Assasinating Assasin’s Creed

By Kieron Gillen on November 14th, 2007 at 12:37 pm.

While we wait to see when the PC version will turn up, Assassin’s Creed hits the consoles. Reviews are starting to appear, generally speaking below what people may have expected. That said, the thing that’s most caught my eye about the game is Tom Chick – who actually likes a lot about the game – sliding a knife home. The coup de grace?

Where are your balls, Ubisoft? Talk more about the Prophet, peace be upon Him. Put a Jewish character in the game and let him be reviled. Show the Crusaders as something other than the dudes playing the role of the cops from GTA. Because you know everyone’s thinking about it when they see your game. It’s a potentially powerful subject, and it’s on all our minds, and your pussy footing around the weak safe choices is a disappointment, particularly when you insist on wrapping your game in a modern-day shell. Assassin’s Creed is as aware of today as it is of the 12th Century. Act like it, for God’s sake. Because if your love of the setting were expressed in the writing with one tenth of the passion you show for your love of the architecture, Assassin’s Creed could have been an experience as memorable as BioShock or Portal.

While Call of Duty 4 was over-careful in its desire to avoid offending by doing things like setting it in “The Middle East”, it at least tempered it with some genuinely powerful material. You have to wonder why anyone would make a game about a controversial topic without realising that they are – if they’re going to do it any justice whatsoever – make a controversial game.

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47 Comments »

  1. muscrat says:

    Wanted to dodge bad publicity? Look at Bioshock and the harvesting of the Lil’ Sisters – that was toned down considerably, so it avoided and contraversy.

    As for the game, I was exited about it…. And now im wondering if I should buy it for full price on 360….

  2. Feet says:

    I know this post is about Assassins Creed, but since you mentioned CoD4 and how controversial that is, I had a few half arsed thoughts about it.

    CoD4 Spoilers incoming! Don’t read unless you’ve finished it!

    ****

    The interesting thing about CoD4 (as I’m sure anyone who’s finished it will have notice) was that while it never directly refers to a specific middle eastern nation, theres reasonable suggestions that it is an anti-Iraq-war game. A military coup that takes place in a country that clearly has alot of oil resources (you can see oil rigs in the distance on the first chopper bit, and you fly over other oil based machinery in the second chopper bit), putting a dictatorship in charge that can’t be controlled.

    The Americans go in, as they are want to do, as there is a rumor of nukes, however the player just has to accept that this invasion is to stop an evil dictatorship from using WMDs, when clearly all the hints suggest above that it could be about the O word.

    BIG SPOILERS

    And then the Americans fail. They fail in the worst possible way, despite the players efforts. The game then concentrates massively on the British SAS missions from there in, which is the first time a CoD game has done that. I wonder if Infinity Ward are massively anti-Iraq and wanted to allude to that in the game.

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    “Wanted to dodge bad publicity?”

    I mean, yeah. Obviously. But if you neuter your game, you’ve screwed yourself. Choosing how far to go – and, for my money, Bioshock made the right choice – is the difference between something that works and something that simply doesn’t.

    KG

  4. Thiefsie says:

    It’s Ubisoft, it doesn’t overtly surprise me. I’m just hoping the PC port isn’t as craptacular as Double Agent was.

  5. I_still_love_Okami says:

    ***WARNING***
    This is an “Are Games Art Post”
    If you’re es sick of the whole debate as I usually am: Skip it!
    ***WARNING II***
    This is a rant and I’m going to generalize a lot in the paragraphs to come. If you’re not into this stuff: Skip it!

    Games are not art and “Assassin’s Creed” proves this. I’m really sick of gamers clamoring for their hobby to be recognized as art for all the wrong reasons. Art should ask questions, it should challenge it’s audience and change the way people look at the world. Art should never ask itself: “Am I hurting somebody?” “Can I do that? Isn’t that a bit risky?”

    Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit.

    To every age it’s art. To every art it’s freedom.

    Ver Sacrum – Holy Truth

    These words stand on the “Secession” a very beautifull jugendstil museum in vienna and they pretty much sum up, what art is about. Art is free. That doesn’t only mean that you can create what you want without the fear of the Gestapo coming knocking at night to ask you a few questions about your nude painting of hitler. It means that it should be free from the artist’s own fear, free of some PR guys notions that you could sell a couple thousand more units if you don’t offend this or that group of society.

    Assassin’s Creed could be art. If you’re gonna make a game in 2007 about killing christian invaders in the holy land, you’d better not pull any punches. Use it to challenge people’s perceptions about war, about imperialism, about terrorrism.

    I really don’t care, what kind of questions you ask with your game. But don’t just go ahead and create a multi million dollar work of interactive entertainment with production values high enough to defeat Satan and leave all the controversial bits out.

    Of course: If you just want to make entertainment. Don’t. Just create a nice little game with good gameplay and solid mechanics and some excuse for a story so you can wow us with pointless cutscenes and cheesy voice acting (yea, I know voice acting has come a long way. But try playing Gears of War with german voice acting and you’ll have to redefine the meaning of the word “cheesy”) and focus test it to death, so that it doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings who might be able to shell out the €60 for your game.

    But don’t come whining the next time that hot chick at the dinner party runs off with some heroin addicted punk who sells his own feces as art, because frankly, he’s more of an artist than you’ll ever be.

  6. Rob Beschizza says:

    At least they screwed up the history out of cowardice. The Total War people did it to switch the series to a younger demographic, which should simply make one vomit with anger.

  7. Janek says:

    It’s a shame about Assassin’s Creed being a bit disappointing, I had some faint glimmers of optimism there. Not that I’ll be having a chance to put them to the test due to us being arbitarily shafted with release dates again.

    As for the matter of avoiding controversy, hmm. Religion is always a thorny issue, so I’m not surprised, and even if the devs did leave stuff which portrayed certain faiths in a bad light, I strongly suspect the publishers would force them to drop it. Just look at the furore around something as innocent as Hot Coffee, or the Danish cartoons. The suits would not want Ubi dragged into something like that.

    Difficult line to walk. You don’t want to compromise your artistic vision or whatever, but you also don’t want to receive death threats from fundamentalist lunatics just because a villain happened to be Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Pastafarian, even though the majority will just take it as it is.

    So yeah I pretty much just rambled a lot and said nothing. Yay!

  8. hahnchen says:

    Surely you knew this pussyfooting was going to happen when we found out that Ubisoft decided to frame this game in the 21st century.

    It’s set in the Crusades, uses characters derived from historic sources, yet chooses not to engage the themes of religion and politics. The Assassin’s Creed novelisations were cancelled because the suits wanted to remove “religious references”.

    Yeah, real bold Ubisoft, real bold. Games can be more than petty playthings, but the industry really needs to stand up for this to happen.

  9. Lu-Tze says:

    Games as Art again? To make fair comparisons you can’t just consider the big studios, it would be like asking “are films art” and then look at Disney.

    The big Hollywood studios rarely if ever take big controversial risks (other than in ways that just increases publicity, in the same manner we see with Take Two/R*). Just like Hollywood you need to go to independent studios to find where the “controversy” and art is.

    It’s hard to criticise an industry so much in it’s infancy, and an even fairer comparison would be to the film industry of the 50s, there’s still plenty of steps to be taken to accept it as a media form before we can push it as art.

    The avoidance of controversy doesn’t say that a medium can’t be used for art, it just implies that one studio isn’t intending to do so. You know as well as I do that games as a medium could be used to make artistic pieces, their absence is not indicative of an outright “this can’t be”.

    Well, either that or explain to me how Mission Impossible 3 is art.

  10. JerryvonKramer says:

    Art can still be art whilst also being politically tame.

    Also, there can be good art and bad art. I_still_love_Okami’s post really is a lot of old twaddle.

  11. I_still_love_Okami says:

    @Lu-Tze: You’re of course right. As I said in my warning, this was gonna be a rant and that I’d make sweeping generalizations.

    I never said, that games can’t be art. Of course any medium can be art and I think that video games have a very high potential to be just that and once somebody figures out how to touch that special part within us that resonates to art using games as a medium, they will blow away everything that came before.

    Anyway, my rant was just that: A rant. As a gamer my main problem with Assassin’s Creed is the combat. They could have had at least two soldiers out of a group of ten attack the player at the same time….

  12. Acosta says:

    Totally agree with Lu-Tze. We ask too much for our young entertainment industry. For me the “videogame is art” discussion finish with ” not yet, but it will be”, the medium has potential to express powerful things (it does now, from time to time), but at this point is heavily focused on the entertainment side in a high risk industry.

    That said, I think that Assasin´s Creed is not simple, it avoids being truly controversial, but it´s quite an intelligent game with some complexity and even deep arguments. Irrational went much further than Assasin team, that is true, but I would say that for being a blockbuster from Ubisoft for november, it´s a step in the right direction.

  13. twb says:

    I’m both disappointed and relieved. I’d love to see AC handle the serious political and theological conflicts of the Third Crusade — playing a radical ‘Isma’ili assassin fighting both Salah al-Din’s secular-Sunni power structure and the Christian invaders of Richard Coeur de Lion has the potential to draw out some interesting parallels (and equally interesting contrasts) with modern-day politics. But, of course, there was no chance of Ubisoft (or any other major game developer) not screwing it up, so perhaps it’s best that they not even try.

  14. AbyssUK says:

    A totally over-hyped game not meeting expectations.. somebody call the daily mirror…

  15. Chemix says:

    I’d like to see more interesting and compelling settings, but I know and expect the industry to stay away from topics that could offend people. Hell, Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 might be cited as racist for having black zombies… which is a ridiculous concept because it’s not a singling out of black people that happen to be zombies, it’s that the zombies just happen to be black.

    There has to be some sort of sane middleground between being overly-politically-correct, and being Rockstar (who go out of their way to offend some people).

  16. Piratepete says:

    /rant on

    I don’t think the games industry is to blame, society in general has no interest in pushing any boundaries of human endeavour, we have become ‘The Culture’ a static slow moving idium that barely evolves. Except its more right wing and we don’t have cool AI’s and gurt big spaceships.

    The problem is we are so afraid of offending anyone….anyone at all…that only the blandest works of art/music/gaming/media are heavily advertised and sell. Its nice to see COD4 push this but it should say IRAQ in big letters not GENERIC MIDDLE EAST COUNTRY.

    Sorry, I’m a bit ancy this afternoon and there is a time and a place for political correctness and art (or videogames) or any other fictional media should not have to censor itself for the sake of offending anyone.

    Hell I like horror films but ‘Hostel’ I just don’t want to see, as I don’t like sadism. So don’t watch it, censor yourself for chrissake. And If you do watch it and are offended then recognise it was your choice and not make those responsible for making it scapegoats for your own tastes.

    /rant over

  17. Piratepete says:

    Apolgies, normal service will be resumed shortly :)

  18. Theory says:

    Is the fact that 99% of the people in the game are white ever explained?

  19. Bob Arctor says:

    Art department budget?

    I don’t know, I still feel there is something naggingly not right about that RE5 trailer. I don’t like or dislike the series, it’s just far removed from my PC gaming, but I am not quite happy about it.

    As that woman blogger wrote perhaps it’s that the uninfected locals seem dead and zombie like anyhow. I think we in the west get a very dehumanised view of Africa really, just numbers and dead-eyed people dying of AIDS and hunger.

  20. Jachap says:

    I had no expectation whatsoever that this game was, in any way, going to intelligently tackle a single religious issue.

    I’ve played plenty of World War Two games as the Germans without controversy. What’s the difference?

  21. Kim says:

    Nobody complained when Leon S. Kennedy shot up a village of Europeans.

    Resi 5 is set in Africa (although from the trailers I’ve seen – a stereotyped Africa). I’d be more annoyed if white folk were the majority in the game. Or the developers avoiding that part of the world, just incase it upset someone. Of course, there are some sensitive topics that people have to be responsible with when using in games, or any media – but avoiding topics like religion and politics just in case a law-suit happens is sad and dissapointing, if anything. A game can be a very powerful tool in presenting people with questions about current world situations, and it’s a shame Ubisoft didn’t use that oppertunity (from what I’ve heard, haven’t had a chance to play the game myself yet!).

  22. malkav11 says:

    You have? Really? In my experience the only sort of WWII game that actually has a full singleplayer campaign for the Germans are wargames. (Well, and Hearts of Iron, but you can play many, many different countries in that.) And most of the wargames don’t attempt to tell stories, just present you with a bunch of chits on a hexmap that differ from allied forces only in their statistics and positioning. Similarly, sure, you can play Germans in multiplayer Company of Heroes, or presumably in the multiplayer modes of the gajillion WWII shooters out there, or even in Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s multiplayer…but there’s no controversy there because you’re just in a different skin with different equipment.

  23. twb says:

    Kim –

    The problem is the RE5 appears to stylistically define itself by way of the old “Zulu Dawn” trope, in which a few lone whites heroically fend off thousands of featureless African killers. (Related tropes: “Constant Gardener,” in which a few lone whites heroically stop other whites from exploiting thousands of featureless African victims, and the somewhat more knowing “Modern Traveller/Black Hawk Down,” in which a few lone whites are chased out of the country by thousands of featureless African killers.)

    The difference between setting a game like this in, say, Spain or Raccoon City versus Africa is that the latter game by necessity exists within the narrative space created by those genres and engages in intertextual dialogue with what are essentially colonial-era stereotypes of “native peoples.” Which is a fancy way of saying that when you create a game that consists of killing hordes of featureless African monsters, you’re going to be invoking old racist stereotypes of hordes of featureless African monsters — and RE5 doesn’t look like it’s going to do much more than set you down in Stereotypical West African Village #103 and give you a gun and shambling dark-skinned targets.

    (Worst of all, given RE’s usual paucity of ammo and weapons, pace Belloc, “we have got / An empty shotgun, a useless knife, and a crappy pistol with nine rounds of ammunition, and they have various wicked edged weapons, chainsaws and a freaking Vulcan cannon.“)

  24. Dracko says:

    Jachap:

    I’ve yet to see any WWII FPS that allows you to play a German, let alone a Nazi , single-player campaign. Probably run the risk of being too interesting.

  25. Dracko says:

    twb:

    Where does Schindler’s List fit in those tropes?

  26. twb says:

    Never having seen the movie, I can’t speak to it, or in general how a Jewish-American director’s movie about an Austro-Hungarian righteous gentile saving Jews from German Nazis would fit into overall critical theories of fiction. The depiction of Jews (or, for that matter, Arabs) in fiction is whole ‘nother issue.

    It might be interesting to play a WW2 game as a “good German,” such as an Abwehr officer involved in aiding Jewish escapees and foiling Nazi plans. Of course, such a game could only end badly for the protagonist….

  27. Dracko says:

    Schindler’s List is a peculiar film: The Jews are utterly underdeveloped, even turned to stereotypes on occasion, Schindler is completely overblown as far as melodrama goes (“This car was worth at least 10 Jews!” he cries, tears flowing) and the most interesting and indeed credible character is a mentally unbalanced concentration camp runner who falls for a Jewish woman and has no idea how to cope with it. It was a very odd viewing experience to me, well worth the look. There’s even moments of drama that falls flat because they turn to black comedy.

    A “good German” would be interesting. I always thought playing a Nazi soldier during the Fall of Berlin had potential. You’d have to try and escape to the West, dodging Soviets. And of course your actions, inhuman or not, would effect the outcome, like say during a trial.

  28. Thiefsie says:

    This reminds me of Hitman (Silent Assassin) where all the Sikh had to be removed (equalling a whole level in one instance) because someone complained about them being unfairly portrayed as terrorists or something like that (with Turbans etc) It’s all a little hazy now… I don’t think Io were even attempting to tackle any hard issues but just had them portrayed as bad guys with guns you had to avoid in a level which was enough to call ire.

  29. Thiefsie says:

    Turns out they depicted a religious temple of Sikh notoriety which probably garnered most of the flak.

  30. Matt says:

    This is an interesting topic and it got me thinking about games and their relationship to art.

    The Bioshock “moral” choice is hardly like the issues assassin’s creed would have had to deal with.

    Bioshock’s choice was first and foremost a fictional dilemma. It was also a very simple black and white choice, between a “good” and “evil” action, further emphasised by the fact they used children to create greater empathy. I don’t really think it deserves any credit for innovation, or introducing some complex decision making. It was pretty simplistic and fairly arbitrary certainly not comparable to the content a game like Assassin’s Creed would have to be tackling.

    Furthermore Bioshock was a science fiction setting. Science fiction allows the use of symbolic events to represent real life ones, while also creating distance from those real life events. I am not really sure that Bioshock managed to tackle any great issues in any meaningful sense. It felt to me like it just skimmed over little bits of philosophy and ethics to pretend it was deeper than it was.

    In creating a game like Assassins Creed, there was never any hope of these issues mentioned being tackled. The fact is it is a commercial game and ultimately such choices would be decided by a publisher not a developer. The publishers are commercial organisations, and religion is arguably a far more incendiary topic than sex or violence.

    In order to get this game made they could not risk being accused of being anti-Semitic, or prejudiced against other religions, particularly not in the current climate as it simply would not get taken on by a publisher. Certainly a game that was derogatory about the Christian faith, or had you attacking invading Christians would cause all sorts of problems for a publisher, given world events over recent years.

    It is also important to look at a few issues regarding the current attitudes to games. Games are seen as entertainment not art by all but a small few and for a form of entertainment to be seen to be including such issues directly would cause uproar. Also though games are regulated in terms of age restrictions, this is not strongly enforced. To have genuinely sensitive and adult themes rather than just porn cards or blood spatter much tighter restrictions would need to be in place, otherwise society would not accept them.

    I think the guy is being naïve if he expected a really accurate depiction of the 12th century. What the game probably attempts is an aesthetic approach. It wants to capture the feel of what the period might have been like in that region, without delving too deeply, in exactly the same way Bioshock tried to place notions of ethics in its game without really tackling them.

    Hollywood cinema had the same problems to some degree, it wasn’t until the late 60s, early 70s that the classical Hollywood mode of production was challenged and graphic violence, or sex was included in popular films, leading to more and more complex issues being handled as barriers were being broken down.

    The games industry is young, even literary criticism was not accepted academically until the last century. Genuine game related critical material is thin on the ground, games courses focus on technical things, marketing, or how to improve games in terms of entertainment; art in games seems to refer more to the aesthetics, concept art, or graphical design. Games have not really developed their own “language” much of the techniques they use are borrowed from cinema but games are not films.

  31. Tim says:

    I think they were worried about the thought police blocking the game. With enough political interference the consoles might have enforced some censorship. That is if they had portrayed the crusaders as the terrorists. I guess it’s the GTA/Manhunt effect?

  32. Brog says:

    Matt: The “feel of the period” is thoroughly infused with religion. If they weren’t going to deal with that they should have picked another setting.
    Anyone who gets offended by accurate portrayals based on uncontested historical records can die in a fire.

  33. JakethePirate says:

    The whole “lolart?” question seems a bit misguided to me. Why can some novel be art by virtue of being a novel, but a game has to be something really special to even warrant the discussion? I think the only worthwhile answer is that anything you want to call art is art and what really matters is the artistic value of any work.

    By that concept, the Chick article (which was wonderful) gives the impression that Assassin’s Creed is of far less value than is could have been.

    The Nazi scenarios that twb and Dracko described sound like they would be incredible if done right but I doubt I’d trust any developer with something like that.

  34. Matt says:

    A novel is not art just because it is a novel. I don’t think anyone claimed that here. A novel can just be entertainment too.

  35. JakethePirate says:

    @Matt:
    Who makes that choice though? I say something’s art and you call it entertainment, which one of us is right? We need to get past the concept that being art makes something have value; art can be meaningless and lack any redeeming qualities.

  36. twb says:

    Dracko — that’s an interesting and nuanced take on the film. If you haven’t seen it, you might be interested in Norman Jewison’s “The Statement,” in which Michael Caine plays a Vichy war criminal who is in hiding within the Catholic church. Caine’s character is fantastically flawed — a monster who thinks his guilt will get him into heaven — and wonderfully portrayed.

    That kind of character might be interesting to play — indirectly implicating a player in evil acts might be the only credible way to handle some of things we’re talking about without descending into Manhunt-style torture porn or Fable-style caricatures. (Fahrenheit, for all its flaws, might have struck the right balance by letting you play opposing characters through interwoven and simultaneous plotlines — consider a game in which you play a Nazi fugitive and a Mossad agent sent to bring him back to justice.)

  37. Matt says:

    What is art is a difficult question to answer and it is a debate that has continued for as long as there has been art I am sure. I think to debate what is art here would be to deviate from the main topic; it isn’t something that can be answered definitively.

    I think better questions to ask regarding this article and perhaps games in general might be; what is meaningful art? Do games extend beyond the simple aesthetics and enjoyment, and try to make some comment on society in some way? Or are they designed with entertainment as their primary function?

    I certainly am not willing to state that games are not art and I didn’t try to in my post but it is something that is under scrutiny. I think a very strong argument can be made, that games are primarily concerned with entertainment and are still viewed by the majority of people as such.

    This raises certain issues when tackling difficult subject within the context of a game. You need to be able to prove your intent when doing so and without being an established art form, it is difficult to justify the use of such topics when criticised. Games have yet to establish themselves in this way, they are still young in comparison to other forms of art and are arguably limited by the way they are produced. Also they have no real body of criticism (in the academic sense) behind them, it is something that is still being developed, which makes arguing for challenging content more difficult.

    These things will change in time I am sure, but right now it is a huge gamble for a big budget game, with a long development time, like Assassin’s Creed to risk sales, or even release by being too challenging. The developers may have wished for more freedom but at the end of the day, in order to exist they cannot afford to take some risks.

  38. Dracko says:

    twb:

    Thanks for the recommendation, it’s noted and I’ll be sure to check it out when i can. Might I also suggest the adaptation of Stephen King’s Apt Pupil, starring the inimitable Ian McKellen as an ex-concentration camp runner blackmailed by a sharp high school kid into revealing his experience? Far, far better than the original source material, it must be said (Which is still entertaining stuff).

  39. JakethePirate says:

    Matt:
    You are of course, right. No matter what I or anyone else might say, games are not viewed as having artistic value and most major publishers are very wary of anything approaching controversial. Risk is bad.

    This is actually part of the criticism of the industry presented in Uplink (the hacker game, the one by Introversion. It’s definitely a criticism of the games industry; read Chris Delay talk about his experience as an intern and then him talking about Uplink. It’s obvious): aside from the whole dehumanization thing and the not knowing why you’re preforming whatever specific task you’ve been assigned there is this concept of risk. You can do all sorts of cool stuff, but the penalties for failure are so high that any sense will tell you it’s not worth it.

  40. Spacegirl says:

    It doesn’t appear to me that any1 has noticed /mentioned that at the start of the game there is an exciting message informing you that it is a work of Historical Fiction and that it was developed by a multicultural team of many faiths! O, Companies!

    Also, I don’t ever think it was Ubisoft Montreal’s intention to make any sort of “Statement” with the game. Neither Prince of Persia nor Splinter Cell had any aspirations to make you think about the World at Large and none of the advertisements or mountains of Pre-Release Press really even mentioned the scenario at all. It was always “Cool Dude. Crazy Big Old School City. Swords. Assassin. Sweet!”

    It’s pretty humorous and extremely post-modern that a game is being criticized and looked down upon because it ISN’T making a statement about something (in my mind) it never had any intentions too in the first place. It’s a freaking game! You are a dude in a Cool Costume, You kill Bad Dudes!!

    I have never come close to me mentally or philophically “challenged” by a game before. Not even close. Video game writers have never been as good as the Sci-Fi greats they so often attempt to emulate, or even modern comic authors. Also, in a videogame I will always choose whatever I think will be the most “fun.” That isn’t particularly conducive to mind-blowing moral ambiguity!

    So, in short, I don’t see what any of the fuss is about. Are We so conditioned to find Conflict and Controversy in any setting related to religious or modern issues, that when we don’t see it we cry foul? And what Amazing Statement could even be made? Oh!! X Group is like Y group in the present, maybe Z are really the bad guys?!!1 WOW MY MIND IS BLOWN!! IT WAS SO OBVIOUS AND UNINSPIRED AND I AM SO GLAD THEY PRESENTED IT TO ME!! THANK GOD THEY DIDN’T JUST AVOID PRETENTIOUS CRAP AND TRY AND MAKE A GOOD ACTION GAME!!!

    Also, the entire Is A Game Art argument is an offshoot of What Is Art which is an idiotic discussion based largely on semantics. So Shut up about that too lol.

    Space, Out!

  41. GhaleonQ says:

    This couldn’t be more correct. It would be like a game set at the Worms Diet where, instead of an Ace Attorney-like battle of wit, theology, and politics, you control Martin Luther or Charles V in a chess game or Dance Dance Revolution: Ballroom Edition.

  42. Kommissar Nicko says:

    First of all, I think the developers and publishers for AC should be forgiven for not addressing the “hard issues.” How many players will actually feel cheated by the developers removing all the religious and moral context from the scenario? I can imagine the number is small. Furthermore, they’re essentially exploring relatively virgin ground as far as milieu is concerned–the only vaguely similar contexts I can come up with quickly for a game of this sort are Prince of Persia and Thief (and I haven’t played either). If anything, the choice to use the Crusades as a backdrop was probably attractive because it adds distinction from Splinter Cell, Metal Gear, or Hitman (to name a few).

    While I agree with the notion that videogames should aspire to art, I would also argue that–like film–the constraints of capitalism make the process more difficult. The reason that books and visual art (paintings, sculpture, etc.) are so commonly accepted and found as “art” are because they’re so damnably cheap to produce: the only things you really need are a few tools and a vision, and one man (or woman) can make it happen without compromising a thing. Granted, that vision may not make it further than the creator can throw it, but at least it gets made. With a videogame or a movie, the costs of realizing any vision, no matter how phenomenal, are staggering. That’s why you get things like Derek Smart’s Battlecruiser series, which (for better or for worse) was basically the work of one guy over the course of many, many years.

  43. dhex says:

    ehh, they made a game about a heretical sect of islamic assassins. that’s good enough for a game, really. shit i’m buying it simply because of that, even though i know my layperson’s interest in the ismailis is going to be abused from hell and back again by pretty much every historical misstep (plus whatever IT WAS ALL A SIMULATION WOW style “twist” is coming) but i’m happy enough.

    also who wants to get killed for a fucking game? i mean, it did wonders for theo van gogh’s career but the downside is you don’t actually get to enjoy said career upswing.

    i second dracko’s good nazi bit, since we already got a shot at stalingrad from the russian side, i think it would be interesting to see it from the german side. probably not going to happen but you take what you can get so cue up the aga khan that’s really more chaka khan and let’s get it on.

  44. Garth says:

    I just wanted to pipe in on the German’s in WW2 topic, as I have a lot of experience, well, bitching about it.

    My friend Alex’s Grandfather was a German Mechanic in Stalingrad. He received two Iron Crosses (1st and 2nd class) for his heroic actions under fire, taking injured soliders, putting them in trucks, fixing the trucks, and then successfully driving them out of the combat zone to an aid station. During the action he was shot twice in the arm, three times in the leg, before he even started fixing the trucks.

    If you can explain to me what political issues this would cause, I’d like to know. Being some German farmer who was drafted to defend Germany itself, or some shoemaker who joins the army in the early 30′s because the deutschmark is worth nothing, and he needs any money he can get is hardly being a NAZI. It would be quite easy to have a single player game, hell even Call of Duty style, where you’re some German private in the army. Not all Germans are NAZI’s – it could be combat just as dry as the entire CoD series. It doesn’t tackle any huge issues.

    I think the problem here is that everyone wants to be the hero who, well, heroically defends freedom or whatever trite crap. War is hell, and trying to pretty it up with various heroic falsehoods is hardly breaking any ground.

  45. Patrick says:

    Historical accuracy isn’t ‘making a statement’. You don’t have to draw goofy parallels between today and the society being depicted to prove some point. The care and research that went into Assassin’s Creed’s setting and premise, however, makes the historical omissions awfully glaring and spineless.

    TV and Movies (which most people also do not consider art) have much more gumption when dealing with possibly insulting or offensive content than the cowardly video game industry. They’re risk a LOT more money, too, and for slimmer margins. For the game industry, Assassin’s Creed was the perfect opportunity to show that they do indeed have balls; it’s a sure-fire best seller, regardless of the controversy, due to the gameplay, setting, and marketing blitz. It’s been enormously hyped and anticipated. This is one of the very few games that they could not have screwed up if they tried. And they shyed away from something that wouldn’t have made NBC nervous.

    I don’t know why anyone would defend this action, from a financial or artistic viewpoint. It’s not good business for an entertainment industry to be risk-averse. The music industry isn’t. Television and film are both head and shoulders above video games in both artistic merit and testicular fortitude. Book publishers absolutely are not. Video Games are, and very much so. That’s the measure of their immaturity as a medium. Risk gets people interested and spreads word-of-mouth (the absolute best marketing). It gets attention and admiration from the press. It makes the goddamn work stand out. It isn’t just money you throw away to please a pompous director. In a medium with so many derivative and similar (and very expensive) titles, risk is downright logical, not naive.

  46. Roman says:

    Your all wrong. Art, is a lot like a Deity, since Art has no constraints it cannot be therefore defined by finite standards, so art in essence is infinite and completely out of our reach, such as Deity is. So what is it that we do with our pretty pictures and our musical talents? We create visual representations of feelings, some want to convey happiness, some want to convey sadness. I read someone criticize Disney for ruining artistic integrity in the film industry? Bullshit, load of bullshit, Disney’s goal was to make something to cause laughter and happy feelings in children, and because we are so haughty and elitist, we can’t even acknowledge that for any worth. Art can never be compromised, just interpreted.

    That said, Assassin’s Creed was a massive disappointment to me strictly because of political correctness. I didn’t feel as if their meaning or message was compromised because the message was never meant to be make a game that is somewhat historically realistic and factual, it was meant to be a sci-fi game set in an alternate reality. If only they advertised the game as such, but I do not ever recall a single commercial mentioning any of those sci-fi elements before the game itself actually came out. So they lied.

    It’s a shame that political correctness has infested it’s tendrils into our industry as well. I had high hopes AoC would break this, but even now I am seeing more and more doubts. I guess creative freedom (not art) is not really free anymore because unfortunately, soccer moms, radicals, and victimized minorities (which I am part of one) believe that their opinion, their way of looking at things, is the ONLY way.

    Political Correctness starts with people, not companies, not production houses not studios. The moment people would stop being afraid to criticize another race, or another culture, or sex, is the moment racism as we know it shall no longer exist. We all are human, we all have different cultures, and all cultures are flawed and subject to criticism. The more you ignore these flaws, the more they become negative stereotypes, and the more other people, cultures, and or races, would frown upon you. It Are a Fact.