The Assassin’s Creed video game franchise features historically inspired settings and storylines that allow players to experience different time periods and cultures. With many installments released over the years, covering different places and eras, some fans have wondered about the representation of LGBTQ identities and themes within the games.
While the main protagonists of the franchise have been predominantly heterosexual, there have been hints of queer relationships and characters throughout some of the Assassin’s Creed titles. The handling of LGBTQ themes has evolved across the series, generally reflecting wider social views on sexuality and gender at the time each game was made.
Overall, the answer is complicated. The Assassin’s Creed games cannot be simply categorized as “LGBTQ” or not – rather, there are elements of queer inclusion in some titles, while others lack diversity. As a historically-inspired franchise, the portrayal of sexuality also depends on the cultural context and time period of each game setting.
Early LGBTQ Hints in the Franchise
In the early Assassin’s Creed games, any potential LGBTQ characters or relationships were very subtle or implied rather than explicitly shown. For example:
– Assassin’s Creed II (2009) contains hints that protagonist Ezio had flexible sexual attitudes for the 15th century, including flirtations with male acquaintances. However, no actual queer relationships are shown.
– Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010) includes an implied gay male couple who Ezio helps by returning one’s posessions to him after he passes away. Their relationship is not directly addressed but hinted at through contextual clues.
– Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011) has an implied bisexual love interest for Ezio named Shao Jun. Their interactions and goodbye scene have romantic overtones, although no explicit romance occurs.
So in these early games, queer characters and themes were included very lightly, but overall the protagonists are heterosexual and diversity is lacking. This sets the stage for how LGBTQ content slowly expanded in scope in later releases.
Black Flag’s Flexible Protagonist
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013) made bolder strides in LGBTQ representation by strongly implying the protagonist Edward Kenway is bisexual. Set in the early 18th century, Kenway flirts with and forms relationships with men and women alike throughout his journey.
For example, multiple male assassins make comments on Kenway’s physical attractiveness. When he disguises himself, Kenway also uses feminine pronouns, indicating flexible gender presentation. While the brief romantic cut scenes only show female love interests, the dialogue and characterization paint Kenway as likely bisexual by modern labels.
Having a protagonist with implied flexible sexual and gender identities reflected shifting cultural perspectives of the 2010s, when LGBTQ identities were gaining wider mainstream visibility and acceptance. This marked a notable evolution from the first Assassin’s Creed games’ subtler hints at queerness.
Diverse Secondary Characters and Subplots
After Black Flag’s subtly bisexual protagonist, later games continued increasing the diversity of secondary characters and relationships shown. While falling short of having a main LGBTQ protagonist, these titles integrated queer themes into side quests and character arcs:
– Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015) features Ned Wynert, a transgender man providing quests and allies for the twin protagonists. Wynert’s gender identity shapes his story arc dealing with prejudices in Victorian London.
– Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018) allows players to choose heterosexual or bisexual romantic dialog options for the main characters Kassandra and Alexios. Several side quests center on same-sex relationships in ancient Greece.
– Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (2020) includes a gay NPC couple from the Viking era, who request the player help enable their marriage. Male Eivor can flirt with other male characters.
Through these examples, the Assassin’s Creed developers aimed to reflect historical diversity and normalize queer identities through side narratives. Critics called for even further representation in main stories going forward.
Explicit LGBTQ Protagonists Remain Elusive
Despite the evolutionary arc across the franchise, Assassin’s Creed has yet to feature an exclusively LGBTQ main protagonist in the core, numbered games. Bisexual behavior has been shown for some leads, but no outright gay, lesbian, or transgender central characters.
There are likely several reasons for this remaining limitation:
– Concerns that an explicitly LGBTQ main character would impact sales and marketing reach to mainstream audiences
– Challenges meshing a queer protagonist with historical settings where homosexuality was taboo
– The development timeframe of early games predating wider acceptance of diverse characters
Nonetheless, calls from LGBTQ advocates and gamers for more representation have only grown. With social progress accelerating, it becomes harder to defend why Assassin’s Creed’s diverse array of settings across eras could not feature at least one prominently queer-identified central hero.
As of 2022, this remains a final frontier for the franchise to cross. Doing so could cement Assassin’s Creed’s place as a series reflecting – and further promoting – acceptance of sexuality and gender diversity throughout history.
The Portrayal of Transgender Identities
One specific area where the franchise can improve is depicting transgender characters and experiences. Thus far, Assassin’s Creed has included very minimal trans representation:
– Ned Wynert in Syndicate is a rare example of a supporting trans character
– Brief hints at flexible gender expression for Edward Kenway in Black Flag
– No main or major transgender protagonists to date
Particularly given how various cultures throughout history have had more nuanced understandings of gender identity than today’s binary constructs, there are many opportunities for rich transgender character narratives across the far-reaching Assassin’s Creed settings.
Advocates critique the games for lacking characters that resonate with trans players. Introducing multi-dimensional transgender protagonists could make the series more inclusive for this marginalized audience.
Historical Basis for Transgender Characters
Despite assumptions transgender people only exist in modern contexts, various eras provide potential storylines:
– Ancient societies had transgender religious figures and flexible gender roles
– Diverse concepts of gender existed among some Native American tribes
– “Female husbands” lived covertly in 18th/19th century Europe
– More tolerance emerged in the early 20th century’s sexual revolution
Assassin’s Creed prides itself on meticulous historical world-building and characters derived from real histories. Integrating thisresearch on transgender lives through the ages could enhance authenticity further.
Opportunities in Upcoming Settings
Based on rumored future settings, these cultural backdrops would be strong fits for prominent transgender character portrayals:
– Feudal Japan’s onna-bugeisha, female warriors who broke gender norms
– 1920s Paris’ open LGBTQ culture during the artistic renaissance
– The hijra community of the Mughal Empire in India
Introducing well-written trans characters resonant with these societies would align with the series’ mission of immersing players in diverse historic voyages.
In summary, Assassin’s Creed can be considered a mixed bag in its LGBTQ representation over time. Early titles hinted lightly at queer themes but lacked diversity. Recent games have depicted same-sex relationships and transgender characters in side content, though not main stories.
Major gaps remain, including the lack of any central gay, lesbian, or trans protagonist across the franchise. Ongoing advocacy from LGBTQ groups pushes the developers to go further. But uncertainty around marketing an exclusively queer hero has likely stifled greater inclusion so far.
As society moves forward in acceptance and understanding of sexuality and gender spectrums though, calls for the acclaimed franchise to do the same will persist. With Assassin’s Creed’s rich, immersive recreations of global history, the possibilities to celebrate marginalized identities are endless.