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Politically Correct: How Assassin’s Creed 3 is Handling Sensitive Subjects
Sensitive. Annoying. Unrealistic. Pandering. Necessary. Caring. Thoughtful. Crazy.
No matter what you might personally consider it, one fact remains: in our modern-day multicultural society, political correctness is a governing rule in speech and engagement with others around us. We are taught and encouraged to be sensitive to the cultures and beleifs of others, even being told that certain titles and words are dangerously close to being offensive.
Now, I am not a political pundit. If I was, I would be writing for an entirely different site.
However, when it was announced that Assassin’s Creed 3 would be taking place during the American Revolution, I instantly had about a million questions in my mind, the most pressing of which being how on Earth will they approach this without offending anyone?
American history has long been taught as a very positive and inspiring time for the nation’s development. And while the events around the war were certainly fascinating and engineered by brilliant men, I often feel that the darker side of our history gets cast to the wayside in order to make room for the rosy-colored, kid-friendly version.
The time of the Revolutionary War was only a sliver in a generation of bigotry and hateful actions toward mankind. And it should be understood that I am not throwing America under the bus here; a majority of the large European nations were all guilty of all these truly despicable acts, ranging from brutalizing indigenous peoples to the horrors of slavery. It was a time of colonization, when Imperialism and Nationalism ran strong within each of these nations. Egos were larger than ever, and violence and bigotry was quick to be ignited against any who got in the way of conquerors and explorers.
Ubisoft is known for sticking to historically accurate settings and storylines for the Assassin’s Creed series. So, how do you handle the tricky subject of slavery when opinions and feelings still run strong within our society hundreds of years later? How do you handle the very anti-British, pro-‘Murica sentiment of the revolutionary war when a large market for the game will be overseas? How do you approach the interactions between colonists and Native Americans when hard feelings still linger?
While we haven’t had a chance to sit down and experience the game in all its fullness yet, it’s clear that Ubisoft has considered the touchy nature of this game’s story. And their methods of dealing with it are shaping up to be brilliant.
THE CONNOR EFFECT
The main protagonist of Assassin’s Creed 3, Connor is a man who is half-White, half-Native American. It’s been emphasized heavily that he isn’t necessarily fighting for America out of patriotism. Rather, he is a man all his own, who aligns himself with whomever he thinks will help him meet his end goals. Also, the mere fact that he is part-white, part-Native American actually marks him as an outsider to society, unable to fit in with either group fully due to the fact that he still has an interest elsewhere. This adds some realism to the sentiment that he works for his own cause, not dedicating himself solely to one or the other.
Their design of him here is brilliant. From a gameplay standpoint, it would make sense for Connor to be hunting and roaming the woods seamlessly if he grew up in a fronteir-savvy Native American home. The setting itself will call for much more emphasis on frontier-like woods and fields, since the world was not as fully developed into large buildings like the ones found in the previous Assassin’s Creed games. And with a man who can slip through the trees with ease, hunt animals, and track enemies, we have a character who both makes sense and is more grounded in the environment which he has come to know so well.
Outside of this, the fact that he can go back to his Native American roots allows Connor the ability to use a variety of new weapons not seen before in the AC universe, including the bow and arrow and the tomahawk we’ve seen in nearly every depiction of his character.
Ubisoft has said multiple times that this game will still rely heavily on the familiar theme of Assassins vs. Templars, citing that there will be bad guys on both sides that players will have to take out. Creating enemies in this way avoids an anti-British sentiment, allowing for the game to open up and involve all of those who wish to play without running the risk of offending them. We saw this in the E3 trailer, when Connor takes down a British general, only to see the Templar symbol tumble out of his suitcoat when he hits the ground.
In conjunction with Assassin’s Creed 3, a standalone Vita game will also be released. Titled Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, the game is also set during the same time period, taking place further south in New Orleans after the conflicts of the French and Indian War.
Liberation ticks all the boxes in political correctness. First, the protagonist is a woman. Second, she continues the same legacy of cross-racial characterization by being half-White and half-African.
The daughter of a wealthy French man, Aveline is a strong woman who is trained in the same killing arts as the boys from previous installments of the AC series. She’s growing up in a manner that is both different, yet eerily similar to Connor; due to her wealthy family, she has multiple opportunities for new weapons and high-level training as an Assassin at her disposal, but she is still an outsider to society because of her mixed race background.
Plus, she’s a woman, and we all know how women were regarded in that time.
Because of her racial and gender status, Aveline has the opportunity to ironically blend in well. She could be largely ignored by those around her, and might not be taken seriously by folks either. It’s blatant sexism and racism, but the potential to exploit this ignorance for her personal gain is at an all-time high. Ubisoft hasn’t announced that this will be a part of the game’s overall experience, but if they stay true to history, the potential is definitely there.
Aveline is also growing up in the South, where racism and slavery was especially prevalent in the agriculture-based society of the Southern colonies. Because of her exposure to the cruelty and horrors of slavery, developers have hinted that Aveline will have a strong sense of hatred toward the practice. How exactly this will play into the game has yet to be seen, but there is a lot of room for compelling storytelling here if they use it just right.
No matter how they handle the storyline, Aveline could be a very empowering character that appeals to a mass demographic across the board, most likely taking away the chance of being offensive to players who might have some strong feelings about this point in history.
Both Assassin’s Creed 3 and Liberation are highly anticipated titles this year, with AC3 taking top honors at E3 with several notable gaming sites and Liberation being expected to be a system seller for the PlayStation Vita.
It’s true that Ubisoft has taken a risky gamble here with their subject matter. But with the many interesting and compelling story elements they’re looking to implement, they very well could get away with telling the whole truth behind this historical time period while remaining politically correct and not causing controversy. Of course, we won’t know for sure until the game hits the shelves, but for now, it’s looking more than promising.