As an online game, the Assassin’s Creed seems to narrate a version of history to its players. However, unlike the usual history being taught at school, it showcases a twisted dichotomy where the supposed heroes become villains, and the vice versa. One supposed worldly hero who is portrayed as a villain in the game is the pope of the Catholic Church. The Assassins are depicted as the heroes. Due to the triviality of the characters in the game, many are led to believe and conclude that the game teaches its players a twisted history. This teaching may have adverse repercussions on the way players think, perceive reality, and understand current events. Nevertheless, I argue that the portion of history, which is the medieval time, as told in Assassin’s Creed may not be without basis. Prohibiting such plots in the game would equate to suppressing dissent. It would also constitute bias against alternate historical perspectives, however radical they may be. Video games like Assassin’s Creed have the right to offer different interpretations of history.
In the three separate readings, written by Jonathan Phillips, Tison Pugh and Angela Weisl, and Louise D’Arcens, and Andrew Lynch, medievalism was portrayed in two perspectives: the perspective that during the medieval period, the Catholic Church and the ruling powers in Europe have commissioned the crusaders in accordance with the Christian faith, and the perspective that such commissioning was a misguided act which resulted in the numerous terrors which the Islamic world experienced during the medieval period. In other words, the articles were written to tackle medievalism as either positively or negatively.
The arguments and contents of these sources are essential in strengthening my aforementioned argument. When the sources characterize the act as potentially misguided and improper, clearly someone is responsible. The specific academic debate and discussion is whether the crusaders, which were commissioned by the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, have acted in accordance of the Christian faith – which would justify their violent acts against their enemies – or they have acted on different motives. If the crusaders were acting in accordance with the Christian faith, then the portrayal of the pope and crusaders in Assassin's Creed is improper. If the reverse is true, the game's depiction of history is accurate.
The Christian faith teaches about love, kindness, and charity. It also teaches all humans to love their enemy. Jesus Christ, the center of Christian teachings, did not lift a sword against any of his enemies, even when persecuted. Consequently, the crusaders were not acting in accordance with Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.
In support of my thesis, it should be noted that criticism of some of the popes has been prevalent as early as the 1639. In 1639, the writer Thomas Fuller extensively criticized the immorality of the Roman Catholic Pope. In 1769, Edward Gibbon described crusading as “savage fanaticism” (Philips 309). Hence, it can be argued that such portrayal of some of the popes in the Assassin’s Creed and other related games is normal in the sense that such criticism has been prevalent for ages. The same is true for the vilification of the crusades. What the crusades did during the medieval times is a major subject in numerous debates and discussions. The argument in these debates is whether the violence they wrought was justifiable or pure savagery. There are varying opinions on this matter, and the opinion are usually polarized in sense that two distinct sides could be easily pinpointed (Philips, 311).
One may argue that the manner by which the Roman Catholic Church and the pope was portrayed in the game seem to vilify them. However, the Roman Catholic Church has also engaged in vilifying their enemies during the medieval times. During the medieval times, the Roman Catholic Church commanded great authority and power. It quashed anything and anyone, which it deemed “dark” – it had to first demonize or darken the “other” party to have a religiously valid reason to attack them. The Church defends its “loosely organized looting”, but crusading “acts of charity and love”. Such tactic of demonizing or vilifying an opponent is not a new thing. Giuseppe Mazzini used the crusaders’ violence against the Muslims – calling it something that God wanted; hence, implying that the Muslims are “not of God” or evil – in order to facilitate his political agenda (Philips, 317). There should be no issue associated with the vilification of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church in Assassin’s Creed since the Church did so many acts that are contrary to the Christian doctrine. Opposition to this view may argue that those acts were done during the medieval times and the Church no longer engaged in them at present, so there is no justifiable reason to vilify them. This may be true. However, the doctrines of the church state that a corrupt tree could not produce a good fruit. Notwithstanding the justifications or excuses, rational thinkers, researchers and common people are all entitled to their own views or interpretations of the events, which have, or are about to transpire. Without such alternate thinking or even radical views, we may travel along a beaten path and the truth may never see the light of the day. Espousing alternate views or interpretations is also a privilege that we have in a free society and not allowing this is tantamount to suppression. The plot in the Assassin’s Creed can be considered a “commentary of the troubled present” (D’Arcens and Lynch, 41) or another person’s “version of story” (D’Arcens and Lynch, 41).
Overall, we must always consider and live the Assassin’s Creed, which states that, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”. What this creed means is that we must have a skeptical approach to what is being constantly pounded into our heads at school, at work, by the society we are a part of, or even by the Assassin’s Creed itself and what it says about Catholicism or the church. The second part of the creed, “everything is permitted”, means that we have the freedom of thought but not necessarily of action, to venture into the unknown and undiscovered sides of reasoning.
Note that this creed challenges us to even question and try the very plot of the game. In the game, the heroes could only go to the next levels if certain conditions are met. The player gets to start all over again when certain rules are violated – such as killing civilians. This design of the game to restart all over again gives the player an opportunity to approach the game in different ways until he or she figures out the correct requirements or conditions to ascend to the next levels. When we apply the skeptical approach, we will come to realize that our history is not as smooth as we think it is – it has its bumps and sharp edges; it has its perfections and flaws.
Recent history is replete with examples of how organizations twist the facts in advancing their own agendas. One such example, as pointed out by Pugh and Weisl (2012) is how the Ku Klux Klan used the ideals of knighthood and chivalry during medieval times to justify their own actions. What the Ku Klux Klan did is not much different from the themes advocated by the video game, Assassin’s Creed.
In conclusion, I believe that the intent of this game is not to actually prove or disprove anything about the historical events depicted. However improbable it may be, the game espouses an alternate possibility to the existing dogma.
D’Arcens, Louise, and Lynch, Andrew. International Medievalism and Popular Culture. New York: Cambria Press. 2014. Print.
Phillips, Jonathan. Holy Warriors. Random House LLC, 2010. Print.
Pugh, Tison, and Angela Jane Weisl. Medievalisms: Making the Past in the Present. Routledge, 2012. Print