Gaming event E3 is always good for a controversy in which people on the internet take things too far and millions of people's feelings get hurt, and this year's was a cracker.
An unfortunate Ubisoft developer commented upon the lack of a female option in the latest Assassin's Creed game, suggesting that the decision to offer four blokes and zero ladies for players to choose from in a multiplayer mode was a simple cost-cutting measure and not a sign that Ubisoft hates all women of all ages.
As ever, things were taken out of context a little for dramatic effect. The poor developer actually meant that the cost of creating the characters would double, not the cost of the entire game. Same with the time it'd take.
But that didn't stop literally everyone in the entire world furiously typing out an opinion and pressing "post" before even checking the spelling of the obscenities, as the contentious issue of "women in games" raised its head once again.
Throw them in and see if they float
Over on Polygon, reader Schadrach stirred things up right from the off, asking: "So every narrative must now require that the sex of the protagonist is irrelevant? Or only that the protagonist must not be required to be male unless it's a set protagonist?"
That too-obvious bit of thinking was swiftly dealt with by Alder, who responded with the extremely sensible explanation: "Well, no, but unfortunately the games industry is so unwilling to include female protagonists that gender-agnostic roles where you create the character are 99% of the way that women get to see themselves represented in the modern games industry. If there genuinely was space for all sorts of stories in games, this would be less of a problem."
Commenter Cyruss thinks there's the danger it could descend into meaningless tokenism, though, saying: "I'm all for better representation of women in games, but it has to have its place not just 'thrown in there' for the sake of throwing them in."
Man invents woman
On the Independent, several high-brow history lessons were offered as a way of further criticising Ubisoft for not including females, with Doxydejour telling us: "Women were actively involved in the French Revolution. A quick two second Google search will find you hundreds of academic papers discussing their contribution. Ubisoft's excuses ring hollow as past AC animators have poo-pooed the workload argument, and they've had women in the past so this 'next generation' game really does feel like a step back."
Not to be outdone in a historical argument, Flora91161 put her historical knowledge to good use too, adding: "Yep, one of those women, Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont actually assassinated (real life female assassin here) Jean-Paul Merat who was a Jacobin leader and was responsible for the Revolution's more violent course it had taken. So there is no time period excuse, especially when there was a real life example of a female assassin."
"The real excuse here is just pure laziness, that is all," she finished with. Although the Ubisoft man said the real excuse was actually time and money. If someone was told to make a woman character they'd have done it, as it would've been their job.
Why isn't there a male Wonder Woman?
On The Register, reader Jeremy 3 voiced the thoughts of the everyday man, saying: "No-one ever wanted a female Mario or female Sonic. The guy sounds reasonable, they wanted a female character but realised the costs… simple. Does anyone really think we live in a world where someone at a game company decided to scrap a female player because they are sexist? Sounds like the media were looking for something to get upset about."
John Bailey sounds like he knows what he's talking about, quashing the whole costs-too-much argument with: "Female meshes abound. Add an extra mesh option with the same animation rigs, and job done. Near zero costs. In fact, the modelling for a single building probably would cost more."
He also suggests how to do the voice work for free, saying Ubisoft should: "Hire some out of work actor to do the voice acting, and job done."
More relevant issues
On Kotaku, reader Klmekaro is braced for more of this sort of thing in future. He, or perhaps even she if the budget permitted, said: "It makes me a little sad that this is going to be the tin can people beat on for the next few years when there are many more relevant issues in the gaming industry."
To which pretty much everyone replied. Damien Tobin summarised the responses the most precisely, with: "It makes me a little sad that representation for half the human race is considered a 'tin drum' unworthy of attention."
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