Playing History: Beta Digital Artefact Blog Post

Where this Project is Going!

So far, Boswell and myself are enjoying undertaking this project – the analysis of the historical accuracy of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. This post will update the analytical framework which we have developed for our project, our response to feedback from both fellow BCM 215 students and the general public, and where we are going from this point onwards!

Our Developed Analytical Framework

To understand the approach we have taken with analysing the historical accuracy of the Assassin’s Creed games, it is first necessary to illustrate how these games are able to teach history.

As suggested by Joost Raessens, video games put players in a position of power, leaving them with choices on how they can interact with the recreated world. This position is one that has consequential effect on the world around the player; a player may undertake a quest for example that impacts the game world and the characters within it. By giving the player this weight of power, the player is able to directly dictate the experience which they have; they can form their own experiences and formulate their own meanings on what they decide to interact with.

In the Assassin’s Creed franchise, players are put into recreated historical worlds and tasked with assassinating key figures from history. The player is guided by different elements in order to eventuate this main quest of the game; a grand story is produced to link historical figures to the gameplay experience, an almanac tracks every historical figure, location and idea the player comes across, and a combat and parkour movement system unique to these games immerses the player in the historical environment, allowing them to view these recreated worlds from unique perspectives. Unlike a textbook that just relays factual information, the Assassin’s Creed franchise uses the interactivity of the video game medium to first immerse players into an historical period and then to teach them about it.

Assassin's Creed Unity Review | Time
Recreated Notre Dame Cathedral from Assassin’s Creed Unity. Due to mechanics of the game, players can climb this historical cathedral to gain new visual perspectives on the building itself, the surrounding Paris cityscape and Parisians during the French Revolution.

With this theoretical perspective understood, Boswell and myself developed a simple criteria for assessing the accuracy of these games. Firstly, we wanted to ensure that in each game we reviewed, we both commended and criticised a certain aspect of the game’s historicity. Ubisoft put a lot of effort into portraying history accurately in each game, and simply focusing on aspects we personally didn’t like would not be fair on these games. This is because one aspect of a game being historically inaccurate doesn’t automatically make the game bad; there can be other areas that are historically accurate which players can learn something from. After this singling out of a certain good and bad aspect of the game, we then wanted to comment on the overall recreated world and how immersive it is to players who want to learn about the historical time period. This then blends into our overall judgement, where we will provide a final grade for the game.

Public Feedback

In terms of public reaction to our Digital Artefact, it appears mixed. So far the pitch video on Youtube has 63 views, with 1 like and 1 dislike present. From this, I assume that our pitch has made it to the mainstream as it likely hasn’t just been viewed 63 times by my BCM215 peers. On the Assassins Creed Subreddit, Boswell posted the video and received two comments. One complimented the idea of our work, suggesting that they would be looking forward to our analysis and what we can contribute to the debate surrounding the historical accuracy of the franchise. From this comment, I am optimistic that there is at least a small public audience which would be interested in our discussions.

The other commenter specifically critiqued my presentation skills in the video. According to the commenter, there were times in the video where I was not clear or did not properly articulate the point I wanted to express. I have taken this constructive criticism on board and in the future videos will look to speak clearer so that viewers can understand my perspective and what I aim to contribute. I certainly wouldn’t want Boswell to drop me for a new co-host!!!

Pitch Blog Feedback

On my blog, I was lucky to receive four pieces of feedback which I have looked to action going forward in my DA. The first feedback from Dechlan suggested that I try to make the videos more engaging. He pointed to a Youtuber called ‘Oversimplified‘ who produces quality animations on historical periods and suggested that we attempt to replicate his brand of humour to increase public traffic to our videos. I myself watch Oversimplified‘s videos and find them very engaging, thus would like to replicate some of his humour and style into our videos. In my Assassin’s Creed Origins analysis video with Boswell, I attempted to say more jokes and approach the subject more light-heartedly. Whether or not this can be seen in the final video I am not sure, but I have tried to action this feedback in my subsequent recordings.

Oversimplified’s ‘The French Revolution’. Many history enthusiasts including myself would consider his videos entertaining and highly informative to the millions of viewers who watch his content.

The second feedback from Leo complimented our high production quality and passion for these games, something which I am glad came across in our initial pitch video. Leo suggested comparing some of the in-game locations with real life photos when showcasing the historical accuracy of the games, something which we have also subsequently done in our videos. Leo also recommended that we invite other AC fans into our discussions and, though I would really like to implement this idea, I am not certain as to who outside of Boswell and myself would like to contribute to our DA.

Charlea was the third commenter who also provided outstanding feedback for us to action. Like Leo, she praised out high production quality, something which I believe can aid us in better engaging a public audience. Charlea specifically pointed us towards an article that looked at the way students interacted with the Assassin’s Creed games when learning about historical time periods. I found this article very informative and am really thankful for Charlea’s contributions as this scholarly source helped us to define our analytical framework – the participatory nature of video games.

Hussein was the final commenter who provided us with actionable feedback that we have tried to implement in our videos. Hussein liked the way that Boswell and myself are not just analysing the specific Assassin’s Creed game but also implicitly analysing how video games and their unique participatory nature can be used to teach students history. Hussein suggested that we look for more scholarly articles using Google Scholar, something which Boswell and myself have undertaken since and resultingly have found many articles for us to reference in our videos. Additionally, Hussein recommended that we can livestream our discussions on Youtube to try and engage audiences present at that time. Though this is something which I could see us doing in the future, I feel that I need to work on my presentation skills first before I would feel comfortable presenting my opinions in a live environment.

Going Forward

Boswell and myself have already recorded the video for our impressions on Assassins Creed Origins and that should be live on Youtube in the coming days. We had originally planned to review more videos covering more of the games in the franchise but due to the workload associated with researching each game, finding time to record them and editing them into a watchable video, it appears this might not be realistic. Going forward, we are looking into the idea of reviewing two of the games side-by-side in an attempt to reduce the workload and provide a comparison point between the games.

9 thoughts on “Playing History: Beta Digital Artefact Blog Post

  1. When Boswell first talked to me about this idea, I thought I would struggle to understand your content as I have never looked at historical game settings such as in Assassins Creed. But watching your Beta I couldn’t feel more aware. The clarity of your speaking mixed with the footage of the game itself really helped me to understand. I believe this video game is a great means of teaching students about history so it will be interesting to hear about whats accurate and whats not historically accurate! If you look back to weeks 3 content we looked into the three levels of analysis. These steps include the game overview, the games formal elements and the games context. I recommend looking into this as it will give your DA a good structure.

    Here is an article I found ‘ To Help You Learn History Better Than Boring Textbooks’. If you compare and contrast these games to Assassin’s Creed I’m sure that can benefit you in some way 🙂

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  2. Hey Kurt, it looks like you and Boswell have made serious development since your last update in the pitch video, well done. Your analytical framework which is drawn from academic reading is an excellent way to frame your Digital artefact. Your addition of responding to feedback about round-table discussion and clarity of speech has definitely excelled and using the game footage visually adds more understanding into your topic.

    You should have a look back in week 2’s lecture content where it focuses in on beyond the structural interpretation of the assassins creed world and look for connotations within the game, I think this will add another layer of depth into your research. “It is important to remember that analysis involves going beyond the text, and going beyond interpretation”, Chris Moore.

    I found an interesting academic article online about the discussion of Assassins Creed being taught in schools! If you haven’t already seen this online you should definitely check it out it might be worth referencing in your next youtube vid! http://www.karsenti.ca/Assassins_creed_Report_EN.pdf

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  3. There it is!! Acknowledging my feedback from your pitch! (don’t know why but that just makes me feel good) So far your project is looking like its heading on the right track and its really good to see you are taking on the feedback in the planning for your videos however it’s a little disappoint to not see one in action yet. Given the lack of an in-practise video of your Digital Artefact its hard to provide further feedback as you have clearly acknowledged feedback from your pitch and have stated ways of incorporating it into the videos. I do look forward to seeing your first Playing History video.

    (side note if you have done a video and I haven’t seen it please let me know)

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  4. Hey Kurt, I have to say a good job to how you and Boswell have gone about this whole project which you guys are undertaking. It seems like you guys have made great progress with the project as a whole.

    I thought the heading in this blog post, which explained your analytical framework was really interesting. Your developed analytical framework has extensive information and also contributes a significant amount of content to your digital artefact. It is really cool to see how your analytical framework provides extensive detail to your project and what your project is portraying. The information which is conveyed through your analytical framework offers that extra bit of information which makes your project detailed, professionally portrayed and easy to understand as well.

    Because you did mention a couple of points about the future of this project I did look into the assassins franchise after reading your blog post, and also seeing how the assassins creed franchise is a point of discussion through various parts of your blog post. I had found this really interesting article which discusses, “what next for the assassins creed franchise” https://www.bosshunting.com.au/culture/whats-next-assassins-creed-franchise/ It definitely discussed some really interesting points about the assassins creed franchise and may assist you guys with the future of your project!

    Keep up the good work guys!

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  5. Hey Kurt!
    Your Beta was awesome. I cannot believe how engaged I was by your walkthrough, It was so calm and detailed, you really framed it as if it was a moment in history. I haven’t played the Assassins Creed games in such a long time, so I was so mesmerised by the detail of these games. I had also forgot how historically rich they are, and I thought this footage really encapsulated your analytical framework “The participatory nature of video games”. I am so glad I was able to help with that! I was genuinely interested in your project so looking for academic articles was enjoyable and interesting. I’m so sorry that the constructive criticism you received was so rudely put! Your articulation and presentation in your beta was flawless, every word was pronounced. I think it’s so awesome that you guys are getting so much traction from your project, there are so many comments and interactions which really says something about the relevance of your research to an audience. I’ve been using lecture 3 allot in my project so far, in particular Roger Callois’ Paidia and Ludus scale. This is extracted from his translated french work “Man, play and games” (1958), here is the free PDF online version I found https://voidnetwork.gr/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Man-Play-and-Games-by-Roger-Caillois.pdf
    I think it would be cool if you commented on how AC is closer to ludus on the scale which refers to the formality of the game. I would comment on the story mode of the game, and how a player has no choice but to come along for the ride, and “participate” in the game and all its historic glory. Really great work guys, can’t wait to see the final product.

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