a. Description of the original text and its socio-cultural and historical contexts;

Set in a universal struggle between the Templars (a group of people who believe in total order) and the Assassins (a group of people who believe in a balance/choice between order and chaos, a.k.a. free will), Assassin’s Creed posits a world where human history can not only be accessed, but re-lived, through a machine called the animus. The animus utilizes our genetic memory (“the collection of memories of one’s ancestors that are passed down into subsequent generations through DNA”) so that we may go back in time and literally step into the shoes of our ancestors.

The two main games that piqued my interest were Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed 3. AC3 originally came out in 2012 and played to the actual doomsday fear in 2012 by having a doomsday event to be averted (that was set to occur on the same date) in the actual game. Furthermore, the period of history explored (via the animus) in AC3 was colonial America, and the protagonist was Connor (or Ratonhnhaké:ton in his native tongue), a half-Mohawk, half-Brit. Seeing that, at this period in time in the real world, the human rights of Native Americans were finally being investigated by the UN, it’s no coincidence AC3 explored British/American racism toward the Native Americans that preceded them. The overarching theme of free will vs order (by way of the Assassin and Templar conflict) is especially evident here, as the Templars, who sided with the British, endeavor to not only suppress the colonists, but the Natives as well. 

Moving on to AC Odyssey, which came out six years later in 2018, we follow protagonist Alexios (or Kassandra, depending on if you choose male or female, but they’re essentially the same person) during the time of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece. The Assassin/Templar conflict is not really present in this game, but for the purposes of this project I want to focus on Alexios’ (and Layla Hassan, the modern-day protagonist who goes into the animus to access Alexios’ memories) interactions with the Isu which I will discuss in the next part. Said interactions are clear metaphors for (the many types of) discrimination in our current society, especially with rising concerns of human rights as they relate to race, gender, religion, etc., and with what it means to be “human” ever-changing and under scrutiny.

b. Justification for the alternate version that explains the new socio-cultural/historical contexts;

While the stories and protagonists have varied across the many Assassin’s Creed games, what I want to focus on is the lore of the series as a whole. 

And change it up a bit, of course.

In the Assassin’s Creed universe, human prehistory saw us living with the “First Civilization,” also known as the Isu. These Isu were an extremely technologically advanced race, and were the ones who created humanity in the first place through a forced/expedited evolution of a primate species. They created us for two main purposes — a military force and a labor force — and engineered our brains in a way to make us utterly compliant/obedient to them in the presence of an Apple of Eden (which is just another piece of technology) in an effort to control us more easily and create an illusion of peace. Furthermore, the Isu, as our creators, ended up taking on the roles of gods, specifically, the mythological gods. Thus, the likes of Zeus, or Juno, or Anubis were all Isu.

However, the humans and Isu fell into conflict as the former rebelled for freedom (thanks to a couple of human-Isu half-breeds by the names of Adam and Eve stealing an Apple of Eden), creating an era of violence. This war would’ve continued well into the future if not for the “Great Catastrophe,” an apocalyptic event (coronal mass ejection), which nearly wiped both sides out. While humanity had enough surviving members to continue on into the future, the Isu didn’t, and went extinct a century later.

But what if the Isu didn’t go extinct? What if they flourished into the future instead of humanity, creating a society of oppression and servitude for human-kind? 

In this new world I wish to create, there are two main themes I’d want to explore. First, racial injustice and human rights. This would be the most obvious route to take when having a “superior” race in the mix, and having said superior race being the actual mythological gods (an example of making religion a reality as well via technology) adds an extra layer to this. Shouldn’t we worship our god(s)? Shouldn’t we praise them and love them and serve them? In this case, the answer to all these questions would naturally be no, as the Isu wouldn’t be the kindest gods, to say the least.  

The second thing I wish to explore is monotheistic religion in this fictional world. With the mythological gods quite literally among humanity, there doesn’t seem to be much of a place for anything that isn’t polytheistic. Thus, those who believe in “one true God,” would naturally be frowned upon and persecuted for believing in something that doesn’t have hard proof of existence. That said, the socio-cultural reference here lies in the prejudice against the likes of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Monotheistic religions have long been oppressed, and said oppression undoubtedly continues in modern day society, even by other minority groups, and even internally.

On top of this, a third theme I’d wish to explore is climate change by adding another impending apocalypse to the oppressive, strife-filled world of Isu and humanity. Global warming has long been a looming threat for our world, and continues to be even now as concerns rise about how much time we have left before “drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people” becomes a reality.

In total, these socio-cultural themes (save the second one) are already looked at in the games, albeit in a very limited fashion. Thus, I wish to create a world where they can be expanded upon and analyzed even further.

c. Engagement with relevant theoretical perspectives as they apply to the original work and to the new version;

With the mythological gods simply being an extremely technological race, the main idea I’d want to work with is the posthuman world, where technology is essentially the new religion or “god,” along with what it means to be human in comparison. Posthuman ethics will also be an important part of this project, as what is right and wrong in a world where humanity’s gods/creators are not only technologically advanced and present and active in their rule, but can also make us more obedient through their technology (Apples of Eden) and rob us of free will. Would humans even be allowed to have the basic human rights everyone (should) have today, if in a world dominated by the Isu, we’re a disposable military/labor force?

For this, I’ll be utilizing some of the related texts given in class, but also conduct further research on the matter.

d. A work plan for the project.

First things first: play through the relevant Assassin’s Creed games again (Odyssey, AC3) so that I can brush up on the Isu-centered theme I’d want to work on. The other AC games aren’t necessary to play through, since they don’t really look at the Isu-human relationship at all. That said, AC Odyssey puts a decent amount of emphasis on the Isu-human relationship in its downloadable content (DLC) “The Fate of Atlantis,” which will give me a great jumping-off point for creating my own interactions between the Isu as the “superior,” or “god” race and humanity as the lesser one. Furthermore, AC3 provides a hefty chunk of knowledge on the Isu and what they, along with humanity, did prior to the “First Catastrophe.”

The second thing I’d do is some in-depth research into the aforementioned themes I wish to explore: racial injustice, religious injustice, and climate change. In order to accurately portray these issues in the interactive world I wish to create, I’d not only need to be familiar with them as I am now, but know them inside and out.

Next up I’d formulate different plot lines that can be experienced across the world through the eyes of different characters, or, protagonists. The Isu are the mythological gods, after all, so it makes sense to have different settings/characters/stories depending on where exactly you wish to begin. For example, Egypt would have a different plotline than Greece, but the two would intersect in one way or another at some point. This would also require some more research into various mythologies, especially those that I’m less familiar with.

That said, a common theme in each plot thread would be the seeking out of an Apple of Eden to destroy it, in order to release the humans under its sway and return their free will to them.

Lastly, of course, I’d need to familiarize myself with the actual softwares required to design this non-linear, RPG-esq project.

 

 

References:

Assassin’s Creed III Remastered. Ubisoft. Steam PC version, 2019.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Ubisoft. Steam PC version, 2018.

“Genetic Memory.” Assassin’s Creed Wiki. https://assassinscreed.fandom.com/wiki/Genetic_memory

“Human.” Assassin’s Creed Wiki. https://assassinscreed.fandom.com/wiki/Human#:~:text=An%20evolutionary%20development%20brought%20about,the%20result%20of%20forced%20evolution.&text=Within%20100%20years%20of%20the,as%20testament%20to%20their%20existence

“We Have 12 Years to Limit Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

“UN to Investigate the Plight of US Native Americans for the First Time.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/22/un-investigate-us-native-americans

Rifkin, Ira. “Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: Taboo no Longer?” My Jewish Learning. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/anti-semitism-in-the-21st-century/

Greenfield, Daniel. “‘God is Dead’ : Leftist Rioters Vandalize Churches and Synagogues.” Jewish News Syndicate.  https://www.jns.org/opinion/god-is-dead-leftist-rioters-vandalize-churches-and-synagogues/