Continuing the discussion from Discover Assassin's Creed series:
At least one person was empowered by their curiosity and the characters and setting of this game: Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos
This game series is fucking weird. Maybe I was inspired by the discussion here, but I’ve been mainlining the games I have of the series lately. I finished up Brotherhood and Revelations and now I’m in this one, which is the last one in my library. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue past this one, and being a completionist with this series seems exhausting. Though Freedom Cry and Syndicate seem interesting to me.
There are some anarchist leanings in the series, especially the way the Assassins are anti-authoritarian and pro-freedom (“Nothing is true, everything is permitted” is either an anarchist or a Satanist credo!), and the Templars are advocates of control, order and hierarchy. I think this is underlined in the “mythology” sections of AC 2, Brotherhood and Revelations, esp. with the themes of the Subject 16 puzzles in 2 and Brotherhood.
Bringing this back to AC 3, there’s a really interesting subplot where your character - a Mohawk native man - finds people who are victimized, hurt, wounded or just not thriving and invites them onto the patch of land around the manor that he and his mentor have repurposed to help build an intentional community of people who will help each other out. I wish this was counterposed to American colonialism more directly. I feel it was a huge missed opportunity to contrast the American land and resource seizure with a different, divergent possibility.
In fact, I think I feel that most of this series does an interesting job of formulating an interesting counter-history using real history as a jumping-off point, but could be way more ideologically focused. It’s probably hopeless to think that a triple-A game title intended mostly to pump out a game a year could formulate an exciting anti-authoritarian ideology, but sometimes it comes close!
It’s also odd that the end result of this community building in AC 3 is…a trade system to produce and sell finished goods, a weird little 18th century trading sim. Fun for making money in-game, I guess, but it’s thematically very bourgeois-capitalist and an incredibly bad fit.
The main character gets involved in the American Revolution, helping famous “founding fathers,” which makes some sense in context because the Templars are on the other side and the main character has been inducted, partly for personal reasons, into the Assassins. But it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense given his allegiance to his own people…according to Wikipedia, the Mohawk people and several other Iroquois tribes sided with the British during the war, were dispossessed and deported by the Americans, and were given land in Canada by the British…
Some reading I’ve done recently that underlines this (relevant to AC 3 because these people are who you’re aiding):
George Washington’s obsession with making a fortune via “land speculation,” i.e. scooping as much American land as possible, in which the Royal Proclamation of 1763 halting land grants west of the Allegheny Mountains frustrated him, and gave him a material interest in leaving the British government; the Iroquois called him “town-destroyer” for the 40 villages he burned out
Alexander Hamilton, founder of Wall Street, wanted a president-for-life placed above the law, helped construct a new aristocracy of wealthy men based on being holders of massive national debt, and tried to foment a military coup against the Continental Congress
This stuff makes me want to fanfic the games with more accurate history. Like, imagine Sleepy Hollow where Crane is being trained by all the founders because they secretly need his powers to commit all these atrocities…
Then wikilnk the hell out of it!
Ya know, this game will forever be tied to those anarchist writings now, so I’d say that’s a plus.
Here’s a section from “Anarchy Works” about Anne Hutchinson, a “heretic” opposed to authoritarian systems in the colonies. This was about a hundred years prior to the setting of AC 3, but also made me think about Revolutionary War period, and made me wonder if more strongly thematizing other social organizations than the American Colonies (aside from just the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka/Mohawk) could have made for a deeper game:
In the 1600s, Europeans were streaming to North America for a variety of reasons, building new colonies that exhibited a wide range of characteristics. They included plantation economies based on slave labor, penal colonies, trading networks that sought to compel the indigenous inhabitants to produce large quantities of animal skins, and fundamentalist religious utopias based on the total genocide of the native population. But just as the plantation colonies had their slave rebellions, the religious colonies had their heretics. One noteworthy heretic was Anne Hutchinson. An anabaptist who came to New England to escape religious persecution in the old world, she began to hold women’s meetings in her house, discussion groups based on free interpretation of the Bible. As the popularity of these meetings spread, men began to participate as well. Anne won popular support for her well argued ideas, which opposed the slavery of Africans and Native Americans, criticized the church, and insisted that being born a woman was a blessing and not a curse.
The religious leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony put her on trial for blasphemy, but at trial she stood by her ideas. She was heckled and called an instrument of the devil, and one minister said, “You have stepped out of your place, you have rather been a husband than a wife, a preacher than a hearer, and a magistrate than a subject.” Upon her expulsion Anne Hutchinson organized a group, in 1637, to form a settlement named Pocasset. They intentionally settled near to where Roger Williams, a progressive theologian, had founded Providence Plantations, a settlement based on the idea of total equality and freedom of conscience for all inhabitants, and friendly relations with the indigenous neighbors. These settlements were to become, respectively, Portsmouth and Providence, Rhode Island. Early on they joined to form the Rhode Island Colony. Both settlements allegedly maintained friendly relations with the neighboring indigenous nation, the Narragansett; Roger Williams’ settlement was gifted the land they built on, whereas Hutchinson’s group negotiated an exchange to buy land.
Initially, Pocasset was organized through elected councils and the people refused to have a governor. The settlement recognized equality between the sexes and trial by jury; abolished capital punishment, witchtrials, imprisonment for debt, and slavery; and granted total religious freedom. The second synagogue in North America was built in the Rhode Island colony. In 1651 one member of Hutchinson’s group seized power and got the government of England to bestow him governorship over the colony, but after two years the other people in the settlement kicked him out in a mini-revolution. After this incident, Anne Hutchinson realized that her religious beliefs opposed “magistracy,” or governmental authority, and in her later years she was said to have developed a political-religious philosophy very similar to individualist anarchism. One might say that Hutchinson and her colleagues were ahead of their times, but in every period of history there have been stories of people creating utopias, women asserting their equality, laypeople negating the religious leaders’ monopoly on truth.
I said that
but it sounded so familiar and was bugging me so I finally looked it up. The best explanation I can see is that it may have come from Nietzsche originally, but was included in a 1936 book, The Master of the Assassins, which passed to expatriate and Beat writers like William Burroughs, who used it in his works, and perhaps from Burroughs to Robert Anton Wilson and from there to chaos magic.
Here’s another article about Brion Gysin who passed Burroughs the phrase from the 1936 book.
The phrase appears in the 1938 Vladimir Bartol novel Alamut, which helped inspire this game series…
Giving the creators the benefit of the doubt, I’d say it draws on a lot of “traditions”, to pull in a kind of twisted logic. I thought it an allusion to Stalinist practices, but I can see it drawing just as easily from Crowley.
Which just makes me want to fanfic it even more!