Ubisoft’s had a rough couple years when it comes to PR for their Assassin’s Creed series of games. First they were absolutely excoriated for including multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed Unity but not creating a female character option, and their attempts to explain how they simply didn’t budget for the additional character assets were met with, at best, skepticism. Then when they announced one of the two main playable characters in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was a woman, they were accused of exploiting feminism for having the temerity to promote said character.
Well after all that it’s clear Ubisoft has no intention of getting caught with their pants down again. This week they’ve announced they’ve added a transgender character to Syndicate, the first in the series’ history. The character is a trans male named Ned Wynert who will be a supporting character and quest giver. No doubt if Ned isn’t playable for at least part of the game, Ubisoft will find out how few points simply having a transgender character is good for with the social just mafia these days.
Not that Ubisoft isn’t already doing everything in its power to prove it is totally on board with this political correctness thing. Previously the game was to open with the standard Assassin’s Creed series intro statement that tells players it was “designed, developed and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs.” For Syndicate they’ve updated it to read, “Inspired by historical events and characters, this work of fiction was designed, developed, and produced by a multicultural team of various beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities.” Syndicate‘s creative director Marc-Alexis Côté explained to Eurogamer the change comes as a result of the team not feeling the previous statement was inclusive enough:
It felt like when we first wrote that for AC1 it was something that was very inclusive. But I’ve had the chance to work with more than 12 different writers on Syndicate. At one point, one approached me and said that we were not embracing diversity fully enough.
I had reviewed all our crowd dialogue, I was happy with our two protagonists, but they were talking about the statement at the beginning of the game – that it was exclusive of some people. So I asked for them to propose a new statement.
There’s nothing exclusive about the original statement. A group doesn’t automatically default to being comprised of straight white males when its gender makeup goes unspecified. Frankly the diversity of a development team should be entirely irrelevant to the player, but at least a case can be made that noting the team has various religious beliefs reassures players all the stuff about Crusades, Templars, and religious conspiracies is not an attempt by a bunch of atheists to mock religion or some such. Unless Syndicate‘s story similarly revolves around a secret society of LGBT assassins, there’s really no reason to mention gender or sexual orientations at all.
Obviously there’s nothing wrong with having that blurb if the team wants to have it, nor is there anything inherently wrong with including female, gay, or transgender characters. However, those decisions should be in service of the game’s story and the developers’ artistic vision, not a result of pressure to meet arbitrary diversity quotas dreamed up by the games press and/or social justice warriors. Based on Côté’s statements, it doesn’t seem like they made these changes because it fit naturally within the scope of the game, but because they didn’t want to be accused of being politically incorrect again.
It’s hard to blame them though, given the power of the social justice mafia these days. Google now consults prominent social justice warriors for tips on ending harassment, and the UN invites professional victims like Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn to discuss the “global pandemic” of “cyber violence.” When the UN declares “cyber-touch is recognized as equally as harmful as a physical touch” and thinks it’s time for sanctions against countries that don’t take this cyber violence thing seriously, that puts anyone who wants to sell things like video games in a pretty tough spot.
Fortunately the folks working under the #GamerGate banner have managed to fight back against some of this onslaught, but unless the wider world wakes up and puts its foot down, we’ll see more and more artists of all types on bended knee to the social justice mafia.
For more of what I think about entertainment and politics, follow me on Twitter @crankytrex or check out my other writing at buzzpo.com.