Is the LGBT Representation in Assassin’s Creed Shadows Just a Rumor?

Is that LGBTETC rumor about Assassin’s Creed Shadows solid? I’m not sure, which is why I haven’t written about it yet, but since it appeared, the circumstances around it suggest it very well could be. This rumor started with a blog post about Assassin’s Creed Shadows on the Ubisoft website, wherein the differences between main characters Yasuke and Naoe’s relationships with others – romantic and otherwise – were discussed:

“Naoe and Yasuke’s disparate personalities also lead them to have different relationships and rapports with other characters, and they don’t always feel the same way about people, nor do people always feel the same way about them. Romantically, they will also attract and be attracted to different types of people. Through the pair, players will get to experience a multitude of relationships.”

People took that to mean that one or both of the characters would be bisexual or some form of LGBT, but to me, it could just be that because the protagonists are a man and a woman, you would naturally experience different kinds of relationships through them – heterosexual men and women are attracted to “different types of people” by default. To be fair, the wording is ambiguous enough that you could read that into it; “multitude of relationships” would seem to indicate more than just a woman in love with a man or a man in love with a woman, but the preceding sentences also talk about non-romantic interactions with other people. There’s also the “Oh, come on!” factor; they’re already pushing believability, immersion, and the tolerance of people who don’t want woke stuff in their games by making Yasuke the lead and a samurai. (And even if you believe Yasuke was a samurai in real life, that they hunted down the one black guy in Japan at the time and made him the hero of their Assassin’s Creed game set in Japan is proof of their agenda.) To add “Oh, and he’s gay” to that would be to take something already blatant and make it cartoonish.

However, there are a few outside factors that make you wonder. First, according to That Park Place, Ubisoft has “contracted” with Sachi Schmidt-Hori, an associate professor at Dartmouth whose biography on the Dartmouth website says that she is “interested in investigating how gender, sexuality, corporeality, and power are represented and negotiated in pre-seventeenth-century Japanese narratives and illustrations.” That’s the very first sentence of her biography, by the way. Her first book is called Tales of Idolized Boys: Male-Male Love in Medieval Japanese Narratives, and it’s about Buddhist priests being romantically involved with “adolescent boys.” Her LinkedIn page says that she is a “narrative consultant” for Ubisoft, and That Park Place has a screenshot of her and associate narrative director Brooke Davies “discussing Assassin’s Creed Shadows.” This isn’t confirmation, of course, but it’s a bit suspicious that, out of the surely many experts on Japanese culture in America, they chose one who specializes in gender and sexuality, as if those should be central components of a video game about assassins.

Moreover, there’s Ubisoft’s lack of response to this rumor. You’d think a company already facing backlash on a game they desperately need to succeed would try to stamp out any unnecessary controversy surrounding said game, especially one that will turn off a lot of gamers. But no, this has been in the online conversation for a week, and they’ve said nothing. There’s also a leaked memo (courtesy of The Quartering) to Ubisoft employees asking them not to engage with anyone about DEI and representation in their games. They also affirm their commitment to these principles in the memo:

Again, none of this is confirmation of an LGBT-whatever presence in the game, but it absolutely means there’s reason to assume there is. And if there is, maybe those who got defensive about Yasuke will understand why gamers were annoyed; the messaging never stops with these people, to the point where making the hero of a game about samurai and ninjas set in feudal Japan a black guy isn’t woke enough for them.

Comments (2)

May 29, 2024 at 12:52 pm

Yeah, I’ve already taken Ubisoft off the menu. There’s no hope for them. Completely compromised by the virus.

    May 29, 2024 at 6:07 pm

    How does someone base a field of study on gender in feudal Japan? They didn’t paint with all the colors of the rainbow back then. That feels like someone scamming people for money, and while I laugh at universities and woke game companies losing money on this, it’s grating that people take it seriously.

    I can tell you what gender was like right now, for free: there were men and there were women. Another Scooby-Doo mystery solved.

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