An idea was kicked around with the women of BNP about writing a bit on our favorite characters from video games. Usually a male dominated fandom and work place, it’s still great to hear from other women about the women they loved to play as, play against and see. From the days of old school video games consoles like the Atari to the to all these next gen consoles there have been women within these worlds that we lived through and admired every time we picked up a controller, went to an arcade or even rocked with the PC version. NPC or main cast member. Teen or grown woman or tiny child. Summoner, Gunner, Hired Killer, Undead Baddie, Corporate Spy or even leader of a revolution: there are so many favorites. Here’s an entry in a series of us womenfolk writing about the womenfolk that ultimately have to be credited in making the experience of playing that particular game one to remember.
Assassin Creed:Liberation’s Aveline de Grandpre
First things first, this is my favorite character of all the assassins. Aveline is important for a number of reasons, one: she’s the first playable female protagonist for Ubisoft’s AC franchise by way of first being released on the PS Vita then released later on the Playstation. While Ubisoft still has work to do regarding lack of playable female characters for the AC games (Who remembers AC: Unity? YIKES.) I can appreciate that a woman of color was the first. She joins Evie Frey of AC:Syndicate and Shao Jun of AC: China and as the franchise’s female protagonists. To add a note: she’s also the first Black protagonist for the franchise as well.
Two, hers is a unique story tied into the woven threads of history in the timeline of this game’s franchise. Born from a union of a freed slave and a French merchant she learned very early on that her life would not be an easy one. She would be separated from her mother at an early age but lived a better life than most thanks to her father. She could have made herself comfortable and live out her life in luxury and ignorance, turning her head to the injustices happening around her: from the work of the Templars the sworn enemies of the Assassins and the mistreatment of the slaves. But she did not. I love that her story revolves around liberation. She was out there helping slaves get to freedom and killing those in positions of power that preyed upon them and others.
Liberation is not a perfect game. It wasn’t long enough. It didn’t feature enough screentime with Aveline and the assassin I mention below. In terms of the institution of slavery, it was a bit tame. (No. I wasn’t looking for Djano Unchained) While not a perfect game, it did produce a character that I love. I love that she’s from New Orleans. I love that her mentor’s base of operations can be found in the Bayou. I loved the plot twist on the true identity of her enemy, “The Company Man.” I love that her storyline intersects with Connor Kenway ( Ratonhnhaké:ton, if you’re nasty), my other favorite Assassin.
Like Connor, she’s a child of two worlds: their biracial identities are present due to their mothers: women of color and their fathers, white men. (Connor’s mother Zilo, a Kanien’kehá:kan [Mohawk] woman and Aveline’s mother Jeanne, a African slave.) Both assassins navigate society without the full privilege of their fathers’ skin color but cling to the memories of their mothers. They were proud women of color who I’d argue, were as important to their children’s narratives as the men who would become their fathers. They were also mothers who wanted the best of their children living in a country that would see them as second class citizens.
Aveline is a master of blending into her surroundings as she is supposed to be given her occupation but in her case you can push the envelope: in the game you can switch between her disguises for different missions. In her dressed up lady disguise she is a regal person of upper society despite the whispers of some of her fellow neighbors who comment on her darker skin she can enter parties and socialize, to collect intel and mark targets for assassinations. In her slave disguise she can follow along aside missing slaves and find out what cruelties have befallen them. And lastly, in her Assassin garb, she is in her uniform of a killer with a code complete with all her training and weapons.
I think of how many times I get to see myself represented in the media I consume: how many times do I get to see someone who looks like me in video games? A question I revisited recently thinking back on the interview I did with Paul Davey an artist who worked on design for the EarthNight video game for Cleversoft Studios. When I asked him in further detail about the project in he mentioned having a black female protagonist was important and emphasized that there were so few.
Aveline is a liberator of the enslaved. She is a symbol of hope. Certainly she’s a character I admire who chooses to get involved and get busy on the behalf of others to fight injustice instead of sitting comfortable and pretty. Lastly, how can I not love a character whose very existence brings the irritation of video game dudebros like this one?
[quote_simple]”I stand with those who stand with me. I lure my prey through the guise of a lady. I escape unnoticed through the veil of a slave. And though I may conceal my identity, one thing is certain: commit injustice in this world, and I’ll send you to the next. I am Aveline de Grandpré, I am an Assassin, and I fight for liberation.”
―Aveline de Grandpre[/quote_simple]