The Assassin’s Creed games have a fairly interesting conceit to remove the guilt that might, conceivably, come from a game in which you are a guy who goes around stabbing people in various historical contexts: *YOU* aren’t stabbing people. You’re someone in the modern era reading the embedded memories of your ancestors (hidden in your own DNA).
So when you jump off of a building to stab someone right in the upper historical context, *YOU* aren’t doing this. You’re re-living the memory of your ancestor doing this.
Of course, you’re still pushing the button and you, the player, are still in charge of keeping the “memories” of the modern-day character “in sync” with “what happened” way back when… which means that, yeah, you’re still the guy running around stabling people in the historical context.
But it’s possible to disassociate from that… and, moreover, the first few games go out of their way to argue that the people you are stabbing are bad. They are Templars, after all. Or the hand-picked front line of the Templars. Whenever you start to feel bad about the guys who merely have a job guarding the gate on the far end of the compound, the early games were good enough to demonstrate that these guys were jerks to the various peasants. Or commoners. Or they were Redcoats being mean to the colonists. Okay. That can make a guy feel better.
And, besides, this is a memory. This already happened.
Well, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (pretty good game qua game, by the way) takes place on the high seas in the Caribbean. You’re swashbuckling this time and you’re swinging on ropes and pirating against the Spanish, the Portuguese, the French, the English… and you can’t help but notice that, every time you take over a ship, you’re having to kill at least 5 people and maybe 10 and maybe 15 and maybe even more than that. Sure, it might be one thing if you had to kill the captain and his quartermaster… but the guy who just works the rigging? What did he do to deserve a cannonball in the historical context?
So they do something interesting this time: they have the Assassins come out and pretty much explicitly disavow that the protagonist is one of them. They complain about the number of people he kills. They complain about the chaos he leaves in his wake. They tell him “you have no right to wear that outfit”.
So we can keep the narrative that the Assassins are… kinda… the good…ish… guys in the eternal conflict between the Assassins and the Templars.
Because if you have two teams shrugging and saying “hey, you can’t make an omelette”, you might find yourself finding excuses to play a game where you can at least be fighting against the bad guys (even if you aren’t exactly good enough to be on the same team as the good guys).
But I found it interesting that they felt they had to go there for this one.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is “Untitled” by our very own Will Truman. Used with permission.)