You can scale rooftops and explore Paris during the French Revolution. You can fight a psychopathic villain and take part in a fictional civil war in the Himalayas. You can kill a whole lot of people. What can't you do? Play as a woman.
Many players aren't happy with major video game publisher Ubisoft's reveal of new titles in two of its banner series: Assassin's Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4. While both feature cooperative multiplayer options, neither allows players to use a female character.
When asked about the lack of women, Ubisoft's response was lacking. Far Cry 4 director Alex Hutchinson told Polygon the game was "inches away" from giving players the option to choose a man or woman in multiplayer, but that "it was purely a workload issue because we don't have a female reading for the character, we don't have all the animations ... it was this weird issue where you could have a female model that walked and talked and jumped like a dude."
In reference to Assassin's Creed: Unity, which had dropped female characters during production, Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio said, "It's double the animations, it's double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets."
The backlash: Unswayed, gamers took to Twitter to push back on that reasoning using #womenaretoohardtoanimate. Some samples:
The #womenaretoohardtoanimate argument only works when you treat women characters as an secondary option rather than the default.— adrienne shaw (@adrishaw) June 12, 2014
Because you'd never hear "Well we were going to put men in the game, but it was just too much work" #womenaretoohardtoanimate— Bix (@tonomurabix) June 12, 2014
Ah yes, I can understand why #womenaretoohardtoanimate. I am such a bizarre size and shape compared to men with my 2 arms, 2 legs and a head— Emma-Rose (@RowanRedwood) June 12, 2014
Other game developers also pointed out the flaws in Ubisoft's logic.
In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations. http://t.co/z4OZl3Sngl— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014
"We don't really care to put the effort in to make a woman assassin" #realrealityofgamedevelopment— Manveer Heir (@manveerheir) June 11, 2014
Another thing- go out and watch people. You'll find that many women and men move EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Hips, arms, wrists and all.— Tim Borrelli (@Anim8der) June 11, 2014
Moving forward: Ubisoft's controversy was part of a larger question of gender representation at E3, the annual video game expo where these two games and plenty more were revealed to the press and public.
It's important to remember that the concept of female playable characters is not foreign to Ubisoft — A previous Assassin's Creed game had a female protagonist, as did cult favorite Beyond Good & Evil. Given the PR hit, it's likely we'll be seeing more of that from Ubisoft, and hopefully plenty more game developers, in the near future.