Ubisoft: Straighter. Whiter. Duder.

Terminal Blue

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Sgt. Sykes said:
More importantly, I can't understand how people can blame The Assassin's Creed series of all things. In AC, you could play as an Arab assassin killing Christan bad guys; a half-Indian; a black guy rescuing slaves; a black woman; and I think also a white woman in one of the portable games.
Altair is clearly a white guy with an Arabic name.

Okay, okay.. canonically he's mixed race. But let's face it. He's a white guy. He even speaks with a weird American accent.

What's actually kind of funny is that while the in game reason as to why Altair is so white is contrived as fuck, there were actually plenty of "white" people living in the middle east at the time in the form of Turks, Caucasians and Greeks. The fact that they had to go for this ludicrous thing of making his mother some random West European does kind of go to show how much weight it carries that a character has some kind of connection with a presumed audience of that ancestry.
 

Sylocat

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Blood Brain Barrier said:
"Ubisoft's catalog is sausagefest even by video game standards."

Yeah, but so are the history books. Isn't it some kind of central tenet of some branch or sub-branch of feminism that women are largely left out of history? (not that it needs to be - it's common sense by now). There's a consequence to that - people associate the epic adventures of assassins, princes, and knights with males. So it does make a little bit of sense to view historical adventures (constituting most of Ubisoft's catalog) like Assassin's Creed featuring a female heroine as a little bit cartoonish, less grandiose and less serious. Even if that is total nonsense from the perspective we are privileged to have now.
Given that Ubisoft loudly trumpets the attention to historical detail they claim to pour into the Assassin's Creed games, I don't think popular misconceptions would be a valid reason for them to omit historical facts.
 

BehattedWanderer

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Shamus, you say that like one or two days of work isn't what Ubisoft puts into the character modelling anymore. They've had the same damn model since at least AC: Brotherhood (which, ironically to the current stance, actually let you pal around with ladies all you wanted, and could even make an all-female squad of assassins, if you felt so inclined), and they've just tacked different pieces of cloth, armor, and weapons onto it. The fabric even has a maximum height that it can sway and bounce, ffs. Hell, they even made a PS3 and PS4 port for AC: Liberation, which means the mythical female model that would take so much time and effort already exists! All the climbing, running, jumping, and wall-humping animations are already present, just recycle them again like they've been doing for years. What's hard about that?

(Also, if Tom Braider doesn't have a ballad, I'm not sure what I'll do)

EDIT: Hell, it's not like this is Saints' Row, where you have to worry about 1000 character customized features all interacting, trying not to glitch through cars, weapons, or layers fat transvestite beneath. These are stock models, of one of two varieties, with the occasional shader thrown a couple of notches for skin tone and grizzleness of beard.
 

Callate

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Falterfire said:
I haven't played Watch_Dogs specifically, but this particular example isn't a great one for proving depth of story - Having the main character blame themselves for things that went wrong in the plot is a pretty common trope [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Itsallmyfault]. Tropes aren't bad, (and all good stories are built at least in part out of them) but if you're trying to indicate a character is deep, you should probably use something that isn't so universal.
It's true that it's a familiar trope in many forms of drama, but not so much in video games- and certainly not among the "grizzled white guy" stereotype it has become popular to mock in western-developed games. Take another look at the tvtropes link. There are only twelve entries in the whole thing for video games, versus twenty-two in live action television and three pages of entries under anime. And while I'm not familiar with every entry they list, I note that two-thirds of them are Japanese, half Japanese RPGs.

Also, as I said, many narratives would have made the clumsy step of having his sister blaming him for his niece's death, externalizing his problem at the cost of making the sister less sympathetic. Instead we see him blaming himself and her denying his reasoning, which makes her more likable and supplies a more credible reason for his narrative arc.

I'm not saying that Pearce is about to step out of a Victorian period romance or something, but some thought went into him that makes him a little more memorable than many of the stoic, monosyllabic GWGs. And I think the creators should get a touch of recognition for that, rather than just lumping him in with whatshisname and whatshisface.
 

Lady Larunai

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Man could you imagine the insane backlash if they turned lara into a guy.. It would be amazing.. It's what popcorn dreams of at night.
 

rbstewart7263

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Shamus Young said:
Ubisoft: Straighter. Whiter. Duder.

Taking the developer and publisher of Assassin's Creed Unity to task for their response to a lack of female characters is just too easy.

Read Full Article

Thank you for giving me more context on the subject. I wasnt ready kneejerk at them until I had some context for there claims and the counter claims thereof. I can safely say that ubi plays the money game safer than jackdaniels, microsoft, and Purina combined.
 

Bigeyez

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Im confused... Couldn't you play as a woman in the multiplayer of black flag? If they did it there and other creed multiplayers why not here?
 

NinjaDeathSlap

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Sgt. Sykes said:
Of course they don't HAVE to have diverse representation in this game. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is saying they have to. However, not doing so is a missed opportunity, which combined with their lame and patronising excuses for not doing so, risks alienating a portion of their fanbase they seem to either not know or not care about. Just because they're not obliged to go the extra mile, doesn't mean that their immune to criticism from us. Who's going to let them know that this is a dumb decision if we don't?

I agree, that in the past the Assassin's Creed franchise has a good track record (by AAA standards) of giving us alternatives to the Grizzled White Dude to play as... which begs the question, why are they now taking such a conspicuous step backwards, telling us that something they've already done before is now 'too much effort'? What's more, despite the fact that they have, in the past, offered a range of protagonists, I still wouldn't claim that their approach to this has really been good enough. As was mentioned in the article, AC:Liberation was relegated to a handheld spin-off of AC3 that was hardly marketed at all. When you got to play as "a black guy rescuing slaves"... that was DLC; and you say it all with "I think also a white woman in one of the portable games". At least, at the very least, the diversity has been there in the past. However, said diversity has been, quite literally, marginalised. Even in regard to the main games: Altair was, supposedly, a Syrian... who spoke with an American accent and who's face you never really saw. Connor was half Native-American... who's Native heritage becomes irrelevant about an hour into the game, so he can spend the rest of his time hanging out with white dudes.

It's not good enough; and until Ubisoft actually has the balls to commit to the idea fully, they'll never know just how much of a market there can be for it.

And no, people wouldn't be so mad if you could only play as black women. You want to know why? Because that would still be one game in a sea of homogeneous white dudes that was offering something different. Nobody wants an industry that is homogenised in the favour of black people. Nobody is asking for an industry where white dudes become completely unrepresented. They're asking for options. They want diversity, and they're pissed off that nobody is offering it to them.

Finally, you say "Don't like it? Don't buy it." as if the people who were complaining had all already decided that they were going to get Unity. I'll admit, I loved Black Flag, and until E3 I was looking forward to seeing what they could follow it up with. However, I don't have a current generation console yet, and may well not have for at least a couple more years, so it's kind of a moot point for me either way. As it stands, unless Ubisoft can find a satisfactory way to salvage this, I hope people's generally underwhelmed response to Unity is reflected in sales. One poor performance won't kill the franchise, and nobody at Ubisoft will weep. They may, however, if we're lucky, start asking themselves a few questions about how they can do better.
 

Lightknight

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Oh no! The most common demographic in the developed world is being catered to the most! It's almost like these companies are a business or something that wants to please their largest demographic of consumers...

While we're at it, why don't we just start making white male's votes count for less in countries where elections are held to make sure they're not overly represented there too.

Maybe if we complain enough it will magically increase the female demographic in the consumer market to more than double to make it to half of the AAA market? [/sarcasm]

Look, equality doesn't mean that businesses ignore their target market composition and give every group no matter how minor equal attention as the larger groups. It should just mean that 1 female is considered just as valuable as 1 male as a consumer reference.

As I've established several times, the AAA market is NOT the same market that the ESA reports on. ESA's 47% females to 53% males market composition includes iOS gaming and whether or not a person has ever looked sideways a solitaire game on that new fangled internet box. We know from 2010 when the market split was 40%/60% that there was a HUGE disparity in gaming demographics that the AAA market was seeing. This is because 80% of females who owned consoles owned a Wii as their primary console. The male demographic showed up at 41% owning Wiis as their primary.

This demonstrates a HUGE difference in console and video game buying practices. It means that the actual target market that AAA developers were looking at on the PS3 and 360 (many AAA games never saw the Wii due to power disparity despite the much higher market share) was less than 20% female at best (the actual number is 17% I believe)and there's no evidence to demonstrate that the female demographic has significantly changed their purchasing behavior at large since then. Especially with a boom in iOS games that may provide everything they were looking for in the Wii. This all even assumes that females own consoles at the same rate that males do when that's not necessarily the case. Males likely own consoles at a higher rate which would drop the female target market even lower.

Additionally, women do display differences in preference of genre in nearly every form of media we have. Music, Movies, Literature. It would be naive to assume that the sexes enjoy the same genres in the same rates.

Because we don't have the actual number of gamers in 2010 but do have percentages, we can use 100 as the market population since larger and smaller numbers would still return the same percentages.

So, total market in 2010 = 60 males, 40 females.

Primary Console Ownership by Sex:

Male (of the 60 males of the 100 demographic): 21% (12.6) PS3, 38% (22.8) 360, 41%(24.6) Wii
Female (of the 40 females of the 100 demographic): 9% (3.6) PS3, 11% (4.4) 360, 89%(32) Wii

So, if we combine the PS3 and 360 demographics where most of the AAA games were released we get the following:

Females: 8
Males: 35.4
Total: 43.4

This makes the female demographic 18.4% of the total market. Again, this is only if both sexes buy consoles at the same rate AND it assumes that women do not have any difference of taste in genre like we see in all other forms of media like movies and literature.

That being said, my wife is a serious AAA gamer (she's quite happy that COD offers female characters). So I'm not saying they don't exist. Just that when you're a company designing a game for the market you're going to see 80 men looking you in the face for every 20 women.

Let me ask you this. You have $100 to invest. Are you going to want to invest that in a product that the vast majority of your clients want to the extreme minority? Well, if you like money then the answer is obviously where more people, aka more money, is.

However, in this day and age, why not do our best to provide both where possible? I get that women characters can be controversial if you so much as add one curve too round, but it'd be nice to see more options as long as it doesn't impact the options I choose. If it's only going to be one character then I will consistently understand if it's always reflective of the number one gamer group. But if the character never so much as says a word then I've got to question why the character has to be any one person. I understand that Nathan Drake/Lara Croft has a ton of voice acting and motion capture and strong plot elements centered around their masculinity/femininity. So I'll never expect them to offer more options. The same goes for Enzio who has all the same things (i believe I recall him talking, not one of my most memorable games, honestly). But I can think of a ton of games where customizable skins are entirely viable.
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

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Lightknight said:
Oh no! The most common demographic in the developed world is being catered to the most! It's almost like these companies are a business or something that wants to please their largest demographic of consumers...

While we're at it, why don't we just start making white male's votes count for less in countries where elections are held to make sure they're not overly represented there too.

Maybe if we complain enough it will magically increase the female demographic in the consumer market to more than double to make it to half of the AAA market? [/sarcasm]
Holy strawman, batman!

Look, I am getting kind of tired of this argument from privilege being put forth constantly so let us just do it bullet point style:
A: Women are underrepresented in the gamer demographic.
B: Women are seriously underrepresented in games.
C: If women got better representation in games they might be more incline to buy more games.
D: More sold games = more profit
Ergo,
E: It should be in the interest of every producer of triple-A games to be as inclusive as possible.

This isn't hard. It is, in fact, very basic marketing practice. The problem is that gaming is in a self-reinforcing loop where minorities go unrepresented in games and gamers (a pre-dominantly white, male group) aren't too keen to share their cake. This in turn means that women are unlikely to go into gaming since it is obviously not a hobby for them (contrast make-up and men) and when few women become gamers it reinforces the idea that only men game and thus games are made for men.

The only way to break this cycle? Keep reminding the companies that women game too. Keep arguing for better representation for women in games. When women see that games are inclusive of them too they are more likely to take the chance of actually gaming (compare to walking into a sports bar full of Liverpool fans when you don't support Liverpool).

All these faux-capitalistic arguments only serve to highlight just how exclusionist gaming as a hobby really is. Especially when the arguments aren't coming from the developers or producers, but are coming from gamers that are already basking in the privilege of an entire media industry catering solely to them.
 

NinjaDeathSlap

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Sgt. Sykes said:
First off, I think a company so large it could practically fund a manned mission to Mars has gone a little beyond the point of being given 'points for effort'. However, as much as I'm in favour of calling people out for bullshit, I'm also in favour of giving credit where it's due; and as I've said... Yes, by AAA standards, the Assassin's Creed franchise has had, until now, a good record of diversity in playable characters. Take note, however, of the clarifying clauses, if you want to find the root of this backlash, "by AAA standards" and "until now". Notice also, my use of Assassin's Creed as a franchise, rather than Ubisoft as a published, because what diversity AC did have, was very much an outlier in Ubisoft's publishing repertoire. In pretty much all other IP's they own, they're just as bad, if not worse, than everyone else when in comes to homogenisation.

Judging by your comment, it seems your lack of exposure to much of the nuances in the way this fallout was created, has led to a misunderstanding of what people are actually angry about. When people at E3 saw the new Ac multiplayer featuring a bunch of identical white men, whereas previously a diverse collection of creeds and genders had been offered, a handful of gaming journalists took to twitter to make fun of it. They may have been disgruntled, yes, but it was hardly a storm of vitriol. It only became such, when Ubisoft's PR tried to cover it's arse with possibly the lamest and most condescending excuse they could think of, which was then immediately debunked by multiple sources inside the industry. As this column rightly says, making playable female models in AC would indeed be more complicated than just reskinning the male animations to look like a chick. However, it is possible, and well-within what a company like Ubi should be capable of. This leaves two possibilities: Either Ubi is lying to us, or their production process really is so bloated and arse-backwards, that even with half a dozen different studios working on one game, with the full force of the publishers finances behind it, they genuinely don't have it in them to programme female characters properly anymore. I shouldn't have to explain why neither of those states of being is acceptable, should I?

If you want your analogy to more closely match the situation as it stands, then it would look something like this...

- All the big restaurants in the city serve one kind of food

- One of the very biggest restaurants in the city serves only one kind of food... except on Fridays, when they'll put a different kind of dressing on their side-salad. All of a sudden, they stop doing this, removing the one shred of original and creative thought they had over everyone else.

- When people, rightly, ask why this is so, the restaurant owner peers down at them from a golden throne, using a tube of rolled-up dollar bills as a telescope, and explains that offering such a small concession of choice to the customer is now 'too much like hard work'.

- People start considering whether they really want to come back to the restaurant anymore.

(P.S. I don't want to get off-topic, but just for clarity's sake, The Halo franchise has had female character models in it's multiplayer since 2010, and in Halo: Reach, allowed you to make the protagonist a female Spartan. On top of this, the fan-favourite and most fleshed-out character in the canon is, and has always been, a woman (and no, the fact that she's an AI doesn't discount her any more than being "mono-gendered" discounts asari characters in Mass Effect).)
 

Lightknight

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Gethsemani said:
A: Women are underrepresented in the gamer demographic.
Are they? As my numbers show above, they represent less than 19% of the target market when even giving the numbers the most benefit of the doubt in favor of higher female numbers. When you account for games with female protagonists and customizable characters the disparity isn't that great and it makes sense why games with only one playable character would reflect the HUGE majority demographic.

I'll repost the the numbers below.

Because we don't have the actual number of gamers in 2010 but do have percentages, we can use 100 as the market population since larger and smaller numbers would still return the same percentages.

So, total market in 2010 = 60 males, 40 females.

Primary Console Ownership by Sex:

Male (of the 60 males of the 100 demographic): 21% (12.6) PS3, 38% (22.8) 360, 41%(24.6) Wii
Female (of the 40 females of the 100 demographic): 9% (3.6) PS3, 11% (4.4) 360, 89%(32) Wii

So, if we combine the PS3 and 360 demographics where most of the AAA games were released we get the following:

Females: 8
Males: 35.4
Total: 43.4

This makes the female demographic 18.4% of the total market. Again, this is only if both sexes buy consoles at the same rate AND it assumes that women do not have any difference of taste in genre like we see in all other forms of media like movies and literature.

B: Women are seriously underrepresented in games. How is this not the same thing as A? "Women are undderrepresented in the gamer demographic" vs. "Women are seriously underrepresented in games." Same thing.

C: If women got better representation in games they might be more incline to buy more games. Yes. I agree. One of the reasons why so many more women owned a Wii was because Nintendo specifically catered to females. Not by representation in gaming but by genre choices. As stated, women express different preferences in genres in nearly every form of media from literature to movies. It is naive to think that this trend wouldn't also flow into gaming. Seeing as it's the Action genre that women dislike in those other medias we have a bit of a relevant problem here with your assumptions that they have exactly as large of a potential market for the traditional AAA games than we already see in male gamers. I'd posit that there's more a problem with variety of game genres than actual representation with a female avatar.

D: More sold games = more profit You're making an assumption here. If females are increasing their purchases due to there being a female protagonist, wouldn't it follow that males would make less purchases of that game due to a lack of a male protagonist representing them? You could easily increase your female demographic by 50% but lose 10% of your male market and find a substantial decrease in overall sales because of the disparity.

E: It should be in the interest of every producer of triple-A games to be as inclusive as possible.
Here's the deal, you're an investor. You have $100 to invest. Now, you don't actually care about the market as a whole, you are but one entity and your goal is to make the largest return possible on that money. Do you invest in a game focused squarely on the vast majority of the gaming demogrpahic or do you try to make a statement by focusing on the extreme minority at the risk of alienating a non-trivial portion of the majority? If your goal is to make money, you're going to avoid that. If your goal is to make a statement of some kind then you may be willing to take a significant reduction in return and cater to a more niche group. But reminding large investors that women do make up a small portion of AAA gamers won't make them ignore the actual gamer demographics that express an interest in their games anymore than convincing them that albino people are under-represented gamers. Yes, it could be a chicken/egg loop but when you're the one putting money in you just care about the return and that's not bad. That's supply/demand. The internet is an easy place for people to shout and stomp their feet when they want something else but if giving them what they want doesn't translate into large returns then the actual product demand just isn't where the traditional demand is.

Now, I don't know if you're female or male. But as a male gamer I don't personally give a crap what my protagonist looks like as long as the gameplay and story is good. My wife feels the same way. It does not add or take away from my experience to have a particular avatar unless it's something familiar like Batman. I am an advocate of customisable characters because, why not? What do I care if someone else picks a female avatar as long as I can pick something I want too?
 

hermes

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Thank you. After this week Jimquisition and Big Picture, I was afraid no one cared to read the interview that spawn this whole issue and just decided to jump into the hatewagon.

The problem with the mode is that it was a gimmicky way to allow for co-op, by including several copies of the same main character. The game was never designed around having the player choose the gender, name or background of Arno, even when playing by yourself, so when they shoehorned clones of the protagonist to allow for a co-op campaign, people found that the customization options were rather limited.
 

hermes

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Bigeyez said:
Im confused... Couldn't you play as a woman in the multiplayer of black flag? If they did it there and other creed multiplayers why not here?
Because this would amount to having two separate characters in Black Flag. One is Edward, the pirate landlord that gets to be the grandparent of Connor, and the other one is Jeannine, the pirate landlord that gets to be the grandparent of Connor... See the problem there?
 

senkus

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Shamus Young said:
Depending on where the female model is anchored to the world, her hands might float a few inches away from the ledge she's supposedly holding onto. Or perhaps her feet poke into the wall as she climbs. Or maybe she sticks her hand inside her hip when she's supposedly grabbing stuff from her belt.
This should really not be such a problem -- for Ubisoft at least -- as they use a middleware called HumanIK which mitigates these sort of problems. Skip through this video a bit if you're interested, it explains it better than I could here.