As video games become a bigger part of society in general, they’ve experienced some growing pains. After all, games are supposed to be a reflection of the culture they are created in or borrow their story from, and culture has become increasingly complex and nuanced. It wasn’t too long ago that developer Ubisoft met criticism over their female protagonists, or lack thereof, and even had other game studios taking shots at their mistakes.
To their credit, Ubisoft learned, and learned quickly. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will feature a female protagonist, Evie Frye, alongside her brother Jacob, but the developers haven’t stopped their. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be a game of big firsts for Ubisoft, as they’re expanding their cast to become even more diverse and culturally informed.
For the first time since Assassin’s Creed‘s debut in 2007, the series will feature a transgender character. The character’s name will be Ned Wynert, a transgender male, who will feature as one of a handful of quest-givers in the series’ interpretation of 1800’s London, England. Although little else is known about the character so far, the fact that Ned even exists is a huge step forward for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate‘s accessibility.
Marc-Alexis Côté, the creative director of the latest installment in the series, told Eurogamer earlier that accessibility is crucial to the team’s approach to the game. He was quoted as saying:
“Inclusiveness is something that’s super important for us as a team…we’ve made a good push towards diversity and how we approach different subjects in game.”
This change in core philosophy is also reflected in the game’s opening credits. The Assassin’s Creed opening statement, which runs every time a player starts the game, now says that it is “inspired by historical events and characters…and produced by a multicultural team of various beliefs, sexual orientations, and gender identities”. Previously, the statement had been “produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs”.
Eurogamer also had the chance to go hands-on with a few of the Ned Wynert missions, and reported that Wynert’s gender is never explicitly mentioned over the course of gameplay. That’s very much intentional, as Côté wants players to form their own opinions about Ned as a human being first without making the character solely defined by their status as transgendered.
Although Ned’s inclusion wasn’t the first thing Ubisoft showed off when announcing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate‘s new features, the character should prove a welcome breath of fresh air in a series that was divisive in terms of its longevity.
Ubisoft has previously stated that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will feature much more gameplay in the modern-day setting than the critically maligned Unity did, but that modernity might just bleed over into the game’s overall narrative too. If it does, like it has with Ned, the series will be better for it.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate releases for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 23, 2015.