BCM 215 Pitch

The Representation of History in the Assassin’s Creed Franchise

Go to a trailer for a video game or movie set in an historical time period and you’ll see comments either praising or criticising the representation of history. You’ll see discussion as to whether the characters are reflecting their supposed backstory, whether something is being exaggerated for narrative purposes and even whether the history is being told from a modern or supposed ‘PG’ perspective (i.e. Battlefield V).

Why is this the case? Many different arguments get raised answering this question, but I believe that it comes down to the educational power media has in informing audiences. In other words, the history that video games present can directly teach those who play them about a certain aspect of the past.

This is because the participatory nature of video games allows individuals to become deeply engaged in the historical setting. Instead of reading a textbook and using one’s imagination, those who play historical games can visually and viscerally experience the past through recreated worlds and narratives. This itself facilitates a greater emotional connection for the player to the historical period than they would get from other more traditional means of studying the past.

Fellow BCM215 student Elliot and myself will be examining the role video games have in the representation of history by looking specifically at the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise from Ubisoft.


The stunningly recreated worlds of Renaissance Italy in Assassin’s Creed II (left) and Revolutionary America in Assassin’s Creed III (right) help immerse the player in the historical time period.

Over the last 13 years, players of these games have been given a character to control in beautifully recreated historical time periods, from Ancient Egypt and Rome to Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries. In order to facilitate this, the” large multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs” have studied in depth the events, locations, characters, societies, weapons and clothing of the period, and created a world which provides players with an unrivalled educational experience.

Over the course of this project, we are going to give our impressions on the representation of history in some of these games. Through roundtable-esque discussion, we will specifically look towards Assassin’s Creed Origins, Assassin’s Creed 2, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Assassin’s Creed Unity and implicitly determine the educational value these games possess.


The Ubisoft disclaimer for Assassin’s Creed games informs audiences that their games are a work of fiction, which is important when critiquing the historical accuracy of their recreated worlds.

To support our findings, we will be considering the plethora of scholarly articles that have attempted to address the historical value of these games. As well as this, we will refer to interviews lead game designers have given as they explain their motivations behind building their historical and educational worlds.

Each fortnight we plan to upload a video to Youtube of ourselves speaking about our impressions of these games with accompanying gameplay footage to demonstrate our points. We plan to go into this project without any biases or prejudices so that we can objectively determine whether the Assassin’s Creed franchise are a useful educational tool in the study of history. Watch this space!

References:

Assassin’s Creed II (2009). Ubisoft Montreal

Assassin’s Creed III (2011). Ubisoft Montreal

Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014). Ubisoft Montreal

Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017). Ubisoft Montreal

Game Informer (2012). The Historical Setting of Assassin’s Creed 3. Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmBXkWyLRXo&ab_channel=GameInformer (Accessed 20 August 2020)

Gamespot (2018). Battlefield V- Official Trailer. Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7ZpQadiyqs&ab_channel=GameSpot (Accessed 17 August 2020)

Menon, Lakshmi (2015) History First-Hand: Memory, The Player and the Video Game Narrative in the Assassin’s Creed Games, Rupkatha Journal On Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, Volume VII (1) 108-113. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/13414289/History_First_hand_Memory_the_Player_and_the_Video_Game_Narrative_in_the_Assassin_s_Creed_Games (Accessed 25 August 2020)

8 thoughts on “BCM 215 Pitch

  1. Interesting pitch fellas! Assassins creed will always go down as some of the more interesting games ive played in my lifetime but being honest I never put too much thought to how historically accurate the series is but it intrigues me when I think about it these days. For your DA it could be an interesting idea to experiment in different ways on how you want to convey the history that takes place in the series compared to how it actually happened for example oversimplified has a great YouTube channel exploring modern history in a fun an entertaining way leading to funny jokes that stick with you and enhance the viewers experience upon subsequent viewing of his videos.

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  2. Well done guys, your production quality in the pitch video and thought process into this project is extremely high quality, I can tell this is something you are both passionate about. The aesthetics of the Assassin Creed games isn’t something that stood out immensely to me, upon viewing of this video, it has opened my eyes into the vast detail that Ubisoft have put into these projects. A cool suggestion that you should possibly look into is in your YouTube videos, you should research and find a side-by-side comparison of the in-game graphics and real-life photos to see if there are any differences. You guys could also look into cultural appropriation in these games compared to other AC titles. Here are some discussions I have found online: https://hardmodegamers.com/assassins-creed-odyssey-cultural-appropriation and https://www.reddit.com/r/AskMENA/comments/8kk1gn/do_you_feel_like_the_assassins_creed_games_are/ To promote healthy engagement and feedback from your audience, you guys should look into having some AC fans interact with your videos, join in on the discussion and get their opinion on the historical correctness of these games. There is certainly a niche for this DA and am keen to see where this project goes!

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  3. The quality of your pitch video put mine to shame! It looks so professional and was presented very professionally too. I’m very interested in your idea, I am a non-gamer but have played fractions of Assassin’s Creed II when I was 9 or 10 a a friends house who had older brothers. I surprisingly remember the details of the game supporting my learning in year 9 when we were exploring the Renaissance in history class.

    The reading for week 1: ‘Games are situated in culture and society [and to] truly understand the phenomenon of digital games, it is not enough to merely study the games themselves’, is relevant to you guys here I’d say, I think there’s value in looking to the phenomenology of a historic game placed against the landscape of 2007-2020. I’d love to see you explore the effect this had, and discover as to why the games were so popular? I think from personal experience it had allot to do with how immersing the games were, and how history is a repeat of the human experience despite how polarising the assassin creed’s world is to a players reality. My point on immersion brings me to recommend this article, “Assassin’s Creed reminds us that history is human experience”: Students’ senses of empathy while playing a narrative video game” by Lisa Gilbert.

    Awesome idea guys, can’t wait to watch your videos!

    – Charlea

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  4. Hey Kurt, even though I have never played assassins creed before, I’ve got to say that this DA which you and Boswell are developing seems like it definitely going to be an exciting venture for the BCM215 digital artefact! It is so interesting to see how you guys are taking the perspective of the representation on the history in the assassins creed franchise as your primary focus. It’s refreshing to see how your DA isn’t just based around the game but will also present information on the history of the assassins creed franchise while also examining the role of video games and using assassins creed as the primary point for this project. I think a beneficial tool which you could use to identify relevant and strong sources to your topic is utilising google scholar! Whenever I am looking for information google scholar provides endless amounts of history and information on a specific topic.

    When using youtube as a platform, I think a really cool thing which you could utilise could be trying and testing out live streams to see if it interests your audience. Personally, I enjoy watching live streams on YouTube when I am bored! Maybe it is something which may interest you guys to try out.

    Can’t wait to see how you guys go with this project! Great job and best of luck!

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