The Last of Us voice actress Ashley Johnson has criticised Ubisoft for failing to include playable female characters in Assassin’s Creed: Unity and called for developers to include “stronger females that are not just the damsel in distress, the love interest or oversexualised”.
“I’m sort of coming at this as an actress but also as a female gamer,” Johnson told VideoGamer.com earlier today while discussing the controversy over the lack of playable female characters in games.
“Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a great example of when I saw the gameplay and saw that [in] their multiplayer you do not have the option to play as a female. I was like, ‘Give me a fucking break! It’s 2014! How many video games do you have to make to realise maybe have an option to have a female be in there?’ And maybe not just on PS Vita.
“But it did make me upset. There are so many female gamers…,” she continued. “I don’t know what the percentage is at this point but there are a lot of females that play video games and it would be nice to see stronger females in a game that are not just the damsel in distress, the love interest or she’s oversexualised. She doesn’t even necessarily have to be a badass. Just like a normal female character.”
Johnson, who won a BAFTA for her role as Ellie in last year’s The Last of Us, doesn’t believe that it’s only females who should be better represented in games either, but males too.
“And not just females,” she continued. “On a broader spectrum, also male characters. Have a good story, have real characters and… I think the audience is changing so hopefully that’ll change a little bit more.”
Co-star Troy Baker, who plays The Last of Us’ Joel, praised Naughty Dog’s game for its strong line-up of female characters, but said that he didn’t want to see developers start adding “obligatory” female characters as a marketing ploy.
“What I don’t want to see happen is have the obligatory female character in there because that’s what marketing says we need to have,” he said. “I think that’s almost even more disrespectful than not having women in the game.
“But clearly there’s such a large demographic – I’m getting rid of the term ‘female gamer’ because you’re just a gamer, we don’t have to [identify] by gender – but there’s a large portion of gamers that are women that feel marginalised. They don’t feel like this game… it’s irrelevant to them. And that’s where games are going. It’s a very relevant way for them to immerse themselves in the story.”
Ubisoft faced criticism last month over its decision not to include playable female characters in Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and its reasoning for not doing so.
“A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation, a lot of costumes,” technical director James Therien told VideoGamer.com at E3. “It would have doubled the work on those things. And I mean it’s something the team really wanted, but we had to make a decision… It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality of game development.”
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot later responded by saying that the company was “working on” diversifying its characters for future games. “We want to spend more time on the worlds and characters in our games,” he said. “You will see more and more of this at Ubisoft. We’ll try to be less like we have been in the past with some characters. We’ll try to extend more diversity.”