Welcome to a new reality.
That is the tagline for The Tyranny of King Washington, a downloadable expansion of last year's gaming hit, Assassin’s Creed III. The fifth proper entry in a series of sci-fi adventures, Ubisoft's latest originally saw players assuming the role of a Native American warrior fighting in the American Revolutionary War.
However, this latest pack of content, allowing players to "live history as it never happened" and "ignite a new revolution," has a mysterious character taking guard against a different ruler. The narration in the trailer, which seems surprisingly blunt and inflammatory, states:
What if the story of America was not the one you knew? Revealing a nation born not of courage and of brotherhood but of greed and desire for absolute power, commanded not by a leader of men but by the hand of a possessed tyrant, a constitution built upon the blood and ashes of the innocent, an empire fed only by war and death. One crown, one ruler, and one man to stop King Washington.
This particular content package falls under the genre of alternative history, an umbrella term that encompasses many works of fantasy and science fiction, but can be vaguely defined as any story that uses chronicled elements but tells a tale that diverges from recorded history. It has been used in shows such as The Twilight Zone and by authors such as Philip K. Dick.
Assassin’s Creed, based on the concept that our genes inherit memory, has always invoked science fiction and alternative history. Each installment in the series has our protagonist experiencing different inherited memories, with previous games depicting the Third Crusade and the Renaissance. The latest game, originally set in the American Revolutionary War, will now instead have players fighting George Washington.
Therefore, it really is as "alternative" as alternative history gets. However, does that make it, or any work of the genre, exempt from being unfairly insensitive? It is one thing to pose a question such as "what if we had found aliens when we landed on the moon," because that is perhaps rather generic and doesn't target any one individual. However, the latest content by Ubisoft is quite blatant in its wrongful depiction of a specific person.
So, even if it has been acknowledged that it is untrue, would it be entirely unfair for an American to take offense when the first president is shown to be everything he reportedly stood against? Would someone be wrong in taking it personally if their constitution is being referred to as "built upon the blood and ashes of the innocent" and their country "an empire fed only by war and death?"
Its "alternative" history, which means it's fictional, but the terms are perhaps offensive nonetheless. I personally feel that the content is far too unrealistic for anyone to even accidentally believe it to be true, so there isn't much of a concern of libel here. However, there is now an actual genre entitled "creative non-fiction," where you can essentially even write memoirs that didn't happen.
Alternative history was once just for philosophizing but with modern developments, I can't help but feel we started down a slippery slope.
This Assassins Creed expansion pack will be released in 3 episodes, the final DLC due by March 31, but no specific dates for each episode yet. Players can book them all in advance by purchasing the Season Pass, which saves them money from buying it individually.