Assassin’s Creed: Shadows trailer drops, angering people who hate inclusivity

Today, Ubisoft released the trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Shadows. Assassin’s Creed is perennially one of the most anticipated releases every year they come out, and Shadows is specifically significant because it takes place in feudal Japan–which to some might be too late after the superb 2020 release of Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima.

Whether intentional or not, one of the more interesting developments is the fact that the game has two protagonists: a Japanese woman and a black man. Of course, this sent Twitter/X in a tizzy (for the wrong reasons), with gamers yelling “DEI” in a negative context (when it’s a positive), and this is one of the biggest reasons why the game is trending.

“When was there ever a black samurai?”

Easily Googleable. Yasuke, coined as “the black samurai”, has had multiple films as well as games based on his story. I don’t remember people calling those “woke.”

“A female protagonist? DEI.”

They’ve been doing this for years now. Are we just gonna ignore Kassandra? To be fair, that character also got a fair share of eyerolls when she was first unveiled. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla also featured an optional female protagonist.

A lot of people consider Shogun to be the height of television this year. The show features a white man trying to get in good with the proud Japanese samurai. The story of Yasuke is similar in a multitude of ways, yet it’s the black samurai that gets hate.

Why is representation so threatening to people?

I’m not saying “make less games about white dudes.” It’s not even about that. By all means, make more. What I’m saying is there should be more games about different kinds of people. At the very least, there should be themes and world building about those that are lesser known.

I’m Filipino-American. One of the most annoying things I see on social media from other “Fil-Ams” that I also partake in is the fact that we always have to let you know when we see something Filipino. Jo Koy? He’s one of the best stand-up comedians and he’s Filipino. Manny Pacquiao? Arguably one of the best boxers of all-time, who’s also Filipino. Ube? We claim that.

The reason we (Filipinos) do that is because we hardly ever get the credit. The fact that a fast food brand like Jollibee is as popular as it is in the United States is something we really hang our hats on, but the restaurant’s three specialties (fried chicken, spaghetti, and burgers) aren’t originally Filipino. Still, as popular as Jollibee is, it’s not even close to what Panda Express is today, and I’m not saying it should be — except how many of you reading are aware of what a Filipino actually looks like?

So when something as “small” as a Filipino character shows up in a video game, it makes me feel seen. This isn’t small to me. It’s a very big deal.

When I worked at EA, I had the pleasure of helping out Respawn’s community team invite Filipino content creators to a special event talking about Conduit, Apex Legends‘ sole Filipina Legend. While uncredited, this is one of the proudest moments in my seven years with the company. Having one of my own people in a mainstream game like Apex Legends means a lot to me, but I can’t help but wonder what the future holds.

At GDC a few months ago, the creator of Conduit, Christal Rose Hazelton, went into more detail about diversity in gaming here. In this talk, Christal talks about the difficulties of creating diverse characters even if the character is representative of its creator. It’s easy to point out what’s wrong, but as long as you do it the right way, the sense of accomplishment you get is unmatched. When she talked about Conduit, you could definitely feel her passion and love for her work.

So when people have the gall to question the creators at Ubisoft Montreal about why they have a black character with a lead role in a game that takes place Japan, calling it woke media? No, just say you’re racist.

We should be celebrating these moments, not trashing them. Especially during ANHPI Heritage Month.