“I Am Just a Blade In A Crowd” — The Richness of ‘Assassin’s Creed’ and Historical Fiction

This guy. Aside from being incredibly handsome, he and his game–the first of a series that remains extremely popular even after nine games and several years–has brought me back into gaming in a way I never thought possible. I think there is a stigma attached to the Assassin’s Creed, that it is extremely violent, “bad for the kids,” a game that should be heavily censored. Of course, in the gaming world, this stigma probably doesn’t exist, but games with any sort of violence do gain negative stigma in mainstream society.

Truth be told, however, Assassin’s Creed has so much more to offer its players than just blood, guts, and ceaseless violence. It offers a rich story, that bases much of its content off of real history. And while the game does of course take creative license with some aspects of the history it uses, there are other things that are 100% authentic. The first game–which features Mr. Badass above–sees Altair in the middle of cities involved directly in the Third Crusade. You hear whispers of King Richard, of England, and a man named Salah ad-Din, (or spelled Saladin) who is the current Sultan of Syria and Egypt, among other nations, at this time. While these names and events are mentioned more in passing than directly at certain points in the game, upon a google search (or any other form of research) one will discover that these were very real figures, and the history played out much as it did in the game.

This takes the game away from violence, into a multi-faceted world of survival, war, necessity, ancestry, knowledge, discovery, and more. Yes, there is violence in this game, and it earns it’s MA (mature) rating. I would not give it to a young person, and in truth I probably wouldn’t give it to an adult who doesn’t care about detailed plot lines or history. But as a game in general, Assassin’s Creed (the entire series) has so much to offer its players, and it deserves any good recognition it can get. The game makes you think–what does it mean to kill? To wage war? To disobey orders? What does it mean to fight for your religion? Your home?

It makes you think of what it would be like to have to live and experience those situations. It makes you question your life, values, your own history. It makes you appreciate the world, and what is has come through to exist in its current form today. For those who appreciate history just for the sheer joy of it, it also floods you with references to all sorts of historical people. places, and events. I was speaking to a fellow player (much more experienced than me, having played every ACreed game that has come out so far) and he said that when the games came out, he found himself googling and doing research every time he played the game. I have done the same thing. “Where is the city Acre?” “Which King Richard?” “Who is Salah ad-Din?” “Were there groups of secret Assassin’s or rebels or anything like that during the Crusade?” As I looked, I learned. And for me, personally, it has brought me back into the gaming world–it has introduced me to a niche of games I could play for hours, those that are considered historical fiction, and provide me with story lines that are set in some of my favourite time periods. I get lost in Altair’s world, and I’m hoping to play all of the Assassin’s games, and get lost in the other historical worlds. I love watching alternate story-lines of real history, contemplating the ‘what-ifs’ that perhaps never happened or never could, but offer interesting insights all the same.

Further, the game offers these things along with beautiful graphics, an extremely complex open world layout, pieces of dialogue that are quotable and memorable, and cut-scenes and dramatic videos that you want to watch, not press any button to skip past. I find myself writing down lines or trying to commit dialogue to memory. I analyse assassination targets for interesting aspects about them. I question things, and enter confusion along with Altair.

I am going to post more of the real historical info of Assassin’s Creed as I research it, so stay tuned, but I also encourage you to pursue knowledge and seek often, and have fun doing it.

Knowledge is power, no matter what world or time you live in.

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