Oooft, those arms. Since Ubisoft unveiled her I’m certain there’s been many men and women dreaming of those incredible, muscular arms. I am of course talking about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s female protagonist Kassandra. A mercenary in Ancient Greece, both she and her brother Alexios are in peak physical condition, each of them a lean, mean, killing machine. Yet it’s Kassandra’s body that fascinates me. And not just because I’d love to be wrapped in those big, strong…well. Ahem.
You see Kassandra is a little bit different for a leading woman in a video game. Compared with most heroines she’s an outright anomaly. She doesn’t wear makeup, her hair is in tangles and her body is riddled with scars. Lara Croft might have gone through the wars in her recent reboot trilogy but she came away with no more than a dainty little scratch on her cheek. Kassandra has scars everywhere, big ones over her collarbone, on her arms but also dozens of little ones, several on her face. Her body looks lived in. She looks like she lives the life the game claims she does.
See where even the baddest of badass women in gaming manage to maintain a strong feminine silhouette, Kassandra is, dare I say it, masculine. Those broad shoulders, lack of a pronounced chest, large hands and narrow hips…she’s not like most female game characters. Even the armour she wears is devoid of the usual “boob armour”. Instead Kassandra wears what the men do and wears it damn well. There’s a fantastic scene some way in where she must attend a symposium (aka a party) and can choose to wear a dress. In it, she looks firmly out of place and deeply uncomfortable. It reflects her life as an impoverished mercenary as much as anything but Kassandra also stands a good head taller than most of the women around her. Most of the men for that matter. She’s physically imposing in a way most video game women never get to be. For me, it was so affirming to see this tall, awkward woman at the forefront of a big budget title with the game itself seeming to acknowledge this facet of her physicality.
Of course, as nice as it is, it would be absurd to pretend Kassandra is truly radical. By the standards of most games she’s revolutionary but let’s face it, the standards of most games is pretty poor. As body types go, she’s not so far outside the norm. She’s still gorgeous. This little inch forward just makes me realise how much further the medium has to go in body diversity. Odyssey does itself have a few rival mercenaries who range from hulking brutes to scrawny old ladies but I’d certainly love to be playing as a range of women with radically different body shapes, weights and ages. Men could even do with some improvement, there’s plenty of gruff muscular men but as much as there’s a range of alternatives the defaults do prevail.
There’s still something so exciting about seeing someone on screen who you can identify with or who is outside the norm of pop culture. Let’s push for greater variety. Let’s have all sorts of shapes and sizes, yeah?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to spend another fifty hours in Ancient Greece watching those biceps glisten in the sun…