By Sarah Ditum
Bottom half of the internet: we need to have a talk about Assassin’s Creed. Specifically, we need to have a talk about how Ubisoft has got it wrong by whacking the prospect of a playable female character, and how you have got it wrong by defending this madly macho decision. And yes, all right, not all the bottom half of the internet has got it wrong. But so much of the bottom half of the internet has got it wildly, drastically, and just plain dumbly wrong, that it has caused me to have some extremely guillotine-y thoughts.
However, the French Revolution taught us that nobody goes home with their head on their shoulders once you start an ideological bloodbath – so let’s go through this rational-style, and I will explain point-by-excruciatingly-
1. It’s history! History was sexist!
Women have been squeezed out of public life as long as we’ve had public life – even today, when I can guarantee that the bros of the comment box will be bowling up to tell me “It’s all equal now, what are you even complaining about, woman?” the fact is that fewer than one in five parliamentarians worldwide are female. Luckily for people who want to enjoy themselves while playing games, Ubisoft isn’t making a parliamentary simulator. It’s making a game about stabbing people in the neck. And guess what! In the French Revolution, there were indeed women gettin’ all stabby in other people’s jugulars. There is no artistic representation of the Revolution more famous than the image of Charlotte Corday slicing Jacobin provocateur Marat open in his bath, and it would have made for quite the mission. Shame.
2. Animating women is, like, hard
I know people who have toured Europe’s greatest cities with little more than their knowledge of Assassin’s Creed to guide them. Ubisoft can pack in every cobblestone in Rome, but the art of animating a female body is somehow beyond its vast resources? UNCONVINCED FACE. It’s not like we have special girly muscles that move in strange formations as yet unconceived by man-physics. Walking, running, leaping, shivving – all these are accomplished in much the same way regardless of what’s going on at the intersection of the thighs.
I know what the bottom half of the internet is thinking: the bottom half of the internet is thinking, “But what about the tits!” I’ll tell you what about the tits: if I’m going into a fight, I’m not heaving the girls up and presenting them at full jiggle. This isn’t Dead or Alive. I’ve probably got them tightly stashed away, and like notorious femme de la revolution Theroigne de Mericourt, I’m likely wearing a masculine riding habit. If your dimbulb defence of Ubi is that its artists wouldn’t have had time to design a woman character’s wardrobe, you should have to defend your stupid claim in a trial by combat, while you wear a corset and full petticoats. I look forward to hearing you gurgle “But what about the production costs!” as you drown in your own blood.
3. But playing as a woman would alienate me from the game!
Come on now. You’ve played games as a blue hedgehog. As a cybernetically augmented space marine. As a sodding dragon-tamer. Assassin’s Creed is a game premised on the idea (originally) that a special box can recover the ancestral memories of a bartender descended from a secret society of super assassins. And you can swallow all that, but the idea that women can be protagonists with an inner life and an active nature is somehow beyond your imaginative capacities? You suck. You don’t deserve games. You don’t even deserve thumbs.
4. God, ugh, why does everything have to be so PC?
Look, I know it’s hard when you have all the things, and someone else says “I would like some of those things please”, and then you’re like, “But these are my things! They've always been my things!” That’s true whether the thing in question is the vote, or owning property, or being able to see a representation of your gender as an active character in some big stupid AAA videogame. You, complaining citizen of the bottom half of the internet, are almost certainly a man. And as a man, you've been able to contentedly assume your right to all of these things; when you hear other people making a claim on them, of course it’s tempting to dismiss this as “political correctness”.
So, I understand. And I also think you should shut up whining. Asking that Ubi bung one or two lousy playable female characters into Unity is not “political correctness”. It’s just women hoping to be treated ever-so-slightly like humans in the media they consume. If Ubisoft bends on this, you’ll still have basically every single other videogame protagonist who isn’t Lara, Samus or Bayonetta. I don’t think you’re going to find yourself starved for lack of wang-having avatars.
5. Don’t feminists have anything more important to worry about?
I checked the minutes of the last intercontinental meeting of the sisterhood, and it turns out that while there are a lot of very bad things that need attending to, dealing with some of the less bad things is a very important way of addressing the very bad things. Or to put it another way: if you think someone is a person, you’re less likely to commit or condone abuse against them; ergo, if more games and other works of culture start treating women as people, the theory is that at some point we’ll end up with less wage gap, rape and domestic abuse. I admit that it’s a long shot, but we spent a few hundred years asking nicely for all the very bad stuff to just stop, and it didn't work, so we’re giving this a go as well. Anyway, if it doesn't matter, why are you even arguing about it?
6. Make me a sandwich
No, you fix yourself a nice hot croque monsieur, and stick it up your arse.