“The racist stereotype of the black guy being…”: Assassin’s Creed Shadows Has 1 Valid Criticism That Can’t be Dismissed as Racist Backlash

Ubisoft's Portrayal of Yasuke Have Raised Some Concerns

assassins creed shadows

SUMMARY

  • When Ubisoft announced Yasuke as one of the protagonists in Assassin's Creed Shadows, it was both a bold and necessary step towards diversification.
  • Despite the game's attempt to celebrate Yasuke's historical significance, the portrayal has raised valid concerns about racial stereotyping.
  • One recurring critique is that Yasuke, like many black characters in gaming, is depicted as a towering brute, reinforcing an overused and problematic stereotype.
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Assassin’s Creed Shadows has sparked intense discussion around its portrayal of Yasuke, a towering black samurai. While much of the backlash can be attributed to racist trolls, one legitimate criticism stands out: the perpetuation of the stereotype that black protagonists must be brute-like figures.

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This choice, whether intentional or not, continues a problematic trend in gaming where black characters are often depicted as physically imposing, overshadowing the potential for nuanced character development.

How Yasuke is Portrayed in Assassin’s Creed: Shadows

How Yasuke is Portrayed in Assassins Creed: Shadows
Yasuke isn’t the most agile AC character. | Ubisoft

In Assassin’s Creed Shadows, Yasuke’s gameplay is distinctly different from that of Naoe, his Japanese counterpart. While Naoe personifies the classic nimble assassin archetype, Yasuke is distinguished by his raw power and less sophisticated stealth abilities. 

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The game’s associate director, Simon Lemay-Comtois in an interview with GameRant, even humorously described Yasuke’s stealth attempts as “putting a square peg in a round hole.” While Yasuke’s attempt at stealth looks funny, it does promote the idea that black characters must fit a certain pattern of physicality over subtlety.

When asked if playing stealthily with Yasuke is possible, he said:

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You can try. Some of us are able to do it. It’s particularly fun because he’s a little unwieldy…. It’s a little bit like putting a square peg in a round hole, but it works.

The difference between Yasuke and Naoe is more than just a matter of gameplay diversity; it unintentionally reinforces a stereotype. Many black protagonists in video games, and pop culture are portrayed as physically intimidating figures rather than complex characters with different skill sets.

The Community’s Reaction to This Approach

The Community's Reaction to This Approach
How Yasuke is Portrayed in Assassins Creed: Shadows | Ubisoft

The Assassin’s Creed community has raised issues over Yasuke’s mobility. According to players, Yasuke’s size and armor may make traditional parkour and climbing more awkward than Naoe.

The decision to design Yasuke as a physically dominant character also affects how players perceive his role in the game. Comments on Reddit have humorously noted that Yasuke “juggernauts” through walls and lacks the finesse required for traditional assassin activities. 

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This style of portrayal can diminish his historical significance and reduce him to a cliché of the “big, strong black man,” which has been critiqued in a lot of media.

This clunkiness may distract from the smoothness of an Assassin’s Creed game. Although it adds realism, it risks pigeonholing Yasuke into the “big and strong but not agile” cliché, which has been overdone.

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The game is set in 1579 during the Azuchi-Momoyama period
The Community’s Reaction to This Approach. | Ubisoft

In the context of Assassin’s Creed: Shadows, this complaint emphasizes a larger issue in the gaming industry: the need for more diverse and sophisticated depictions of black characters.

Instead of focusing just on physical strength, developers should consider a wider variety of qualities and talents. Yasuke’s history as a samurai has vast storyline possibilities beyond raw might, but the game fails to fully explore it.

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While Assassin’s Creed: Shadows deserves respect for incorporating Yasuke’s character and making an effort to diversify its character list, the implementation falls a bit short.

The reasonable critique that Yasuke represents a clichéd representation of black characters cannot be dismissed as petty trolling or racial retribution.

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Written by Daniel Royte

Articles Published: 150

Daniel is a gamer through and through with a passion for gaming in his veins. His current adventures have taken him into the world of Elden Ring, Wuthering Waves, and Genshin Impact, amongst others.