Friday, December 21, 2012

African American Female Protagonast in Assassin's Creed III: Liberation

DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns :reviews Assassin Creed 3: Liberation, on 28 November 2012- Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away the only black man in the universe was Lando Calrissian a “Card player, gambler and scoundrel”. The only Asian People in comics were Kung-Fu masters and the only person of color you could play in a video game was a cheap knock-off of Mike Tyson. The sci-fi/comic/fantasy genre has come a long way over the last few years, with minorities taking on more (while still occasionally problematic) roles across the mediums. Unfortunately the one area that hasn’t seen much progress is the gaming world. I had hoped that Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation the first video game to ever feature a minority woman as a main playable character was a sign of progress, instead it was one of the most offensive and blatant examples of just how little things have changed in the gaming world.

Even if you lived in “Swing state” just about the only thing that had more ads running the last week of October than the presidential election was ads for Assassin’s Creed 3. The third in the insanely popular series had some of the best commercials you’ve ever seen. Assassin’s Creed follows the tale of a centuries old battle between the “good” assassin’s and their undercover war against the Templars who are sortof a shadowly illuminati group always on the side of the bad guys (corrupt church officials, the Colonial British, etc.) The Assassin’s Creed series, produced by Ubisoft is one of the best – selling and best reviewed video game series in history. In particular AC3: Liberation has broken records for a Playstation hand-held game. Smooth graphics, attention to historical detail and elaborate and time specific plots have made these games a must have. AC has also always been rather progressive as video games on the racial front, with the main character in the first game being a Muslim running round killing corrupt church officials in renaissance Europe. The 3rd in the series was the launch of two games, the main AC3 featured on the PS3 system and the AC3: Liberation on the PS Vita. The games would feature an American Indian and an African American woman respectively as main characters. On the surface this was a big step in the gaming world.

Pop quiz time: How many black females have ever been main playable characters in a video game? (And by that I mean original video game characters, playing Storm in a video game doesn’t count she’s a comic book character first). Times up! Only…  FIVE. (Sheva Alomar Resident Evil, Lisa Hamilton from Dead or Alive, Christie Monteiro from Tekken, Elena from Street Fighter, and Samantha Alexander from Hunter the Wayward Reckoning). That’s right 5, out of the literally thousands of video game characters that have come out since the advent of home video game systems in 1978. Just to put this into perspective, there have been more Donkey Kongs than black women in video games.

*I decided to review AC3 because the game developers spent so much time doing interviews about how historically accurate the games were not to mentioned patting themselves on the back for making the main characters minorities. I focused mainly on AC3: Liberation which had the following descriptions online.

*Born of a French father and African mother through a commonlaw marital system referred to as placage, Aveline (de Granpre) enjoyed all the privileges of her father’s position as a wealthy merchant. Her mixed race heritage did not impede her ability to blend into high society, as her situation was not uncommon in Louisiana.

*Aveline is raised with privilege and love, even after her mother disappears and her father marries her step-mother. As Aveline grows she develops into a strong-willed young woman and starts to take notice of the contrasts around her – wealth and poverty, freedom and slavery – and while torn between the different values she inherited from her parents, she forms her own set of values, including a vehement anti-slavery stance,” (Game producer Martin Capel).

*Wow, before even picking up the controller it’s hard not to be bowled over with the A-historical and underlying ignorance in the main character Aveline De Grandpre’s backstory. First, placage has long been romanticized by some historians (as well as the French and some Creoles) as the way in which wealthy white men and black women managed to find love despite the oppressive laws against interracial coupling in the 18th and 19th century. The romantic meme is that wealthy white men fell in love with black women, and, unable to marry them set these women (and their eventual offspring) up in fancy houses, gave them educations and gave them all they could except marriage since that was legally forbidden in New Orleans. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Given the limited opportunities for women of African descent at the time (some of whom were still slaves) they were often pressed into these relationships with little or no choice (Read Ann Rice’s Feast of All Saints for a more sobering description of Plecage). The white men who “chose” them had no obligation to provide these concubines with any financial support, and these women and their children had any legal standing to inherit money or property when these men died. Worse, in many cases if the man simply lost interest these noble suitors simply abandoned their placage wives and returned to their public white wives without a hint of guilt or legal consequence. In the case of Aveline her mother was a slave, her father a rich Frenchman. He consistently laments to Aveline the laws that kept him from properly marrying her mother. This is a common self-serving twist of logic in discussions of White men and their sexual behavior during slavery. Wealthy white men claiming to have been constrained (by the very laws that they created) as a way to rationalize maintaining unequal and coercive relationships with women of color.  [This is Part I: Of a Review of the New Ubisoft video game Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation. You can find Part II by clicking here.]

The Lady. With this aristocrat disguise she can blend into high society events, get passed certain obstacles through bribery, or lure her target away to their death with her charm. Good thing she won’t need very many weapons with those skills, because this disguise doesn’t allow for much weaponry, even though she could probably hide a entire cannon under that dress. [source: The Married Gamers]

The Slave. Dressing as a common peasant will allow Aveline to stealthily walk around town and be unnoticed. This disguise doesn’t give you much choice in weapons either, but at least it has a special blend technique similar to Altair blending into the scholars back in Assassin’s Creed. All Aveline has to do is pick up a crate and she instantly blends into the background. She can even ask her fellow workers to help her with distractions by causing a little trouble. That ought to come in handy. [source: The Married Gamers]

The Assassin. And last but not least, my favorite disguise. Yes, it does look pretty awesome, but the fact that we get all of Aveline’s weapons is what makes it the one I’m most anxious to use. This will be the disguise that makes Aveline the assassin that we expected, and wanted, since we heard about Liberation.

Born and raised in New Orleans with an African mother and a French father, Aveline lived a life of status, respect, and comfort. But when Spanish soldiers invaded and enslaved her people she decided to fight against the injustice and bring freedom to her land. Have a look at the latest trailer and keep an eye out for someone special, I’m pretty sure we squealed loud enough to break glass.  [source: The Married Gamers]


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