Okay, break from the election stuff.
So a lot of you have probably run across the Globe and Mail editorial that’s saying that Assassin’s Creed 3 is historically inaccurate and somehow unpatriotic. No, really, here it is.
The “historically inaccurate” bit is something that everybody on Twitter is making fun of literally as I write this. Go check out the #globeeditorial hashtag, it’s awesome. Everything from “plumbers can’t actually become raccoon hybrids and fly” to “hedgehogs give no shits about gold rings, oddly enough”. Entertaining way to spend an afternoon, and for that we all have to give the Globe a note of thanks.
Sure, a few people (notably Rowan Kaiser) are grumbling that “it’s just a game” isn’t a cogent counterpoint, but to me it’s about nailing down the idea that Assassin’s Creed isn’t a work of historical fiction. It’s fantasy fiction (or maybe science fiction if you’re feeling generous) that’s placed in a historical setting. The setting isn’t bad, but it’s ultimately the fantastical war between the Templars and the Assassins that drives the series, and complaining about historical inaccuracy in that sort of setting is just as ridiculous as complaining about the scientific basis for The Force.
What bothers me more, though, is the odd retrograde nationalism in the piece. Check out the lede:
Assassin’s Creed III is an historical-action video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal in which players join the “continental army in a war for freedom.” The goal of this Canadian-developed game is to “hunt down the British redcoats.” Whose side is Ubisoft Montreal on, anyway?
Those who doubt the decision by the Canadian government to invest in the commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 should pause and think about the implications for a country that fails to teach its history and celebrate its story. As it happens, the Quebec and Canadian governments have given Ubisoft significant support.
Wait, what the hell is THAT supposed to mean, Globe editorialists? Because, from here, what it seems like is that you’re actually trying to accuse Ubisoft Montreal of insufficient loyalty. What does it matter whether or not a Quebecois subsidiary of a French(!) company has their (fictional and fantastic) protagonist take the side of the American revolutionaries over the British in a war that happened over three HUNDRED years ago?
For that matter, what on earth does it have to do with current Conservative Canadian government’s decision to spend a whole lot of money celebrating the war of 1812?
Look. If Ubisoft Montreal wants to glorify the revolutionaries (though there’s every indication that they don’t), then they’re perfectly entitled to do so. They don’t need to present a rigorously accurate portrayal of the conflict, since they aren’t presenting a work of history in the first place. Even if they were, they certainly have absolutely no responsibility whatsoever to present in some sort of bizarrely pro-British “patriotic” fashion, as the Globe apparently demands of them.
That’s not patriotism. That’s the worst kind of nationalism. It’s the sort of thing that Canadians have historically rejected, and the Globe’s thinly-veiled attempts to curry favour with the government-of-the-day are absolutely no reason to revive them.
And, hell, if you actually play the AC games, it’s exactly the sort of thing they’re trying to reject. In the words of Ezio “head assassin in three games running” Auditore himself:
“We don’t need anyone to tell us what to do; not Savonarola, not the Medici. We are free to follow our own path. There are those who will take that freedom from us, and too many of you gladly give it. But it is our ability to choose – whatever you think is true – that makes us human…
“…there is no book or teacher to give you the answers, to show you the path. Choose your own way. Do not follow me. Or anyone else.”
If you’re looking for a lesson out of the AC games, Globe editorialists, take a look at that one. And then, maybe, take a good hard look in a mirror.