Should video games always let players choose their gender?


The next entry in the Assassin’s Creed saga was finally confirmed. Officially titled Mirage, the 2023 release will follow Basim, first introduced in 2021 AC Valhalla, as he rises from his origins as a humble street robber to become a full-fledged assassin operating in Baghdad in the 9th century, some 300 years before the time of Altaïr and the events of the very first game.

Mirage promises to return the Assassin’s Creed franchise to its roots, ditching the RPG elements and format that have become the model for the series ever since. Origins debuted in 2017. Instead, it will bring the action back to one location with a renewed focus on stealth, espionage, and, of course, assassination. Details are still relatively thin on the ground at this point, but one of the biggest and most reliable online leakers has said with some confidence that an important feature of the recent THAT games were to be removed: AC Mirage will eliminate gender selection, for now at least.

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Although that seems to make sense given Ubisoft’s plans to bring Mirage in accordance with the previous THAT titles, many fans can’t help but be a little appalled that one of the most innovative and inclusive features in modern gaming has been left out, even if only for a single release. Gender selection is a great way for developers to deliver better representation in their games, a feature that’s often lacking in the ultra-macho, male-dominated AAA action market. Assassin’s Creed did not have its first female protagonist until 2012 Release, and even then the game was developed more as a sort of standalone expansion rather than a full-fledged standalone release.

The choice of genre gives players an element of autonomy over their gameplay experience without having to sacrifice function or make narrative concessions to a generic or custom protagonist. This can often lead to a better representation of more diverse sexualities, as romantic encounters that were once purely heterosexual can be diverse. This is seen in both AC Odyssey, AC Valhallaand Cyberpunk 2077. As is the case in Valhalla, players also have the option to switch mid-game if they prefer to see the world through a different set of eyes. As a mechanic conducive to open-world RPG titles, the gender selection certainly makes a lot of sense.

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Of course, the choice of gender does not affect the gameplay of most games yet, which can be considered a blessing or a curse depending on one’s point of view. A lack of in-game feedback from its genre selection means players aren’t hampered or helped by the choice they make, but it can make the process a bit arbitrary if the gameplay remains the same, that, for example, far cry 6‘s Dani Rojas is made man or woman.

What can be affected, however, is a game’s tone and narrative, especially when it comes to interacting with other characters and shaping the experience of increasingly cinematic cutscenes. . Although his character functions in exactly the same way from a practical and narrative point of view, OdysseyKassandra is fan-favorite by far over her male alternative Alexios, thanks to actor Melissanthi Mahut’s dry charm and effortless charisma. On the other hand, many Valhalla players expressed their affection for male Eivor as their favorite protagonist through the melodious flavor of Magnus Bruun Nielsen’s soothing Nordic tones.

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Although it may be hard to admit, sometimes the narrative and setting dictate that a character be male or female. Had the original grave robber offered a choice between Lara Croft and, say, Larry Croft, many fans at the time may have chosen the latter thanks to the game’s overwhelming bias at the time towards a male population of gamers. A game like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, meanwhile, works because some of the central character’s ostracism is likely driven by male assumptions and biases about his psychosis. The excellent platformer of 2018 Celestial is another example, as it is a journey built on the discovery of a person’s identity.

Letting players choose their character’s gender can sometimes threaten this integration into the narrative. This can result in a character that, while by no means generic, is somewhat compromised by having to be malleable between two separate personalities. Because gender-selected protagonists should be everything for all players and function the same no matter who plays them, there’s always a chance they’ll become generic or compromised as a result. For stories in which gender is central to a protagonist’s identity, the idea of ​​changing or removing this aspect of a character’s identity is to remove a vital part of who they are and who they are. functioning in relation to the story itself.

Games that offer genre choice depend a lot on the narrative they want to portray. The inclusion of more diverse game protagonists was just an improvement on a once male-dominated landscape. However, the choice of male or female heroes must be justifiable in the same way that denying such a dichotomy must also have its necessary merits. Some games require a decision one way or the other, but others thrive on being able to provide options that reflect how a player wants to experience the narrative as it unfolds. Fans will expect Ubisoft to be able to justify their decision to remove such a choice when Mirage drop in 2023.

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Carolyn M. Daniel