Colonising History: The Culture and Politics of Assassin’s Creed

I used to like Assassin’s Creed. I enjoyed the climbing and stabbing.

There are lots of reasons to dislike the games, though: super-linear mission structure, the AAA obsession with cutscenes, the twitchy and cluttered controls. I can live with those, though. I played these games year after year because, okay, I can hold down three buttons to run if I really have to. I can deal with the merciless checkpointing. This game does running, jumping, climbing and stabbing like nobody’s business, and that’s why I loved them.

“Loved”. Past tense.

With Assassin’s Creed 3, though, I just couldn’t ignore it any more: the series is, in a word, sickening.

By which I mean it mouths off about this, that and the other – it gets up on its high horse at every opportunity – to make itself feel good. To make us feel good. To congratulate us on how far we’ve come, and something something freedom, something something liberty, and don’t we have such a refined culture, and ooh aren’t the baddies nasty because they want to take our rights away, and oh my God could this be any more American?

The games have some really problematic things to say about freedom, government, politics and history. They shower us with these uncritical messages while taking our money for the privilege. They feed us the same nonsense as most mainstream fiction, and a lot of mainstream news. They are, to coin a phrase, part of the problem.

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