Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Has Trans Character

N.B. Ned Wynert not pictured here

It wasn’t fair that last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity became the fall guy for an entire industry’s reluctance to make its digital people diverse. Unfortunately the apparently contradictory excuses, rather than acknowledgement of oversight, for cutting playable female characters from a game whose headline feature was co-op play with customised avatars made the situation much worse. In any case, the series now seems determined to be more inclusive, starting with the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate [official site].

We already know that you can switch between its male and female protagonists, twins Jacob and Evie Fry, and now it’s been revealed that the supporting cast will include a trans man.

Ned Wynert is a quest-giver character (presumably in line with the meticulously-rendered, very chatty quest’n’cutscene folk of the preceding games). He’s not in the picture above, FYI, but hopefully we’ll get to see him soon. The game has a Victorian London setting, but a period trans character would not be unfounded – take military surgeon James Barry, among others.

Wynert’s inclusion is accompanied by an update to Assassin’s Creed’s longstanding introductory text, which famously/notoriously stated that the games were “designed, developed and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs.”

According to our chums at Eurogamer, who have played some of the game and spoken to its developers, in Syndicate that statement now reads “this work of fiction was designed, developed, and produced by a multicultural team of various beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities.” The update came as a result of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate creative director Marc-Alexis Côté’s discussions with his writing team, some of whom had observed that the much-ballyhooed line was “not embracing diversity fully enough.”

Cote also tells Eurogamer that “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 the game.”

Eurogamer have played through some of Ned Wynert’s scenes, and note that nothing they saw revolved around his gender, and nor is it commented upon. We don’t have any images of him as yet, by the way.

Obviously I have no idea how well it will all play out in the game itself, but in theory these things are happy things.

80 Comments

  1. Kreeth says:

    Does everything Ubi still need Uplay? While I’m pleased they’re adding more diverse characters (can only be a good thing), it’s not going to make me buy it if I have to have yet another pigging login.

    • peterako1989 says:

      Its not really a good thing in it self. If you just include something just for the sake of including it, things might turn out ugly.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        Or not. It’s the story that makes it.

      • JFS says:

        I mean, their still not *that* diverse. What about including gandicapped people in their introductory statement? And in the game? Wheelchairs existed in Victorian Britain.

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      gritz says:

      You recognize the irony of logging into a site so that you can complain about having to login to things, right?

      • jrodman says:

        Given that one login allows discourse with others with some respite from piles of spam, and the other login exists only to prevent you from being able to run software you own, No.

  2. Phantom_Renegade says:

    Scare must have been pretty big to go from being as exclusive as possible to including absolutely everyone.

    The biggest problem was never them only having white men as their protagonists in the main series (although it was a bit of a problem) the problem was them scrapping or not considering other possible leads for reasons that were dumb.

    I’m not sure that forced inclusivity here is better. Especially because you just know they’ll write it in a way that’ll have the trans person on screen for about 5 minutes with a negligible impact on the story just to shout, “See, we’re inclusive!”

    • steviebops says:

      It literally wasn’t a problem. At all. People started adding ‘main series’ when it became too fucking apparent they ignored or never heard of Liberation.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Their first protagonist was Arabic, their 3rd Native American, and indeed there is Liberation and Freedom Cry if we’re allowed to go off “the main series.”

      Exclusively white male protagonists has not been an Assassin’s Creed problem. Even Ezio is a change of pace from that Standard Video Game protagonist mold.

    • czerro says:

      The tokenism is strong in Ubi. Please explain to me how a tertiary character comes across as trans without a bunch of expository exposition to define the character as trans, for the loaded purpose of ‘having a trans’.

      I know people like this for some reason, but I don’t see how it makes sense.

      Take your hits to the chin, and try and be more thoughtful in your portrayals, Ubi? Throwing a trans character in in the eleventh hour is going to come across ridiculous. Might as well throw a furry in there too.

      Assasin: You have a quest for me…creature?

      Quest Giver: I’m a Charmander…

      Assasin: I don’t know what that means. Be you man or beast?

      Quest Giver: I identify as a Charmander and derive a certain insatiable satisfaction from the forms of pokemon and what I imagine the texture of their skin feels like, and hypothesized sexual activity.

      Assasin: Er…can I get the quest now?

      Quest Giver: Your goal is the cathedral, CHARMANDER! Char, Char. But in order to elude the garrison —

      Assasin: Um…I didn’t understand any of that…and I possess something adjacent to a loony Dickensian accent…

  3. int says:

    Will they manage to create correct animations for the trans character?

    • Relnor says:

      What would be the correct animations though ? Female animations ? Male animations ? Special animations ? There will probably be a blog out there somewhere discussing why whatevere choice they made was bad.

      • czerro says:

        Yeah, this is clearly the greatest gaff in history. There is no way to deliver this character without it being offensive. Can’t they simply hire someone at Ubi that isn’t a neanderthal and put them on the writing staff.

        I would think it would be difficult to have a trans character in a game that is overtly and obviously trans. You would have to work really hard in the writing to kinda possibly suggest this in the narrative. I mean, that would be fantastic, but that doesn’t sound like that’s what they did here.

        This character would require so much face-time for the ‘hints’ to come across, and again, if it isn’t relevant to the story, you are just doing SOME justice to a tokenistic ambition.

        If they want to go this route…why can’t the protag be a lady syncing with a male assassin in the past? They don’t even need to overtly reference the trans element, it just develops in the story as a woman reliving and modifying the events of the past in a mans body and interacting how she would. Or vice versa. It doesn’t matter. I mean, the mechanics of assassin’s creed are particularly designed for investigating this sort of examination of gender/sexuality/identification.

    • xeNNNNN says:

      er….what? what are you expecting to see? animations? they’re wearing clothes…frankly you wont notice any physical difference, not to mention the fact most “trans” people dont walk stupidly or anything they just walk like normal people like anyone else. some walk feminine others walk masculine, i know this because I have a friend whos transgendered they really are no different than average people.

      which is why im not even sure they this is even needed in the game or even a relevant story.

      • Davie says:

        It’s a reference to the developers’ excuse for no female characters in Unity–A female animation set would apparently be too difficult/time-consuming to include.

  4. suibhne says:

    Fury Road’s portrayal of “disability” was so powerful because it undermined that label without once – not once! – focusing on it. I really don’t trust Ubi to take a similar tack (rather than, say, present a “very special questline”). Still, games are so far behind other media that it’s hard to say what might constitute laudable incremental progress.

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      phuzz says:

      It might still be better than captain Kidd in Black Flag, aka the least convincing male impersonator in a video game in 2013.

    • ribby says:

      Really? I don’t think I’ve seen any films with trans characters

      • Shadow says:

        To be honest, I think any number of characters across all media could be trans and you wouldn’t know because their birth, childhood and/or growing up is not explored.

        It’s rather hamfisted to go for inclusiveness merely presenting a character and saying, “This is Bob and he’s a trans man”. That’s just a PR move, like their rather pointless disclaimer.

      • Philomelle says:

        You should watch Twin Peaks sometimes. It’s pretty great and David Duchovny is one of its best parts.

        In another curiously related example, the actress who plays Evie in Syndicate actually started her career by playing a transman in a British soap opera.

      • suibhne says:

        Fair point – trans representation in films has certainly far, far lagged behind LGB representation, e.g. See “Dallas Buyers Club” and the new “Stonewall” for pretty problematic examples. On the other hand, TV is doing pretty damn well in this area. “Transparent” makes some missteps, but is arguably a big step forward; clearer wins are “Orange Is The New Black” and “Sense8”, both cases in which trans identity is foregrounded and the major trans character is played by a trans actor. (In “Sense8”, especially, “trans issues” aren’t treated in any spectacular way; they’re simply life. It’s easy for me to not notice things like that, but trans friends felt it was truly liberating to see a TV series take that approach. I read similar responses to “Fury Road” from amputees, tho I didn’t hear those firsthand.)

        • ribby says:

          please don’t use terms like ‘problematic’ :( :(

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            Phasma Felis says:

            I can’t tell if you’re trolling or serious.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Fairly sure he’s serious, based on previous postings.

            He’s… not very willing to engage in discourse he doesn’t like.

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        Phasma Felis says:

        There’s not a lot, but there’s a lot more than there are games. The Crying Game (1992) and Boys Don’t Cry (1999) both achieved mainstream success; trans characters have only started showing up in gaming in the past few years, even in little-known indie titles.

  5. Freud says:

    When they announce they are going to do it, it’s obvious it’s just a PR thing.

    • montorsi says:

      They aren’t announcing it – RPS and Eurogamer are.

    • pepperfez says:

      Also “just PR things”: The game being set in London; twin protagonists; the title. After all, Ubi made a point of announcing them, which they obviously wouldn’t have done if those features were at all important to the game.

  6. lylebot says:

    That introductory text was originally there because they made a game where you play a Muslim murdering Christians, no? Just a way to say “look, it’s just a game, don’t freak out, some of us are Muslims and Christians too and we’re not murdering each other”. Interesting how it’s evolved over time.

    • iainl says:

      Wasn’t it less that you’re a Muslim murdering Christian, but rather you’re someone who learns that neither faith is true, because it’s Pan-dimensional Space Aliens, all the way down?

      • RobinOttens says:

        Yup, and then there was the bit about how Jesus’ magic powers came from an ancient alien artifact rather than him being a son of God.

        Either way, it was nice to see them make a big budget expensive game about muslims and christians murdering each other without being scared to be a bit offensive and taboo breaking. Just like it was nice to see them make an AC game with a female protagonist and a black ex-slave protagonist. And it’s nice to see them include a trans character this time around. It IS interesting to see how the introductory text has evolved.

        • RobinOttens says:

          Now if only their historical content was based more on actual history rather than pop culture’s memory of it (e.g. French revolution and Jack the Ripper)

          • suibhne says:

            That’s an interesting complaint. Black Flag was the last one I played, but I thought AC3 in particularly was a great example of not showing the stereotypical view of history, especially for a studio that gets a big chunk of sales from the US. The rest of the game didn’t consistently live up to that, but still.

      • xeNNNNN says:

        lol they arent aliens they’re native to the planet :P they were simply here first + they created us according to the lore.

  7. ribby says:

    You can’t win like this. Inclusiveness isn’t about forcing as many different types of people into your games as possible, just to avoid attacks from the PC brigade. It’s so blatantly obvious after the backlash they received from the last game (which I believe would have been very minor and from a small number of people if they hadn’t made such a moronic excuse) that that’s what they’re doing here. And from the quotes, they sound like freaking politicians!

    If they wanted to really be inclusive they could’ve put a trans character in and not mentioned it. I’d think that trans people would prefer it if trans people could just be characters in games and movies without people having to take special measures and make a big deal about it when they do.

    Also is this character going to be openly trans?? I feel like that wouldn’t end well in Victorian London. Isn’t she the queen who claimed that lesbians didn’t exist? And if they’re not openly trans and instead have disguised themself,how will we know?

    • RobinOttens says:

      It always helps to see a game’s marketing as a separate entity from the actual game and dev team. The dev team is good for including this. The marketing department are the ones deciding to boast about it. They sound like politicians because just like politicians everything that goes public about the game is checked, rewritten and filtered to sound good and politically correct.

      Hearing something like this is still better than hearing them make up excuses about being unable to animate female character models.

      • ribby says:

        Oh I see.So was it the marketing team who came up with that excuse? When really all they needed to say was, look we’re sorry we didn’t choose to have female playable characters in this game, maybe in the next game we’ll have those- we’ll see

        • FriendlyFire says:

          No, marketing came to the dev team and told them “We need an excuse for this fiasco and we need it yesterday.”

          • April March says:

            The thing is, related to ACIII, the devs never decided to not include female characters; they just decided that every player character would be Arno. That’s a rather sensible decision; the player character is much harder to animate satisfactorily than NPC’s, since the player will be staring direcly at his ass; and they’d need to animate four of them, and maybe more for preorder bonuses and DLCs and… so there’s only one player character, who happens to be a white male. But marketing wanted to downplay this, and told the devs to refer to the different Arnos (Arnox?) as ‘characters’, which caused people to ask if there would be female characters, which pushed the devs in the wall between their audience and marketing. So they gave a response that sounded inane because of the gags they were being forced to wear.

            As for this case, only when the game comes out will we be able to tell if this is a reasonable inclusion that matches with the game’s feel or if it’s just marketing shouting LOOK AT HOW INCLUSIVE WE ARE.

    • hungrycookpot says:

      You literally can’t win no matter what. How would anyone know if they had a trans character if they didn’t say it? Then they’d be accused of not representing trans people, an admittedly massive demographic in 18th century England.

  8. WJonathan says:

    “…and now it’s been revealed that the supporting cast will include a trans man.”

    Oh, great, more anachronisms. I mean, in theory it’s great to have a mechanic as an ally, but the automatic transmission didn’t even show up until 1939.

    • pepperfez says:

      This is high quality commenting.

      • WJonathan says:

        Now, if my supporting cast included a Trans Am, I could overlook that. Preferably black the with giant gold eagle logo on the hood.

  9. Jekadu says:

    I think this sounds grand. The AC writers are very skilled; presumably they’re taking this very seriously!

  10. Deadly Habit says:

    This seems to be pandering like Dragon Age’s campaign of “FIRST FULLY GAY CHARACTER”.

    • Jekadu says:

      How is pandering a bad thing? The white male crowd gets pandered to all the time.

      • Jediben says:

        Give the audience what they want. If what you want isn’t bread and circuses, tough.

      • Hyes says:

        Whenever someone doesn’t pander to me, it means they’re pandering to someone else.

        That’s just wrong.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        “Pandering” by definition is a word that carries negative connotations. You don’t want to do it at all.

        Again, I have to draw a comparison with modern genre fiction. There’s a ton of extremely progressive science fiction out there, for example. It’s well written and it actually explores a wide variety of issues with gender and other stuff.

        “Hey look we have a trans character” seems so incredibly childish by comparison.

        • Jekadu says:

          Of course the word has negative connotations. I still decided to challenge it since it presupposes that any attempts at appeasement are inherently negative. I do not agree with this, and consider it a self-centered argument.

        • Yglorba says:

          Pandering carries negative connotations, but I think it’s taking things too far to say “no game should ever do it.” It can be fun to play a guilty pleasure sometimes — something that just sets out to give you what you want, whether it’s dumb stupid fun or a protagonist that looks like you or a protagonist you want to sleep with or whatever.

          The trick is for games to recognize when they’re doing it and not to just insert blatant pandering someplace it doesn’t belong for no reason (or purely to boost sales.) But even then, you have to consider the entire game in context before you can say that it’s a problem.

          (It’s also more of a problem when everything or nearly everything is pandering, especially when they’re all pandering in the exact same way — at that point it starts to look like intellectual laziness or just plain bad writing. But having some things that pander to a variety of different groups isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)

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      Maltose says:

      The marketing might be pandering (didn’t dragon age have wonderful marketing?), but that doesn’t mean that the act of including of LGBTQ characters is.

  11. ParasiteX says:

    Ubi are already fucking up big time with the way they are presenting this character, by focusing on the fact the character is trans.
    When your main defining aspect of a character is their sexuality or disability.. then the character generally comes off as very badly written.

    Granted writing in a trans character into a story without it looking forced is difficult.

    As i can imagine most trans people don’t want the fact they are trans to be something people immediately identify themselves as. Isn’t the whole point of being trans to become a different gender? And it kinda defeats the purpose if you constantly point out to people or make it blatantly obvious you are trans.

    • Hyes says:

      From the article: “Eurogamer have played through some of Ned Wynert’s scenes, and note that nothing they saw revolved around his gender, and nor is it commented upon. We don’t have any images of him as yet, by the way.”

      Your argument is unfortunately entirely unfounded.

      This quote from RobinOttens earlier in the comments section might help:

      “It always helps to see a game’s marketing as a separate entity from the actual game and dev team. The dev team is good for including this. The marketing department are the ones deciding to boast about it. They sound like politicians because just like politicians everything that goes public about the game is checked, rewritten and filtered to sound good and politically correct.

      Hearing something like this is still better than hearing them make up excuses about being unable to animate female character models.”

      • ParasiteX says:

        In that case Ubisoft need to hire some better marketing people.. As they are fucking morons.

        If the dev writing team are able to write in a trans char, without putting in unnecessary amount of focus on that characters gender and sexuality. Then i’m ok with it.

        But there are other issues i have with Syndicate that is making me hesitant to buy it tho.. The whole silliness with going into camouflage mode if standing still for a few seconds.. and the rope grapple, which will make sneaking in to areas ludicrously easy..
        And the way the game insists on pointing several of points of entry, and not just letting the player discover them on their own..
        Waay to much hand holding..
        This may end up becoming the most watered down AC title yet..

        • RobinOttens says:

          They are morons, but so are the marketing departments for a lot of other publishers. And it got them articles on RPS and Eurogamer, so I suppose they succeeded at their job.

          • ParasiteX says:

            They succeeded in pissing off a lot of people.. so i guess congrats on Ubis PR team..

          • jrodman says:

            It’s an unfortunate truth that many marketing and/or PR people believe that pissing people off in ways they find acceptable is a high-value path to success.

            It’s even worse that I’m not sure they’re wrong.

  12. Blastaz says:

    I think AC got stick very unfairly for Unity. They didn’t cut women from a game with customisable avatars; they didn’t include customisable avatars in their coop game. You just played Arno with in a random colour robe. You couldn’t choose to have a female avatar just as you couldn’t choose to have a male avatar.

    First, AC probably has the most diverse set of protagonists of any series ever, game or film. An Arab, an Italian, an Englishman (if you count Haytham, and I do because he is the best!) an Iroquois, a half French half African, a Welshman, a west African, an Irishman and a Frenchman.

    While that list has a certain Western European bent, and contains a full joke, and only has one lass in that long list of lads it’s undeniably more diverse than your stock gruff, cis, het, white murderbro.

    Secondly women have since ac2 (do you want to look at the book aside) been depicted as strong independent characters with their own agency. When you have a chance to form your brotherhood they are always included history and biology not withstanding.

    Third if you like your politics intersectional then Liberation can be read as a fascinating look at the intersection of class, race and gender. Cross dress as the male assassin and the game immediately becomes more violent with guards constantly hostile. Play up your race as the slave and suddenly you are beneath the notice of the white guards. Emphasise your sexuality, but more so, your money as the aristocratic lady and you can bribe your way past people. That’s a much more interesting look at intersectionality in video games than you get on Feminist Frequency.

    Fourth freedom cry is a really good expose of the horrors of slavery. Compare and contrast the feeling of liberating a slave ship where the frail figure reaches out to you at the end with literally the same animation, but stripped of the context, of rescuing a pow in rogue.

    In conclusion AC has always actually been really good at this stuff and I felt that it was massively counter productive to manufacture outrage over the lack of customisable coop and some bullshit bullshitting by someone put on the spot for Unity. AC really does look at inclusivity in games in a way that isn’t nearly as preachy as modern bio ware. It should be praised for that and not have this story devolve into “they done goofed and now they pulled out a tranny as a sop to the sjws.” spew.

    • RobinOttens says:

      *thumbsup*

      These games have loads of issues. But you can’t fault them for the times where they actually use game/AI mechanics, and not just pre-written story, to let the player experience gender, race and social status.

    • Foolish Wizard says:

      Great post, I thoroughly agree. In the name of inclusivity some people lose track of what’s actually going on around them.
      Another case in point: Anita Sarkeesian (or Feminist Frequency? I don’t know if the Twitter account is meant to be her private one) was glad that Dishonored 2 had a female character, but disappointed that it didn’t go far enough and still decided to include a male character.
      Now, my question is: how many games do we have with women protagonists? And how many games are there with characters who are in a father-daughter relationship? I’m gonna say: definitely less.

    • hamilcarp says:

      “the most diverse set of protagonists of any series ever, game or film.”

      Thanks, I needed a laugh.

      • Blastaz says:

        They are from four continents; pretty much every social class from slave, farmer, merchant to aristocrat; and (although this is a tough one to compete with) five centuries.

        What (real world) film/game series has a more diverse cast?

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      Grizzly says:

      I think a lot of the initial ‘outrage’ was not so much about the lack of a female character, but because Ubisoft’s first excuse was that it took too long for them to do animations for a women character (nvm the multiplayer, but I digress).

      Later it was said that it had something to do with the way co op was arranged, but the damage was done already.

  13. Jekadu says:

    What a very strange post. People who want more diversity are very well aware that video game companies are out to make money. Also, since when are people existing a political thing?

    I’d argue that, assuming for a moment that a creative work can be “unpolitical”, it is “more” political to only depict white, straight people. I mean, when you live in a large city you can’t take a five minute walk without passing people from dozens of backgrounds and cultures. Pretending they don’t exist or aren’t normal makes the simulation less believable.

    • Jekadu says:

      This was a reply to a removed post; never mind me.

    • median says:

      I wonder how trans this character will be. Is he really transgendered, or just a woman passing as a man for social reasons?

      Either way, it’s progress.

      But next time I’m play through an AC game, I’m going to assume the main character is gay. There’s very little indicating they’re *not* gay.

      • jrodman says:

        So long as it isn’t present primarily as a punchline, I’d say yes. (I don’t see anything saying it does, but I remain a bit suspicious.)

    • Shadow says:

      I’m not sure what you’re addressing, but AC in particular is not a game which only depicts straight white people.

      As for largely invisible things such as being trans and sexuality, you can’t really assume anyone to be straight and not trans unless romance/sex involves them or they’re shown explicitly nude and that reveals something unexpected, respectively.

      • Jekadu says:

        The person I was replying to first made the strange claim that the people arguing for diversity were the same people claiming it was a cynical PR stunt. There was some ranting about “Social Justice Warriors” (I’m a Social Justice Shadow Priest, thank you very much). Finally, there was a demand that politics be kept out of games.

        There might have been more. I replied because I’m new as a commenter and oh my gods this place is actually moderated this is the best

        …ahem. I’m used to bullshit being allowed as long as it’s polite. I’d rather not leave it unchallenged.

      • Jekadu says:

        Also, something being invisible is precisely why it has to be pointed out. As someone with disabilities that are, if not invisible, then at least difficult to depict accurately, I can empathize with feeling underrepresented in fiction.

        It’s difficult to explain. You start to feel marginalized when people telling stories won’t create characters that accurately represent your identity. Stories and storytelling are central to the human condition, and being constantly ignored or depicted as an inaccurate stereotype will cause people to see you as an oddity.

        • jrodman says:

          Things need to be visible enough that people think about them enough to avoid knee-jerk fear from ignorance and move towards understanding and empathy. When there’s enough general cultural comprehension, the imperative for visibility reduces, but the amount of visibility that happens in due course rises.

          I’m sure you meant all this, but I’m just saying it .. for.. posterity?

  14. mechanixis says:

    This is great and all, I just wish it wasn’t something that makes the news. Having these characters with a big diversity signpost around their necks isn’t really the sort of inclusion anyone wants – though admittedly it’s a big step in the right direction from no inclusion at all.

  15. Tazer says:

    Buckle up Buttercup!

  16. Geebs says:

    AssCreed isn’t critically relevant, as previously pointed out in these very pages. The series has been crap since the second one.

    Given that all they have managed to do with the IP is take out all of the assassinations, add microtransactions and buff their nauseatingly apologetic opening disclaimer, a bit of (otherwise pretty welcome/better than nothing) tokenism isn’t going to stop AssCreed from sucking ever harder.

    Also, Assassin’s Creed is the reason we don’t get any more PoP games, and that makes me very cross indeed,