LGBTQ Group Nominates Assassin's Creed Odyssey For An Award, With A Caveat

Nominees for the first ever gaming category in the annual GLAAD awards were announced today, honouring The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset, Guild Wars 2: Arena of Fire, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, The Sims Mobile and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for their representation of LGBTQ characters.

The nomination of that last game included an additional explanatory note addressing a controversial required romance in the most recent downloadable expansion.

“Our decision to nominate Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is ultimately rooted in the understanding that progress can sometimes be messy,” Blair Durkee, a consultant for the LGBTQ advocacy group, wrote in a blog post. Durkee went on to note that the nomination was sure to “raise eyebrows”.

The raised eyebrows would be due to the turn Odyssey has taken in recent weeks. Since before launch, the ancient Greek adventure from Ubisoft drew attention for, among other things, letting players choose to play as a man named Alexios or a woman named Kassandra and then romance (and sleep with) any of a handful of male or female characters players might encounter in the game.

Sex happened off-screen, but characters could choose who to court, including various dialogue options for flirting and developing these relationships. Players had been told by the game’s creators that they’d never be forced to have a relationship with any specific character and could roleplay with their protagonist as having any sexuality in the 100-hour game.

This was all reinforced in the game itself, until a downloadable expansion released to paying customers last week. This expansion introduced a required straight romance, seemingly for the plot purpose of having a biological child.

“At worst, this sends the harmful message that sexual orientation can be changed at will and that LGBTQ people can choose to conform to heteronormative expectations in spite of their identities,” Durkee wrote.

Many fans complained about the DLC’s mandatory straight relationship last week, with some expressing hurt that the game seemed to be presenting homosexuality as a choice that could be undone and others simply saying that this was not what they had been told the game would do.

In response, Ubisoft and the game’s creative director made several apologies: First for surprising players, and later, in a more nuanced message, for letting players down.

Yesterday, the developers said they would alter some dialogue and a cutscene in the released DLC to better accommodate players who wanted to choose the “non-romantic” version of the relationship.

The DLC won’t be changing the character’s decision to engage in heterosexual intercourse to have a child, but will apparently more greatly enable the relationship to play out as a utilitarian one that is engaged in only to continue a bloodline. The final fate of the relationship will be depicted in an upcoming final chapter to the expansion.

Durkee described the announced changes as “a positive step”, though noted that these changes “do not entirely solve the challenge”. They also noted that GLAAD has been in contact with Ubisoft to offer feedback about the whole situation, which a Ubisoft rep also confirmed to Kotaku.

On forums and social media, fans’ feedback to the Assassin’s Creed team’s statements and plans have been mixed.

Some say it’s been a good faith effort to honour the spirit in which the game was originally presented and that it addresses the bait-and-switch many players felt.

Others argue it is ceding too much authorial control, though the authors of the game do seem quite motivated to do it and aren’t actually changing their major plot points.

Some fans have gotten hung up on the idea that Assassin’s Creed’s historical protagonists used to be required to have biological descendants based on the logic of how the game’s modern-day lore has connected to its playable events in the past, but the biological descendant thing hasn’t actually been required of the game’s heroes in the franchise’s most recent games.

There had been no indication prior to this past week that Alexios or Kassandra would need to have a descendant, which explains how many players were caught by surprise.

GLAAD’s nomination for Odyssey reads as follows:

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey follows protagonists Kassandra and Alexios across an epic role-playing adventure in ancient Greece. True to the norms of the historical period, sexuality is fluid and celebrated. Both Kassandra and Alexios can romance same-sex characters in the game and will often encounter non-player characters with same-sex partners. There are specific references to historical LGBTQ figures, including Alcibiades and Sappho. LGBTQ inclusion is both prominently featured and effectively woven throughout the game.

The other games were also lauded for their representation of LGBTQ characters: Guild Wars 2’s expansion for “making LGBTQ identities feel like a natural and vital part of the world”, Pillars of Eternity 2 for an “expansive cast of characters includes many with LGBTQ identities”, The Sims for bringing its long-running LGBTQ inclusiveness to mobile, and the Elder Scrolls expansion for “a questline in which the player helps a transgender woman reunite with her estranged twin sister”.

The winner of GLAAD’s gaming award will be announced in the coming weeks.


Comments

    surely AC is unlikely to win after what they did compared to GW2 and pillars of eternity 2

    PS the sims is not a game >: [

      How is the sims not a video game?

        It's an awesome rpg series. How else can my super villain character travel to the future to steal technology and create a dystopia :D

          Kidnapping death and Santa and locking them in your dungeon to edit your videos, there is nothing more fun than that.

    By the way, it's Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire. You called it Arena of Fire. I hope they win!!

    It's not hard to see how this would frustrate people. How could the writers and multiple people this filters through not know how wrong this is? It's actually pathetic from a big company like ubi.

      I don't know but maybe there was a different team that worked on the dlc and only had a brief like Alexios/Kassandra has to have a child and the team just wrote it that way without knowing much about the rest of the game or the sexuality side of things.

      Still lazy and ridiculous though, there should of been better oversight so that it flowed better, I mean the character was supposed to have a child, that was part of there story, but that could happen without the relationship side of things.

      You would think someone would catch it somewhere along in the process. Heck even players who are doing a hetrosexual playthrough are given no choice ad forced to boink that person

    I'm close to saying give Ubi the award for finally having a PR response to a controversy where they actually take some responsibility for once.

    Seriously though, I don't think they should win, I think they should be condemned for a whole different reason in trying to sell the so called "inclusive romance system" in the first place.
    The claim is the DLC "missed the mark" in their quest to build the much hyped relationship/romance part of the game but it feels more like there never was an actual romance/relationship system in the game to begin with (it's not even a very good casual sex system either, Witcher 3's prostitutes feel like exciting character driven smut novels in comparison)
    You talk to a person, get the option to begin replying to comments with innuendo and then walk out of shot before returning a few seconds later to a reoccurring chorus of "Oh that was neat, do you wanna join my crew? Either way won't be saying two words ever again.....so...thanks for what ever this was"
    It even had less meaning to the game than the Athens vs Sparta battle system which itself didn't even end up feeling like a massive gib.

    It feels to me they tried to sell an incomplete system with no actual depth as some brave champion of choice.
    On paper you do still technically have a choice, but to claim it to be anything more than a bareboned anything-that-walks belt notch simulator is a bit rich.
    Jesus, even early Witcher and Bioware (screw everything without repercussion) games didn't feel so irrelevant to the causes of sex, relationships and inclusiveness in games.

    Yeah sorry, bit of a rant.

      Yeah they are pretty much sitting at the level of fable relationships now (maybe less since you can't actively pursue safe sex.)

    Hi, it’s me, the 34 year old gay man again. I’m pretty disheartened to say that this stance by Durkee and his/her/its/their group is deeply wrong, and profoundly arrogant. Let’s start and end with the below quote, for simplicities’ sake:

    “At worst, this sends the harmful message that sexual orientation can be changed at will and that LGBTQ people can choose to conform to heteronormative expectations in spite of their identities,” Durkee wrote.

    No, it doesn’t. That’s you overprinting your bizarro internal-schema onto something that’s rather less threatening to LGBTQ+ people than you’d like everyone to believe. In reality, it’s a narrative device used in a fictional story to explain how a character is conceived. The device is based on a common social norm, of straight men and women having children together. In life, babies are a thing.

    Now, I’m getting a hint that there is some claim that EA Games (Edit: Ubisoft? Someone help me out here) have oppressed the LGBTQ+ by their failure to create their vision according to how YOU deem it should have been. Which is arrogant. And if you don’t understand why it’s arrogant, that’s your problem, not theirs or anyone else’s. And just because they’ve buckled, bowed and whimpered an apology doesn’t mean you’re right, it means they have no balls. Because they should have said: “Dear LGBTQ+ people, we love you, but lighten up.” I’d have respected them more.

    Let your gay old uncle tell you what real oppression is: being arrested and incarcerated for being gay, being beaten by cops. Being fired from your job for being gay. Being thrown out of your family home for being gay. The kind of stuff that tends not to happen anymore, because your gay aunties and uncles fought and died for your civil rights. And, as MY gay old uncles did a few generations before me, gays were, y’know, actually gassed and murdered and buried in mass graves for being gay.

    So, from your gay old uncle’s perspective, the LGBTQ+ community have NEVER had it so equal as they do now, and you little queerlets need to harden up and understand that, because you are embarrassing the hell out of us and it’s not okay. Stop. Being. Annoying!

    And again, most importantly: it’s okay to be straight.

    Last edited 27/01/19 8:38 am

    Players had been told by the game’s creators that they’d never be forced to have a relationship with any specific character and could roleplay with their protagonist as having any sexuality in the 100-hour game.

    I think it'd be important here to provide a quote where Ubisoft did this, to help explain the players that were disappointed by the choice.

      maybe there isn't a specific quote.

      I don't play AC anymore so i never payed any attention to the media surrounding the game but we have all seen before with other games that people can hype themselves up about some feature or another that is mentioned until the expectation of what is going to be there is completely different.

    Well you do play the game as one of the descendants of one of the characters (ancestors are how animus works)... So it was going to happen at one point.
    The characters were always intended to reproduce in canon.

    Ubi would have been clever to make it happen subtler off screen, with inferences though to avoid creating such overt disconnect.

    Remember when the same thing happened to Mass Effect Andromeda?

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