Assassin’s Creed 3 not about “America Ra Ra”, won’t “shy away” from slavery says writer
Lead writer Matt Turner and I recently discussed some of the more difficult points presented by Assassin’s Creed 3′s period and setting. These include issues such as taking sides in a USA vs England conflict and the last days of slavery, something Turner refers to as “a very current dialogue”.
One of the more obvious difficulties is how to structure a story on the American Revolution without making either the Americans or English look like the bad guys, something Turner’s aware of. “It’s funny; I’ve seen stuff from some British fans saying they don’t feel comfortable killing their ancestors. I always find that kind of ironic because killing someone else’s ancestors is fine? Also, they were British in Assassin’s Creed 1 in the Crusades, so you were fine with that?”
Crucial to making Assassin’s Creed 3 feel unbiased is making hero Connor impartial. “It was important he was outside of the conflict,” explains Turner. “He’s not British or Colonial and has his own reasons for being involved, his own path that happens to intersect with the Revolution.” Another key factor is that the game is set in, but not about the Revolution. “Our story is of both the Assassins and the Templars, that’s the focus of our story,” says Turner. “The Templars get their dirty little hands in everything, so Connor’s trajectory through the Revolution isn’t one sided at all, he’ll be going where the Templars are and they’re everywhere.”
The time frame of the game helps minimise the controversy too because this isn’t the US of A as we know it now. ”The truth of the matter is that America didn’t exist until 1783 and that’s when our game ends,” states Turner. He points out that before this point the US was just an extension of England and the Revolution was considered a “civil war on foreign soil”.
“At that point it’s not about American or English; it’s about English and English and that’s something we want to be very clear on. It’s not about America Ra Ra it’s about freedom and community and about how people are treated in that kind of a situation. And how they want to find their own identity. I think that’s something that’s universal to anybody”.
One issue that so far hasn’t been mentioned is slavery. Not only was it still in practice during Assassin’s Creed 3′s time frame but many slaves fought in the war, becoming politically active in the conflict with offers of freedom from both sides in return for help.
“It’s something we’ve been very aware of,” explains Turner. “Everybody had slaves at that point; the first groups who rallied around emancipation didn’t come around until 1787 – largely driven by Benjamin Franklin funnily enough. That was very much after our game and slavery was maintained in culture.” So how will AC3 deal with the issue? “We feel that kind of a subject deserves a certain amount attention because it’s so serious and it needs to be treated with utmost respect. We’re definitely not going to shy away from it in terms of not showing it.”
Turner says, “We’re going to focus on telling it like it was, we’re going to show what was there and what people did in that time but we want to be careful with how that’s covered and how much of it is there. It’s an important topic. We won’t be afraid to show that it’s there but we’re not going make it the focus of our game.”