Ubisoft’s ‘Missing The Mark’

There’s an image that appears just after the Ubisoft logo comes on that, in recent events, no longer feels as sincere as is used to.

Doesn’t this feel… off.

See, a few years ago, Ubisoft got in some hot water for their comments that women were animating women for the co-op portion of Assassin’s Creed: Unity would have doubled the costs.

They were rightly taken to task for their choice of words, not just by fans but by industry experts such as Naughty Dog’s Jonathon Cooper, who’s worked on previous incarnations of Ubisoft’s AC series as well as Bioware’s Mass Effect, saying it would take about two days of work.

I bring this up because in the time since, it appeared that Ubisoft took the lessons to heart, with the inclusion of main female characters in installments such as Syndicate, the amazing work that went into Origins (set in Ancient Egypt that came with an amazing educational exploration mode), and now Odyssey with its choice of playing either Alexios and Kassandra and having them be as gay, straight, bi, or ace as you want.

In fact, the choice of your characters sexuality and who you can romance was touted by the game director, Jonathon Dumount, in the lead up to the release of the game. I know for me, personally, after hearing of Bioware’s decision not to include any romance in their upcoming game, Anthem, but simply friendship, it felt like Ubisoft loudly marching in on Bioware’s territory of romances of different sexual orientations.

Now, while Bioware isn’t the only game maker to include such romances (Gone Home comes to mind), it is still rare for Triple A video game makers to have them. Heck, the only reason why you could have polyamoury in Fallout 4 was due more to bad programming on Bethesda’s part than anything else.

And, well, the less said about DontNod’s Dead Lesbian Trope ending of the first Life is Strange series in 2015, the better.

So to have that message there, especially in light of hate and harassment movements like Gamergate, and just the general toxicity, racism, and bigotry of Gamers, it felt like Ubisoft was making a simple statement that we are included not just in representation but in the building of these digital worlds.

Which makes the forced heteronormative performance of the DLC in Odyssey sting that much more, because of the very real life parallels is has.

For those that don’t know, the second episode of the Odyssey DLC, Heritage of the Blade, has both Kassandra or Alexios settling down to have a kid with the child of Darius. If you’re Kassandra, the Darius has a son, and vice versa if you’re Alexios. You can romance them if you like, but even if you rebuke every romance, you still have to have a kid with them, effectively undermining the choice of romance Jonathon Dumont talked to much about.

The game director has since apologized for it, saying that in furthering the bloodline of the assassin’s, that they missed the mark, and in that time players and game critics alike have expressed their disappointment with this.

Jim Sterling had some choice words about this in a video he posted on Thursday, which covers much of how I feel about it as well:

Frankly, I’ve not seen such a piece of enforced heterosexuality since Captain America kissed Agent 13 in Civil War, not even 48 hours after Peggy Carter dies and is buried, like it was an assurance by the Russo Bros (or whoever was responsible for the writing) that no, really, Cap isn’t bi, he’s not in love with Bucky, it’s all good, see, he’s kissing a woman.

This is also something historical that Ubisoft unintentionally recreated, especially if you’re playing as Kassandra, which were the tragic endings of lesbian pulp novels of the 1950s. The most famous ones, Spring Fire and Women’s Barraks, held a tragic ending for one woman while the other returned to a man. This was done because, as the authour of those books, Marijane Meaker, explained, anything sent through the US Postal Service at the time was subject to censorship, and thus the tragic endings were needed so as to seem not to promote homosexuality.

We’ve come a long way since then, although some members of the LGBTQ community have a longer way to go with regards to positive representation (especially if you’re transgender, and this is without bringing race into it), so to have Ubisoft do this and then name the achievement “Growing Up” is doubly ugly.

And this is without getting into how the LGBTQ community is treated in real life, before sweeping rights were passed, homosexuality was decriminalized, or how some did marry nad have kids just to hide and survive.

All in all, not a good look for Ubisoft.

So while the achievement name will be changed, the whole DLC won’t. You’ll still be forced to have a kid against your will with someone you don’t want to have it with, and from what I’ve seen, a good many players are either regretful of the choice to buy the DLC or grateful they didn’t.

At any rate, a lot of good will has been lost, and it might be awhile before Ubisoft regains it.

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