An odyssey of progress: The nomination of 'Assassin's Creed' for a GLAAD Media Award

The decision to nominate Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey for a GLAAD Media Award in the new Outstanding Video Game category was a difficult one. In the wake of controversy regarding its recent downloadable content (DLC), its presence here will surely raise eyebrows. We understand those concerns and wish to address them directly.

When Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey launched in October 2018, it quickly became a hit with the LGBTQ community. As the first role-playing game in its long-running franchise, Odyssey gave players unprecedented control over their character and story, including the ability to form same-sex romantic relationships. LGBTQ identities were an intrinsic part of the game’s world set in fictional ancient Greece, and for many players, Kassandra and Alexios became beloved examples of authentic LGBTQ representation.

This all changed with the DLC episode released last week, Legacy of the First Blade: Shadow Heritage, in which a storyline unavoidably places Kassandra/Alexios into a heterosexual relationship. At worst, this sends the harmful message that sexual orientation can be changed at will and that LGBTQ people can choose to conform to heteronormative expectations in spite of their identities. To be clear, this nomination should not be taken as an endorsement of the DLC.

Click Here to see the full list of GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Video Game nominees. 

Ubisoft has publicly apologized for the acknowledged mistake, and since last week, GLAAD has been in direct contact with Ubisoft in an effort to work together to improve aspects of this DLC and future content releases. The forthcoming updates to Shadow Heritage announced by Ubisoft just yesterday are a positive step, and we applaud them for working to mitigate the damage. The changes do not entirely solve the challenge, but we believe those changes are a good faith effort and a solid first step. GLAAD thanks Ubisoft for their apology and their commitment to do better.

Our decision to nominate Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is ultimately rooted in the understanding that progress can sometimes be messy. While undoubtedly marred by its DLC, the original game remains a major step forward for representation in games—one that was courageously undertaken and defended by Ubisoft initially. If we want to encourage developers and publishers to continue to make these types of bold moves in the future, we must allow for growth, acknowledge that missteps do occur, and give proper credit where credit is due.

About the Author: Blair Durkee is a special projects consultant to GLAAD, specializing in gaming.