Amid the commotion surrounding Assassin’s Creed: Unity at E3 2014 (not to mention the generally hectic nature of the event), it’s possible that you might have missed the gameplay demo for Rainbow Six: Siege, the latest tactical shooter in the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six series. As we discussed in our preview, the core concept of the game is either breaking down or building up walls, depending on whether you’re the team being sieged or the team doing the sieging.
The multiplayer demo for Rainbow Six: Siege showed a Rainbow team infiltrating a house and rescuing a female hostage, who ends up changing hands several times over the course of the gameplay. The demo understandably rubbed some people up the wrong way, since replacing the flag in a game of Capture the Flag with a woman is pretty much as close to a dictionary definition of objectification as its possible to get. It also came across as yet another example of the “Damsel in Distress” trope that’s been demonstrated to be ludicrously overused within the medium.
The demo was also released within the context of a wider controversy regarding Ubisoft and its female characters (or lack thereof) at E3 2014. The developers for both Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed: Unity admitted to cutting the playable female characters that they’d planned for the co-op campaigns due to the amount of work required. With that in mind, it seemed ironic that the Ubisoft could apparently only afford to animate female characters so long as they were screaming, flailing damsels.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves and starting jumping all over the Rainbow Six: Siege developers for having outdated views on women, it’s important to note that the game itself will actually be fairly egalitarian. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, technical artist Oliver Couture confirmed that there will also be male hostages within the game. The demo also featured the voice of a female player, though since she was playing a sniper and was never seen onscreen there’s no indication yet that it will be possible to play the game using a female character model.
Couture’s explanation didn’t stop at just confirming the existence of male hostages in the game, however. He also explained why, for the E3 demo, the team behind Rainbow Six: Siege decided to specifically use a female hostage, and his response opens up a whole other can of worms:
“I know some people asked about the hostage in the demo. I mean, when we did that design we felt a lot of empathy with the hostage. We wanted people to want to protect her. If the hostage gets killed a team loses the game, so we wanted players to care about the hostage so that’s the design we chose. But we’re also gonna have male hostages. That’s part of the plan.”
This somewhat cringeworthy, paternalistic attitude towards female characters also came to light back in 2012 during a minor controversy over comments made by Tomb Raider executive producer Ron Rosenberg, who claimed that, “When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character. They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’” It’s based on the assumption that players will always be male, and that they will also automatically feel deeply protective of a female NPC. These guys must not spend a lot of time on YouTube.
In essence this comes down to one of the main things we took away from E3 2014: Ubisoft is good at making games, but can stumble at marketing them. From the initial awkward comments regarding Assassin’s Creed: Unity‘s lack of playable female characters, to Ubisoft’s subsequent decision to apparently forbid developers from responding to questions about the subject in interviews, to the Rainbox Six: Siege team‘s decision to use an “empathetic” female hostage in the demo instead of breaking from tradition and having the team rescue a male hostage – Ubisoft badly needs to sort out its public image on this issue.
Rainbow Six Siege will release in 2015 for the PC, PS4, Xbox One.
Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun