Assassin’s Creed female characters got sidelined for years, says Bloomberg report

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Assassin’s Creed female characters

Ubisoft has come under fire recently for harassment, sexism, and abuse towards female employees. According to a new Bloomberg report published yesterday, toxic culture has been proliferated at Ubisoft for years and it has come to light that this pattern was also ingrained in the way they created characters for their best-selling Assassin’s Creed games. 

The report reveals that, for the first time, current and former Ubisoft employees have come forward to explain that development teams wanted to put female characters in the spotlight for several years now, but were forbidden to do so by the marketing department or by CCO Serge Hascoët. Controversy started as early as 2014, when a Ubisoft creative director said that players couldn’t choose female characters in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate because it required too much extra production work on clothes and animations. Then, for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the initial plan was for twin protagonists Jacob and Evie to share the screen time, but they ended up sidelining Evie. In 2017, when Ubisoft changed the format of AC games and launched Origins, the male hero, Bayek of Siwa, was supposed to die in the beginning of the game, and have the role taken over by his wife, Aya. That didn’t happen. Bayek stayed the protagonist and Aya was only given small parts during the game. 

In 2018, Ubisoft launched Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which tells the story or two siblings in Ancient Greece, Kassandra and Alexios. At first, the team wanted Kassandra to be the only main character, but in the end were told that female characters didn’t sell, so they had to introduce Alexios as a playable option. Best-selling games like Tomb Raider, Horizon Zero Dawn, and The Last of Us have debunked the myth that players don’t like female characters. Although 78% of players chose to play as Alexios, not Kassandra, many reviewers noted that the female protagonist was better written and had better voice acting – proof that the story was initially designed for her. 

These weren’t the only sacrifices teams had to make. The report also reveals that Hascoët had a general disliking for storytelling and cutscenes and that creatives could only get him to accept them if they used a strong male lead to grab his attention. On July 12, Ubisoft announced that Hascoët would be leaving the company, along with several managing directors and HR representatives after dozens of former female employees came forward and talked about the company’s history of sexual misconduct: inappropriate jokes, harassment, abuse, and discrimination. Allegedly, HR has known about these internal issues for years, and not only have they ignored them, but the company’s management encouraged sexual misconduct. 
Now, Ubisoft’s entire culture has to change and it remains to be soon how well they’ll manage to do that since it remains a family-run company. For the next AC game, Valhalla, both male and female characters (both named Eivor) are considered canon, and players will be able to gender-swap the two characters at any time, without affecting the game’s storyline.