Monday, December 10, 2012

Assassin's Creed III

I suppose that it was just a matter of time before I joined my fellow Canadian history bloggers on the "commenting on Assassin's Creed III" bandwagon (see here, here and here). 

For those  unacquainted as of yet with this controversy, Assassin's Creed III is a new video game set in colonial America during the Revolution and the decade leading up to it.  It initially garnered high praise in many quarters for its attention to historical accuracy.  But a few weeks ago a very critical editorial appeared in the Globe and Mail, the gist of which is that the game, produced by Montreal-based Ubisoft, is sinfully ahistorical given its pro-American bent.  The game purportedly "distorts history" and "grotesquely twists the facts" because it implies that Aboriginal peoples rallied to the side of the American colonists during the Revolution.  As is often the case, the reader response displayed more sagacity than the editorial itself.  To summarize the reaction: relax, high-strung editorialist, this is just a video game; its core story revolves around an ancient order conspiring to control the world by means of alien artifacts and time travel, so let's not worry too much about historical accuracy, ok?

This just in, Assassin\'s Creed III is historically inaccurate.
A snapshot from one of the game's cinematic sequences.
Tom Peace's piece at, which links this peculiar editorial stance to the government's heritage policy, is particularly worth the read.  I will, for my part, confine myself to pointing out that while much of the attention to the game has revolved around its Revolutionary content, the game actually begins during the Seven Years' War.

Indeed, one of the early missions in the game is "The Braddock Expedition".  The player's avatar, an Englishman by the name of Haytham Kenway, has to chase down and kill poor Gen. Edward Braddock.  But wait, there's a good explanation!  You see, it seems that Braddock was a member of the "Templar Order" that pseudohistorical creation bent on word domination.  He also has to be killed to gain the trust of a Mohwak woman by the name of Kaniehtí:io, who promises to show the player the location of an interdimensional gateway in exchange for the elimination of Braddock.  The player later fathers a son with that woman (a character voiced, incidentally, by Kaniehtiio Horn, actress and daughter of Kahnawake political activist and former model Kahn-Tineta Horn and sister to olympic water-poloist Waneek Horn-Miller).

A friend summarized it well: "They really lay into Edward Braddock. I don't think his own mother could love him in this incarnation."  Or, to quote the exchange between the dying Braddock and his murderer, i.e. the player's avatar: "Why?" "Your death opens a door [that portal], it's nothing personal.  Well, maybe it's a little personal.  You've been a pain in my arse, after all."  Poor Edward. 



  1. I have a number of qualms with this game, putting aside the rather silly debate if it is a "Ra-ra", sabre-rattling piece of American Jingoism. A few of my issues revolve around pacing, which this production mangles any semblance of.

    However, aside from these critiques about the form of the game, my main issue involves the depiction of various historical characters. I mean, yes - it is predictable that any student and lover of history would sputter and be a miser about this. But it is not so much that Braddock is a one dimensional villain, or Washington is a venerated messiah, or every Mohawk apparently has the power to gracefully dance among the tree-tops, but rather instead how they make every representation so damn "quirky". As if the only way to get the player's interest in these people is to super-charge some well known urban legend of them in the past, or simply to fabricate them (enter - Boorish Bulldog Braddock).

    Upon meeting Ben Franklin, the man cannot go five minutes without extolling how much he loves women, or displaying his complete brilliance. Others are in a constant drunken stupor, missing their pants(?). Perhaps it is just the producers and developers knowing their audience, but if so, I worry. Perhaps it is enough to get a disinterested audience intrigued about that historical period? One can hope.

    One thing I did really love was the naval combat, as arcadey as it was. Perhaps a Napoleonic game isn't too far away? I would open my wallet a ridiculous amount to be able to relive Trafalgar.

  2. All I care about is: Do we see Beaujeu during the Braddock segment?