Last week, Ubisoft posted a trailer for the multiplayer mode of upcoming game Assassin’s Creed 3. Predictably, it features whites and Native Americans, both men and women, killing each other with rifles, hammers, daggers and the like. Standard procedure for a multiplayer.
But my coworker and I both agreed that there was something ‘off’ about the trailer. Something that made it hard to watch. At first I thought it was the violence, and then I told myself to get a grip, because violent combat is pretty par for the course in videogames, and I’ve certainly cheered my share of vicious takedowns in the first two Assassin’s Creed games. But I forced myself to watch the video again, and then I realized: it wasn’t the violence that makes the AC3 multiplayer trailer hard to watch. It’s the gender ratio of the violence.
Trigger warning for violence.
The trailer shows a lot of men killing men, and quite a bit of men killing women. Only twice was a female assassin shown killing a male: once, at 0:38, where the Native American female assassin shares the screen with a white male assassin; and at 2:49, the last assassination of the trailer, when a white woman nails a white man in the head with the butt of her rifle, then shoots him as he lies on the ground. The other women in the trailer are either shown non-lethally striking a man, being non-lethally struck or thrown by a man, or being killed by a man. The worst is at 1:16, when a man in an overcoat and top hat grabs a woman in a low-cut green dress who is backing away from him, and plunges a dagger in her stomach. Then, for some reason, we get an instant replay.
The other two examples are at 1:39 and 2:04, the former being a white man stabbing the same low-cut green dress character in the stomach again, the latter a young white man who looks like Tidus from Final Fantasy X using a special ability to invisibly get behind a Native American woman and grab her around the throat with a hook. Bear in mind no female assassins are used to display any of the character types or special moves.
Look, Assassin’s Creed. I get that killing is your thing. But as long as you’re going to all but forego historical accuracy, you could at least not spectacularize violence against women. And while we’re on historical accuracy, maybe you thought you were dodging a bullet by apparently not including African Americans in AC3. I suppose it remains to be seen what you do with American slavery. But if the trailer’s line about playable multiplayer maps including “the blood-soaked cotton found on the Virginian plantation” is any indication, you’re going to milk that for every drop of exploitative “coolness-factor” as well.
Here’s the trailer:
What do you think? Is this fair game for a franchise whose main conceit is, well, assassinations? Is anyone else unnerved by the portrayals? How does it compare to other controversial trailers we’ve seen this year, like Hitman 3: Absolution, and the Tomb Raider reboot?