Not being a video game maven, all I knew about Assassin’s Creed III was what I was on commercials during football games. It appeared to be another violent game encouraging individuals to assume the role of a purveyor of violence and mayhem. Them I read a summary of reviews on Indian Country. Here are key excerpts:
James “DexX” Dominguez, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, shed light on Ubi Soft’s approach to the Native elements AC III. “The game’s creators consulted with the tribes depicted in the game, ensuring they made the language, clothing, weapons, and dwellings as authentic as possible. While it may bug some players, I was pleased to see that the tribespeople speak in their native language and have English subtitles.”
“We really wanted to have a real, authentic showcase of Native American culture,” Julien Laferrière, an associate producer at Ubi Soft, told Dominguez. “We wanted to move as far away as possible from the stereotypes.”
Numerous articles about the development of the game refer to a dread felt by the rest of the world regarding AC III‘s setting — gamers in Europe and elsewhere were presumably worried that AC III would have to be a flag-waving farce in order to appeal to the American audience. Writing in Slate, Erik Sofge tackles the issue, and reports that AC III‘s story does not try to glorify the United States, and rather displays “the desire to defend those original Americans, specifically the Mohawks and Iriquois in the Northeast, who watch this white man’s conflict unfold.”
“Inhabiting [Conor's] point of view allows you to watch long-standing, formalized tribal alliances shatter as groups align with the Brits and the colonists,” Sofge continues. “But whoever wins, it’s clear—the Native Americans are going to lose, and lose everything.” Sofge goes on to describe the importance of Thomas Deer, the cultural liaison for the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center, who worked with Ubi Soft to bring a level of accuracy to the game far beyond what the average gamer might have required. For instance, when Ubi Soft sound engineers wanted to add Native-language background chatter into a scene, Deer had them record Mohawk children playing on a playground.
The payoff of Ubi Soft’s efforts, Sofge writes, is something that stands out among not just games but also movies and TV as “possibly the first mainstream look at Native American history that isn’t pandering or offensive“ (emphasis added).
Wow! This videogame is the first fair portrayal of Native Americans in mainstream visual media. I almost want to go play it to find out. No, I don’t think my interest goes that far.