"Admire the Chief's feather headdress, his wives' shameless outfits and the adorable little faces of their red-skinned offspring. Feeding time is not to be missed!"
If that excerpt from the XIXth Century Search Engine hasn't caused your sides to split, don't worry - there's more. Ubisoft sent news of their latest AssCreed [official site] marketing initiative this morning, calling it "a rich historical research tool designed to look just like the search engines our great-great-great-grandparents used in 1868". I clicked on it expecting an irritating collection of steampunk iDevices and mustachioed memes. What I found was somehow worse than that.
We commended Ubi recently on their apparent move toward improving the diversity and treatment of the series' cast. Then with its tired references to "savages", the health benefits of a diet based on the Irish potato famine, "pimping", "MILFY" and an "anti-hysteria vibro-massager", this new excretion of web-bits is an Armstrong-like step backwards.
I used the word "references" because most of the #content here really doesn't fall into the category of jokes, wit or humour. One page simply states that human zoos existed and that they "annoy the humanists who see them as nothing more than a degrading display of human beings". Well, yes. I found that particular piece of information right after seeing the "Crippled Cupid picks of the month". That's almost certainly supposed to be funny because of the alliteration and the twist on OK Cupid. The joke disintegrated entirely when I remembered the search term I typed in to find this collection of wounded fellows. It was 'Crimea'.
Men can also find advice on a thrilling new career as a pimp, with advice about "ongoing tart training" and "outfits that get results". As if that weren't enough, Ubi have also provided some Victorian porn. Take your pick from MILFY, "the shameless mother" who cavorts with dogs and goats, or Fairy Leg, a site that mocks the idea of Victorians admiring knees and ankles, but blows whatever fragment of joke might have existed by showing the entire leg and more besides.
For the ladies, there's advice on unwanted pregnancies (found using the auto-suggested search term "abortion") and fashion (because twerking is about as relevant and amusing to the mainstream in October 2015 as it was in the 19th century). Those suffering from hysteria should visit a physician equipped with the "Granville Dildo", which allows the doctor to treat "patients on an industrial scale without tiring [his] wrist". When American Horror Story manages to treat the historical institutionalised abuse of women with more sensitivity than a piece of marketing fluff, it's arguable that the fluff should be stricken from the record. There's a cheery spot of domestic abuse in the "how to ruin your marriage: top tips" for poor people as well.
What else? A detox program inspired by the Irish potato famine is just about as funny and well-worked as my description of it there. Beyond using the words detox and famine in the same paragraph it's about as amusing as cholera. And that phrase, "about as amusing as cholera", is around the level of the rest of this collection of half-baked witticisms. Even if it doesn't manage to make you grimace, it's not going to make you laugh.
It feels like something that Ubisoft outsourced and then forgot to check through before uploading. Maybe they asked some of the twats who write student rag mags to cook up some jokes about Victorian Britain and just spunked the results straight onto the internet. Even when it isn't tediously inappropriate, it's simply full of holes. I searched for 'England' and received this response. The site suggested I search for Poland instead, which led to me this page.
It doesn't mention Poland. If I squint hard enough and use a gigantic set of binoculars I can just about see the joke. An opinion piece on The Colonies is written in the voice of a generation of smugly superior gentry who cannot understand any argument against free labour: "If we wish to preserve our privileges we must fight for them!" It's a joke done better elsewhere and the entries are all too brief to establish an authorial tone. The Dandy's Gazette is much like London World News, and all of the adverts are the same blend of troubling historical fact and 'comedy' graphics.
Searching for 'gay' throws this onto the screen. I get the joke but it highlights the complete lack of internal consistency yet again. Presumably, we are to believe that Queen Vic was a big fan of milfs and pimps.
I'm baffled. There's no reason for this to exist. It's not going to help in the quest to raise awareness of a game that everyone already knows too much about, but it's just about cheap and nasty enough to rub off on Syndicate like an overexcited aristocrat on his startled maidservant. The ugliness is contagious.