Beginning each game with a disclaimer which reads “Designed, developed, and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs," the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise thus far has taken efforts to be inclusive of a wide array of experiences. Centered around an ancient, Dan Brown-esque secret society of assassins spanning the globe— and featuring a new protagonist and time period in almost every game — the series has to this point been representative of a variety of faiths, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. Though it does not always hit its mark in regards to diversity: Last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity in particular faced harsh scrutiny for not including any playable female characters in its multiplayer mode. But the global nature of the series gives it an ethos of representation rarely seen in other major AAA releases.
Now, the Assassin’s Creed team is looking to explore trans issues as well. This fall’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which is set in Victorian London and follows the story of twin Assassins Jacob and Evie Fry, is set to markedly increase queer representation among the series’ cast with the inclusion of Ned Wynert, a trans man who acts as a quest giver for the game’s main characters.
"Inclusiveness is something that's super important for us as a team," Assassin's Creed: Syndicate creative director Marc-Alexis Côté told Eurogamer. “We've made a good push towards diversity and how we approach different subjects in the game."
According to Eurogamer, the two sequences of the game which they were able to play indicated that Wynert’s story does not involve his gender, nor is his gender even remarked upon. He simply exists as a trans man within the game’s world.
Though Côté is interested in what players will say upon meeting the character for themselves, he did insist that Wynert is accurate to what life might have been like for a trans man living in the Victorian era.
Although it's likely not the first queer character in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Wynert seems to be the most explicit so far. Previous series entry, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, featured main character Ezio Auditore working closely with real-life historical figure Leonardo da Vinci, who was implied to be gay both in a scene where he stated that he wasn’t interested in girls, to which Ezio responded that he “didn’t understand,” as well as in a database entry which read “he was most likely homosexual.” In addition, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag featured real-life 18th-century pirate Mary Read, who regularly assumed a male identity in day-to-day life. Though her male alter-ego started as a way to trick Read’s grandmother into giving her family financial support, she maintained it through much of her life, though was known to tell her close confidants that she was a woman. Whether her crossdressing was done for practical reasons or because she identified somewhere on the trans spectrum is debatable. Black Flag also includes real-life pirate Anne Bonny, who was known to occasionally disguise her sex, and was rumored to maintain a relationship with Mary Read. However, aside from working Read’s crossdressing into the plot, Black Flag does not delve further into these historical figures’ respective sexual orientation or gender identitiy.
As such, Ned Wynert marks a significant step forward for the game’s inclusivity, prompting the series’ traditional opening disclaimer to be updated as well. Now, when players boot up Syndicate, they will be greeted by a screen which states “Inspired by historical events and characters, this work of fiction was designed, developed, and produced by a multicultural team of various beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities," taking note of LGBT developers among the game’s staff.\
As Côté told Eurogamer:
“It felt like when we first wrote that [the original disclaimer] for AC1, it was something that was very inclusive. But I've had the chance to work with more than 12 different writers on Syndicate. At one point, one approached me and said that we were not embracing diversity fully enough... They were talking about the statement at the beginning of the game - that it was exclusive of some people. So I asked for them to propose a new statement.”
When Eurogamer reached out to Assassin’s Creed publisher Ubisoft, they simply confirmed what Côté had said and told the publication that they want the game to speak for itself.
You can meet Ned Wynert yourself when Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate launches for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 23 later this year.