ones.

"Each person can only identify with their own gender" is a baseless stereotype at best, and an arbitrary cultural artifact at worst, but it's certainly far from an inherent fact of life.

It would have been better if he had just said it didn't make sense from a cost benefit point of view. Even if it gets more women into gaming they probably wouldn't have a realistic option at getting paid back this decade ... and they have enough worries about staying profitable this decade.

If women want more women protagonist (options) their only real option is to make sure there are more women gamers themselves ... don't expect everyone else to subsidize the building of a market which will warrant it.

I'm in the "Creating female playable characters is a lot of work" camp. Thanks for sharing that link The Plunk.

Alterego-X:

The Plunk:

Most protagonists are men for games like Assassin's Creed, so it isn't surprising that men make up the vast majority of the audience.

FTFY.

Here you tell me that women aren't playing games like assassin's creed because the protagonists are male...

Besides, I'm not even sure that it is that predetermined even with a gender-based audience.

Men are watching most anime, and there is still a majority of characters are female, and not just the objectified ones.

"Each person can only identify with their own gender" is a baseless stereotype at best, and an arbitrary cultural artifact at worst, but it's certainly far from an inherent fact of life.

...and here you tell me that the demographics of the audience are unaffected by the genders of protagonists.

Make up your mind.

Legion:
There is also the fact that Assassins Creed Brotherhood, Revelations and III all had female assassins (Templars if you wish to be pedantic) in multiplayer and had no problems there.

Those models only need a small percentage of the mocap and manual animation of the protagonist model.

The Plunk:

Make up your mind.

No, thanks, I like both interpretations quite a lot.

The Plunk:
There was an interesting post on Reddit about this that TotalBiscuit Tweeted about recently: http://www.reddit.com/r/assassinscreed/comments/27ut97/distinct_lack_of_female_characters_due_to/ci5z8i7

...

Creating female playable characters is a lot of work, and when you're on a very tight schedule you have to consider what to prioritise. When only a small segment of your target audience is going to care about not being able to play as a female character, it makes more sense to focus on something else.

This is all a bit of a moot point, though, isn't it? The argument isn't "they should shoehorn girls in afterwards", the argument is "why didn't they think about female characters and models during the planning phase?".

When allocating resources and making decisions about what was going to be in the game, why weren't there any women put in? Why not just one? Especially given, as other posters have mentioned, the fact that a female assassin played a very real role in the actual French Revolution?

It's like... I get that making games is hard, adding resources is hard. But the fact that in the day one planning meeting nobody even thought to bring up female models and characters... the fact that it needs to be an afterthought, not an initial decision... I think that's what's got people, myself included, a little miffed.

Hey so, if you know so much about character design, maybe you should make your own game and animate your own female characters, or just not buy the game if it bothers you so much.

It's not the game company's job to make female characters, as the author says, it's their job to make games that sell. The truth is that they will sell without playable female characters, so they don't need to make any.

It's not wrong or sexist, it's just business.

If there is such a huge market for games with female characters, take your obviously immense knowledge of character design and capitalize rather than just complaining.

Why do people keep using Charlotte Corday as justification for a female assassin? She stabbed a cripple in the bath, whihc in the context of AC doesn't make you an assassin, particularly because she got caught.

well, if they would be more up front and just say that societies impossible expectations and over analyzing of female characters makes it near impossible to make likable female characters and making generic male characters is easier and lest costly to do, I would totally buy that.

It just baffles me when people get upset and tell others to shut up. This kind of reaction itself IS the feedback mechanism between audience/consumer and content creator. The fact that there is some kind of backlash at all indicates that there's a market for more female models/characters. Maybe not a big one, but when doing planning for the game, it's not too far out there to just include one. Plan ahead, put it in there. The majority of the models will be dudebros so the manly men can avoid feeling too threatened, and there can be something for the rest of us too.

Consumer demand can dictate trends, yeah, but mindlessly following trends, and focus testing, and playing to the market isn't the only way to make a game. If games are art, and I like to think they can be, then sometimes they can challenge the consumer, do something new, and maybe create a trend instead of following one.

Somewhat undermines your, your article's and The Escapist's position on the matter when, in the opening paragraph, you explain how hard it was to give AC:Unity - the posterboy on this whole sexism debacle - an award considering it's laconic and inexcusable stance and yet gave them an award anyway.

You giveth with one hand and taketh form the other, and I find it hard to take form one hand when I can look over and see their trophy. Because showing how wrong they are on women needs to be done one award at a time, apparently.

Alterego-X:

The Plunk:

Creating female playable characters is a lot of work, and when you're on a very tight schedule you have to consider what to prioritise.

Like your own quote just said, making ANY character is expensive. Including male ones. This doesn't seem to stop the industry from churning them out by the thousands.

Actually male characters are much easier to create. Simply put. You coul put a square character ond it would still look masculine. Square female characters are very hard to pull off. there's more attention to be paid to proportions.. Also making a character look masculine tends to make them look at the same time more imposing. Making a character look more feminine and dear gods they get on your case about her boobs and hips being to big, or her legs too long.

It boils down to. It's very hard to do a male character 'wrong', it is very, very easy to do a female character 'wrong'. That;'s strictly going on physical appearance. then there's voicing, dialog story. Again, Men arejust easier because they are much less scrutinized. You do it wrong, it's backlash and hate, you do it right, very few people will actually care...

ccdohl:
Hey so, if you know so much about character design, maybe you should make your own game and animate your own female characters, or just not buy the game if it bothers you so much.

Or we could just complain about it online.

And if you don't like that, you could set up your own forum or not come here if it bothers you so much. /s

See?

ccdohl:
It's not wrong or sexist, it's just business.

Why not all of the above? Excluding half of the world's population from being represented in the wide majority of popular culture, *is* wrong.

It's just happens to be one of those wrongs that can also be justified by business.

Most of them can. Especially the ones done by corporations. By your own logic, the only wrong thing those could do would be to earn less money, everything else is justified by being "just business".

ccdohl:
Hey so, if you know so much about character design, maybe you should make your own game and animate your own female characters, or just not buy the game if it bothers you so much.

I hope that whenever you have a complaint about a video game, you immediately run out and start your own development company. You wouldn't want to have a double standard, right? And this is a web-site whose sole function is to discuss video games. Why are you so bothered that people are discussing a video game on it?

Okay, say females r 2 hard to animate, what about anyone who isn't white? Hell just change the colour of a white characters face, they're covered up everywhere else anyway. The 3 non-main characters r unimportant, so do they all have to be white, 30, with dark hair. Hell give one of them blonde facial hair, please.
More ot, don't they already have assests for female assassins from liberation and mp modes. Wouldn't the work already be half-started?

Edited for typos and elaboration.

Wow Tim Schafer is being a right prick there, like I agree with his message I suppose, but his little gif really makes him come off as a douche.

Anyway everyone here is missing the real problem. Why is there no hermaphrodite characters in the game, and also not in large amounts of other games...in fact they are in so few that its like they are saying that they don't exist...like how the gays didn't exist until they did...where are my women with bulge physics? Does no one want women stacked everywhere?

Alterego-X:
To be fair, AC Unity is not a design-your-character RPG but a single narrative, and it's co-op is just the one protagonist reskinned.

This is what I was thinking the whole time I was reading the article. I could've missed out on the major plots of this shitstorm though. Am I right in thinking that the complaining part is about the main character not being a female? It's not a "there's multiplayer and it's all male characters", is it (seeing as they had female characters in MP before as far as I know)?

Tbh, Battlefield and similar games are a far bigger offender on this in my opinion. You have generic character models that don't mean squat or have any story (ie. all you need is an animated female, and as mentioned in the article, that's not THAT much work) and you can't be arsed making a female counterpart. That's a problem. A team usually choosing a male protagonist... you might not like it, but that's not much of a problem, it's just the story they've written. I wouldn't mind seeing a female protagonist in an AC game at all, but I also wouldn't try to cram the idea down an entire team's throat and call them sexist for not liking it.

blalien:

ccdohl:
Hey so, if you know so much about character design, maybe you should make your own game and animate your own female characters, or just not buy the game if it bothers you so much.

I hope that whenever you have a complaint about a video game, you immediately run out and start your own development company. You wouldn't want to have a double standard, right? And this is a web-site whose sole function is to discuss video games. Why are you so bothered that people are discussing a video game on it?

Well, to be honest, I don't complain about video games very often. I either enjoy the art, or I don't, and I don't buy what I don't enjoy, or what I think that I will not enjoy.

Further, I am unencumbered by a need to have main characters in games look like me, so that really broadens the games that I can enjoy.

Finally, I'm not bothered. I'm just responding.

Why does my discussion bother you so much? It doesn't? It's just part of the discussion? You don't say!

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