The following is an excerpt from Erik Sofge | October 26, 2012 | Slate.com |
When Assassin’s Creed III was in development, the game’s Canadian developers regularly quizzed Americans about their knowledge of the Revolutionary War. Who were the leading lights of the era? What did Boston look like? Just how deep would Ubisoft Montreal’s writers, artists, and cultural consultants have to dig to tell a story that felt fresh and surprising to Americans?
Not all that deep, it turns out. Alex Hutchinson, the game’s creative director, says Americans were as likely to identify Christopher Columbus and Billy the Kid as Colonial-era figures as they were to cite George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. In addition, some assumed that cities like Boston were little more than frontier campgrounds, with tiny communities huddling for warmth in tents.
You might argue that these sorts of answers reveal how ignorant Americans are about their own history, and you might be right. But they’re also a consequence of the dearth of popular depictions of this period. When Assassin’s Creed III comes out on Tuesday, millions of gamers will be exposed to the American Revolution for the first time. (Perhaps tens of millions—Assassin’s Creed II sold more than 9 million copies.) What they’ll find is the most accessible reconstruction of the Revolutionary War era that’s ever been made. That’s because of the painstaking research and astonishing sense of historical responsibility that AC3’s makers poured into the project. But the game also stands out because it’s the first of its kind: Nobody in mainstream entertainment has ever tried to capture 18th-century American at this level of detail.
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