There’s a kerfuffle on the internets, kids. There always is, of course, on every topic imaginable. Even topics you wouldn’t think are all that controversial have combatants arguing both sides as if the very act of debate gives one viewpoint validity over another.
Take the issue of representation in games.
Ubisoft unsurprisingly recently revealed yet another entry in their popular Assassin’s Creed series, one where you can play multiplayer with fellow assassins, working in a co-op fashion to assassinate high-profile targets. And people are arguing. Because, due to “a lot of extra production work” involved, Ubisoft nixed the idea of having any of those assassins be female.
And many people are reasonably annoyed by this. Both male and female. And they should be. Because making yet another strong male hero game is lazy and catering to the lowest common denominator of the gaming industry. The industry should be better than this.
And yet, as with any internet argument, people are taking the opposing side.
It’s easy to pass off the discussion of representation in games because so much of the current audience consists of men. And because of that, the industry mainly caters to those men. And so, as is the case when one holds an enviable position of power and influence over an industry, they often finds themselves failing to see the point.
The point is that women are drastically under-represented in games today. Women look at shelves packed with strong male heroes and do not see themselves. They feel alienated. They feel like the industry doesn’t care about them. That it has no place for them. That they might as well just go do something else with their time and money.
And they’re not wrong.
But this mentality needs to change. More women aren’t going to take part in the industry unless companies are brave enough to put strong women heroes into the forefront. Which is why Ubisoft’s incredibly short-sighted decision is so disappointing. They had an opportunity, and they dropped it. Because it was seemingly “too hard” to implement. A tacit lie, but a convincing one.
But gamers by and large will continue to believe the lie because they continue to hold all the cards of this predominantly male audience.
They’ll say things like “women should just stick to playing Candy Crush and Farmville”.
They’ll say things like “I don’t want women to water down my action and adventure games”.
They’ll say things like “historically speaking, men did all the fighting, so it’s more believable that I play as a man in my futuristic space pirate game”.
They’ll say things like “I don’t want to play as a girl“.
And that’s the problem, right there. “I don’t want to play as a girl“.
Maybe girls would play more games if they weren’t always forced to play as a man.
And isn’t that what we all want? Something this industry desperately needs? More gamers? An expanded audience brings in more money for companies to continue to create more games. And if there’s anything we gamers are always on the lookout for, it’s more games.
Gamers should all want more women in this industry. Because that brings the opportunity for growth which in turn gives us more games.
Don’t believe for a second that Ubisoft wasn’t able to make just one assassin female. And don’t believe for a second that it doesn’t matter.
To all women who continue to be told “at least you have Tomb Raider, you should be happy you have that. Why do you keep asking for more?”
Because one out of a thousand isn’t enough. Not when there’s so many women searching for something they can identify with. Something that makes them feel like they’re finally allowed to be a part of the audience. And not just on the outside looking in.
Because we men get to see our faces on a thousand game covers and a thousand gameplay videos.
Because the future of the industry will rely on an expansion of the audience.
Because my daughter picks Princess Peach over Mario every single time.
Because it matters.
PS – Replace all references of “male/men” to white and “female/women” to black and this article remains (mostly) accurate.