There's a lot of pushback against the idea of games critics talking about stereotypes and social issues — I've seen it described as a distraction from the "real" informative details about things like gameplay and graphics. But feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, known almost exclusively for dissecting portrayals of fictional men and women, has just released the most personally informative Assassin's Creed Syndicate review I've seen today.
Unless I'm specifically analyzing some aspect of them, I play blockbuster games for fun, and the biggest unnecessary barrier to that fun is boring racial and gender stereotypes. Obviously, these details appear in videos and essays all the time, but Sarkeesian has basically just recorded my equivalent of a bare-bones Consumer Reports review by putting it in one place. Does this game treat women like people? Does everyone look the same? Do you have to play as the same generic growly guy all the time?
Obviously, this is not what everyone bases their purchases on, which is why different kinds of reviews exist in the first place. It's not the only thing I base my purchases on; if Syndicate turns out as buggy as last year's Assassin's Creed Unity, I'm out. But look, I already know what an Assassin's Creed game plays like. I can watch the trailers and figure out it's set in London and has a grappling hook now. Even if I don't necessarily agree with all of Sarkeesian's conclusions or analysis, she's giving me the kind of information that will help me decide whether Syndicate is worth my $60. And based on what she's saying, it sounds pretty neat.