assassin’s creed framework

Assassin's Creed
Although the main plots of the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ games have historical settings—during the Third Crusade (Ubisoft Montreal 2007), the Renaissance (2009), and the American Revolution (2012)—the narrative as a whole bows down to the cyberpunk dicourse. The story which delivers the framework decidedly is cyberpunkish: In the present day, or 20 minutes into the future, the evil corporation ‘Abstergo Industries’ abducts one Desmond Miles. In a secret apartment hideaway he is made to connect to the ‘Animus,’ a computer able to revoke ‘genetic memory.’ That way Miles is able to experience the lifes of his ancestors as interactive virtual realities bridging the gaps of time and space. One nice consequence of this narrative strategy is that all ‘artificialities’ of the gameplay, like e.g. the HUD, are perfectly explained within the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ universe.
    Just recently I hit on Jack London‘s novel The Star Rover (1915). I haven’t read it myself yet, but the synopsis from Wikipedia strikes me:

A framing story is told in the first person by Darrell Standing, a university professor serving life imprisonment in San Quentin State Prison for murder. Prison officials try to break his spirit by means of a torture device called “the jacket,” a canvas jacket which can be tightly laced so as to compress the whole body, inducing angina. Standing discovers how to withstand the torture by entering a kind of trance state, in which he walks among the stars and experiences portions of past lives. […]
    The accounts of these past lives form the body of the work. […]
    The jacket itself was actually used at San Quentin at the time and Jack London’s descriptions of it were based on interviews with a former convict named Ed Morrell, which is also the name of a character in the novel. For his role in the Sontag and Evans gang which robbed the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1890s, Morrell spent fourteen years in California prisons (1894–1908), five of them in solitary confinement. London championed his pardon. After his release, Morrell was a frequent guest at London’s Beauty Ranch.

LONDON, JOHN GRIFFITH ‘JACK’ (aka JOHN GRIFFITH CHANEY). 1915. The star rover (aka The jacket). New York: Macmillan.
UBISOFT MONTREAL. 2007. Assassin’s creed [computer game]. Montreuil: Ubisoft.
UBISOFT MONTREAL. 2009. Assassin’s creed II [computer game]. Montreuil: Ubisoft.
UBISOFT MONTREAL. 2012. Assassin’s creed III [computer game]. Montreuil: Ubisoft.
  • Bryan Alexander Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 16:46

    Agreed about AC cyberpunk. When I fired up the first game I was surprised, having expected the medieval part.
    Cyberpunk is becoming so ubiquitous we no longer need to notice it.

    • zephyrin_xirdal Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 21:53

      Bryan, I am glad that you agree on cyberpunk becoming ubiquitous :) Just the day before yesterday I returned from the annual conference of the Association for Research in the Fantastic, which this hear took place in Zurich, Switzerland. Kindly enough they had me invited as a keynote speaker. So of course I tortured them with my idea of cyberpunk as a Foucaultian discourse which gathers ever more momentum. Assassin’s Creed being cyberpunk I threw in as an example—exactly because of your experience: expecting the middle ages and getting an evil corporation / high tech scenario for starters. I wouldn’t have blogged this little observation if I hadn’t run into Jack London’s novel last night and had been stricken by the parallels.
          Anyway, what also struck me was that at the conference cyberpunk never was mentioned (but steampunk twice). May it be the case that the scholars of the fantastic don’t like cyberpunk? Not even as an innocent denominator for a discourse?

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