Opinion: Gender and Representation at E3 2014
Updated: Oct 3, 2020
An observation and reflection on the controversies at the biggest game conference of the year
It’s only been a couple of days, but we already have multiple controversies at E3 2014, some of which are old news to those keeping up with the industry, but all of which are still irritations to those who love the interactive art form.
A lot of the controversies have to do with the continuing gender relationship problems the games industry brings upon itself. Danielle Riendeau of Polygon wrote about how there were more severed heads than female presenters onstage this year, just like last year.
This misrepresentation likely wouldn’t be an issue if more women were onstage, of course.
But what seems to have caught the most traction and attracted the most anger is Assassin’s Creed Unity. Ubisoft’s next installment in the yearly franchise features a cooperative mode in which up to four players can interact within the same game.
Despite the ability for players to customize their outfits, players can’t choose to be female assasssins, and the situation only got uglier for Ubisoft after the company issued a statement declaring why you can’t play as a woman.
“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” Creative Director Alex Amancio told Polygon. “Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.”
Another Ubisoft employee claimed it would take 8000 extra hours, but this statement encouraged Assassin’s Creed III Animation Director and current Naughty Dog animator Jonathan Cooper to refute Amancio’s claims:
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
His educated opinion comes from working as a Animation Lead or Director on the Mass Effect, Uncharted, and the Assassin’s Creed series, all of which have featured women in past games. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation even focused itself around a female protagonist, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Revelations both had playable female characters in multiplayer.
Cooper wasn’t done with this bit of insight, either. He also tweeted:
Fun fact: in our last prototype together, entering your name as @Aleissia allowed you to play as a female character. — Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014
And this, in reference to Assassin’s Creed: Liberation‘s female protagonist:
Fun fact #2: Aveline de Grandpré shares more of Connor Kenway’s animations than Edward Kenway does. pic.twitter.com/lFHHnBfLht — Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014
At this point, it’s still a question of why Ubisoft decided against playable women, because its given excuse does not hold up to scrutiny.