Ubisoft has defended the game, and one of its producers, Antoine Vimal du Monteil, told the newspaper Le Monde that Assassin’s Creed was, after all, a game and “not a history lesson.”
Emmanuel Carré, a spokesman for Ubisoft, said by phone that 1,000 people had created the game over three years and that thrills for the player had taken precedence over historical accuracy.
It was fascinating to read the NYTimes article about the perceived historical revisionism in the latest First Person Shooter, Assassin’s Creed. As the Ubisoft spokesperson responds to the critique of the game, “This is France, where everything becomes politicized, including video games.” Yet in the comments in this article a reader responds, “I’m a gamer, and this isn’t surprising. Most blockbuster games take a right-of-center political view point (Call of Duty, et. al.), which connects with the young white male demographic that gobbles up these games in droves. (Yeah, I love playing Call of Duty.)”
The responsibility of this simulacrum and the ensuing questions of accuracy and intent are casually dismissed by Ubisoft. The game is a fantasy, there is no need to accept responsibility for the political implications of the choices made. The conscious or unconscious politic that is implicit in every act of making is disavowed and refuted as immaterial to the object’s responsibility in the world. This all ignores the reality of invisible/predominant politics passing as the status quo for the powers that be. “Let them eat cake” as it were.
I can’t help but to put this in context with Gamergate and the standard rebuttal of, “This is about fair journalism in gaming. This isn’t about harassing and threatening women, though I admit that does seem to be happening. We don’t have to accept responsibility.”
Is this an example of the magicians wave? Or putting one’s head in the sand? Or is this the philosophy of the restart button. Press restart and there is no history?
An object is encoded with a politic that identifies that object in its time and place. The decoding of that object also employs a subjectivity that reverberates in its time and place. This is discursive historical practice. Narratives are one method of employing that politic. The politic is deployed with the answers to the questions, who was there, what did they do, how many people died, who won and who lost? Does it matter that what happened in the game didn’t?
I remember reading this sci-fi story that was particularly gruesome, a famous Aztec explorer has his eyelids cut off to stare at the sun as it rises strapped to the top of a temple as a sacrifice along with detailed aspects of their culture. And I remember recounting it to a fascinated audience of fellow 8th graders as an extended riff on said explorers. My history teacher kindly confronted me after class about it. “It felt true,” was my rebuttal to its accuracy, never mind its relevance to discussing the sociopolitical structures of Mesoamerican civilizations. And Ms. Prudente left me with the question of what is the material of truth? A question that can be applied to unofficial and official narratives and even the fantastical. It also taught me that a fantastic lie cloaked with or adjacent to other truths seems to leverage some transitive properties of storytelling. Is this dangerous? Is there a risk in altering a historical narrative to pursue a feeling of fun? It’s just a game… Yet in our media saturated environment our choices have oftentimes crowded out the need for accuracy or even acknowledged subjectivity in our overriding narratives.
History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon. — Napoleon Bonaparte
History has been changed. It eroded like memories and the moment is lost. We burnt the books. We overwrite the files. The catalog was corrupted. We suffered a mass hallucination. We can look through the lens of our current politic and our history dims even as it is held in front of us. Our collective understanding experiences a loss not only through its diminished record but by the force of massive present media and what is preserved. We must interrogate this present. Politics deserve to be confronted. Complicit agreement to our record is the assassin in our midst.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post that references Steve Jobs extolling the future when gaming technology would go beyond simple/dumb games but could be employed to tell real stories that described the socioeconomic and political dynamics of the French Revolution. An interactive multidimensional view of Versailles and every connection in and out of it built for eduction. I wonder whether this FPS is what he had mind. The utopia’s that are envisioned rarely get beyond objectivist notion’s of reality to the true subjectivity of mediated experience. Capital plays to the LCD, lowest common denominator. The future sold as the past. Infinite regress.