Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation was created by Ubisoft. It was initially released on October 30th, 2012 for consoles. However, an HD version was later released on January 14th, 2014, which brought it to PC and newer consoles. The main story within the game follows Aveline, a French, biracial assassin, during the years after French and Indian War. The game is set in New Orleans, a short time after the Treaty of Paris, and shows the power struggle within the city as government control shifts from the hands of the French, to the Spanish Templar Order. In an attempt to keep power away from the Spanish, Aveline attacks the Order. One distinct way that she targets the Order is by freeing the slaves on the plantations of the members, which takes away their means of revenue. Her cause is further driven by her personal history with slavery, as her mother was once a slave. Another way that she attacks the Order is by assassinating high up members of the organization. Throughout the story Aveline receives help from people within her circle. Her stepmother, Madeleine, was the one who gave Aveline the idea of freeing the slaves to hurt the Order. Another person who helps her was the man who originally trained her to become an assassin. He helps Aveline by helping her locate the members of the organization that she is seeking to kill.
Description of Historical and Cultural Context of topic
As mentioned before, the game is set during the French and Indian War, within the town of New Orleans. The French brought over more than 2,000 slaves following the War of the Spanish Succession after 1710, and over their rule they brought over 6,000 slaves total to New Orleans, making it the largest slave market in North America. Because of France’s loss in the Seven Year’s War they gave control of Louisiana to Spain, who controlled it between 1763 and 1803, which is the time period the game is set in. Although the Spanish abolished the slave trade of Native Americans, they still pushed for massive importation of African slaves to develop indigo production. In the game, Aveline sought to defend the slaves in New Orleans by trying to take down the “Company Man”, a high ranking Templar. The game is centered on her hunt for the “Company Man”, so Aveline is constantly going from town to town searching for information on where to find him. Along the way, she frees any slaves she can come across.
The game is the ninth in the series, which influenced most of its gameplay elements. Just like most other installments in the game, the game actually takes place in the future, where Abstergo Entertainment, a fictional company, made a game titled Liberation about the life of Aveline. This is its only connection with modern day, however the efforts shown by Aveline to free slaves mirrors the efforts of many early abolitionists and rebels to free African American slaves. The central story is the first of its kind in mainstream media, as video games typically stay away from controversial subjects such as slavery. The only other major-release game featuring slavery is Fallout 3, which takes place in the far future, so Assassins Creed: Liberation and the next title in the series, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, are the only two notable releases of historical depictions of slavery.
Another important thing about Liberation is its use of an African American woman as its main character. Very few games feature African Americans or women as their main playable characters, so for this game to feature a character that is a double minority is extremely rare. It is important for more games to follow Liberation’s example and feature minorities as playable characters, because it lays a foundation for young audiences to understand what is was like for slaves during that time period. It also breaks stereotypes associated with minority groups, and gives players a chance to be in someone else’s shoes.
Themes and Styles of Topic
The structure of the Assassin’s Creed game is essential to establishing the themes. The script used in the game clearly points out Aveline’s goal of liberation and highlights her internal struggles. The talks she has with her master, going over her plans to liberate the slaves shows her want of liberation, and when she talks with Madeleine about how she is in The Order Aveline’s despair is shown clearly. The play of the game is also important to show the hardships that Aveline goes through in order to accomplish her goals. The obstacles that Aveline has to overcome, such as numerous enemies and hard to access areas wouldn’t be able to be highlighted without game play.
The theme of liberation is set up early on, and is hinted at in the title of the game. The first time the theme is shown is when Aveline fights for the freedom of the slaves on a plantation owned by a member of the Templar Order. One of Aveline’s main missions throughout the storyline was to free the people that the Order enslaved. She decides to do this by directly attacking the plantation, giving the slaves a chance to run away and become liberated. Another time the theme is present is when Aveline seeks to liberate herself from the Order. Throughout the game Aveline had received aid from someone inside the Order without realizing it. Aveline finds out that even though her stepmother was helping her, and appeared to be on her side, Madeleine was actually a member of the Templar Order. This causes a personal struggle as she truly trusted Madeleine, but she separates herself from her stepmother, truly liberating herself from the Templar Order.
Another theme that is present is that of betrayal. The people of New Orleans felt betrayed by the government as it shifted from French reign to Spanish reign. Historically, the Spanish did not care about the people within the French territories that they gained control of. This is shown in the game when the government does nothing to help New Orleans after the war, and instead expands the industry of slavery in the area. This makes it much more prominent in the area, spreading the sorrow and grief that came with slavery. This forever shifts the economics of the area, which is evident by the fact that New Orleans quickly becomes one of the largest ports in North America for trading slaves. This sense of betrayal is felt even harder by the Africans that lived in the area, because some of them were free, but were forced to become re-enslaved by the new Spanish government. Aveline was also personally betrayed by her own stepmother, which was mentioned in relation to the earlier theme. Later on, Aveline feels betrayed once more when she hears about African revolutionaries that were killing people in the swamps around New Orleans. She embarks on a mission to figure out what is going on, and finds out that they are actually members of the Order who were posing as the revolutionaries. The Order creates this ploy to try to make the white population feel threatened by the African population in the area. This would mean that more support would be thrown towards the Order’s plans of expanding slavery. When Aveline uncovers this plot her hatred for the Spanish grows even stronger and she kills the posers to get end the plot.
The game says a lot about the past, specifically that the unjust system of slavery was used for the gain of the white elite. This is because the game is set within a historical time period, and tries to stay somewhat accurate to it. While the game doesn’t say much about how things are in the present day, it is important to note that the main character is a strong black female figure. While this may not seem significant in today’s world, this is a huge step forward in the game industry. Few games utilize a female, let alone a black female, as their protagonist. If this game were to have been produced just even 10 years ago it would not have gotten nearly as many sales. So, the fact that all of this happened, and that Ubisoft even dared to create Aveline, shows a huge step forward in today’s society. It shows that females can be heroes as well as men, and that it doesn’t matter what their skin color. This can be a very inspiring influence on many young people playing this game all around the world. In very broad terms the game can be seen as making a statement about how the elite of the world prosper off of using people of lower classes to do their grueling labor for them. The Spanish members of The Order utilized what they viewed as an inferior class of people, the African Americans of the area, to do the hard work of growing crops. Just like how The Order would not have prospered without the slaves many modern industries would be as successful without the poor workers in the factories.
Overview of Critical Conversation
One of the main reasons why this game is important is because of its inclusion of a black woman as its protagonist. Dr. Harrell, a researcher at MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program, says players form a connection with playable characters in game, which can impact us in the “real world”. Whenever developers build in stereotypes to their characters, it can lead to players attributing that stereotype with people of similar appearance in real life. This is why players must be wary of associating a character’s race or gender-identity with their abilities, because a good developer will create a character that will surprise them.
Mass media affects the way white Americans perceive African Americans. Major news networks typically put a focus on crime, gang activity, and drug use in the African American community, which has distorted public perception of them. Very few TV shows and video games have made efforts to correct this distorted view of African Americans, which is where Assassins Creed: Liberation comes in. This is why having Aveline as a strong, relatable lead improves the African American perception in mass media. She is given the typical heroic traits of bravery and loyalty, however the developers of the game used her race not as a way to define her, but to enhance her character. Soraya Murray, the assistant professor of film and digital media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, applauded Assassin’s Creed: Liberation for rebelling against the gaming industry’s standard, and says this transcends the game to a cultural study. She seems to have hope that the game would inspire other developers to include female/African American main characters. She points out the use of the different personas as a clever mechanism to capitalize on her race to enhance her ability to free slaves.
Evan Narcisse, a senior writer for io9 and outspoken civil rights activist, gave a commentary on Liberation’s approach on diversity. One good point he made was that Aveline is a character with a historically plausible background, although history often avoided putting the spotlight on African Americans during that time period. Though the assassination story line was fictional, Aveline’s efforts may be a symbol for the early abolitionists and freed slaves who fought for the freedom of slaves, whether it be through political or rebellious methods. It was heroes like Aveline who laid the groundwork for the later emancipation of slaves; not necessarily through assassination, but through their efforts to provide an escape for slaves.
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