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Nothing is true, everything is permitted: Assassin’s Creed and the retelling of the past

Publicado em: Nothing is true, everything is permitted: Assassin’s Creed and the retelling of the past

Assassin’s Creed is probably the most well-known franchise of Ubisoft. The series tells the story of a centuries-long war between two secret groups, Assassins and Templars, where each of them fights for their vision of an ideal world. Assassins claim to fight in the name of freedom and oppressed people, while Templars seek order and will do whatever is necessary to achieve this goal.

The first installment of AC was Assassin’s Creed in 2007, available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. We are introduced to a sci-fi plot about a machine called the “Animus”. This machine uses “genetic memory” to allow us to relive memories from our ancestors and discover what really happened in the past. We follow two journeys: in the present, the main character is Desmond Miles, who was kidnapped by Abstergo Industries, the creators of the Animus, and forced to relive the memories of his ancestor, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, during the Third Crusade. We can visit Jerusalem, Acre, Damascus, and the headquarters of the Assassins in Masyaf.

This point brings us to the main subject of this essay: historical representation. We can say that two things made Assassin’s Creed famous: firstly, the historical settings that change throughout the games, and secondly, the parkour gameplay. Perhaps we can also add the hood in the outfit of our character, something that is part of the visual trademark of the franchise.

While the first game was set during the Third Crusade, the second chapter showed us Renaissance Florence through the eyes of the Italian Assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze. In this game, we meet famous figures such as Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolò Machiavelli. Actually, the villains in the game are the Borgia Family. The interaction with historical events and figures is a big draw for fans.

Actually, the historical setting is widely discussed among fans, from the period of the newest game to the coveted settings. We can see this on YouTube, where many videos discuss this topic (THE…2023; 10…2023; THE…2024). Indeed, one of the most requested settings is Brazil; we can even find YouTube channels dedicated to discussing Assassin’s Creed (AUGUSTO, 2024; POR…2024).

Cinema and digital games are the main contributors to historical imagery (Bello, 2019, p.308). For example, we can recall the buzz surrounding Ridley Scott’s Napoleon and the success of Oppenheimer, and for older examples, we have Braveheart and Schindler’s List. Additionally, Assassin’s Creed presents a conspiratorial story, a tale of Freedom vs. Control, Assassins versus Templars. Conspiracies are something appealing to the audience; a quick Google search reveals theories about the moon landing, secret experiments, and the Illuminati, among others. Moreover, the franchise endorses the concept of “Historia Magistra Vitae,” dating back to the Roman emperor Marcus Tullius Cicero (JUNIOR; RODRIGUES, 2020, p.3). This is a dated concept that history serves to teach those in the present. However, since in Assassin’s Creed, the Animus exists, and we can actually relive the past, this idea makes total sense. In addition, historical simulation games are a manifestation of Public History, they invite the audience to play the past (MCCALL, 2018, p.405).

But despite this, not every historical game undergoes deep historical research. For example, the developers of the Civilization franchise prefer to include what they deem commonplace in their games and do not rely on professional research (MCCALL, 2018, p.406). On the other hand, Ubisoft hires professional historians for consulting to help the developers create a believable world for the players. However, we must not forget that these are games and not doctoral theses; the main focus here is the gameplay and level design.

In the game industry, the main ideas presented, whether through formal research or not, aim for commercial success rather than resembling a history book or similar. The significant appeal of these historical games is that they empower their players. Players find themselves in situations of importance, becoming part of the past within the simulation, and making choices that affect the game world (MCCALL, 2018, p.407).

The simplification process is not the only way that developers shape historical content in their games. They convey their understanding of the past through the game system, promoting principles accepted by designers, which are often based on common sense. A historical representation is defined by its fixed nature. These representations, largely created within a narrative, relay events and their causes in a fixed and linear manner, following the standards of historical discipline and correlating with documentary evidence of the events or phenomena in question.

The goal of historical accuracy applied to representations means creating a narrative that is faithful to the evidence. However, a simulation, unsurprisingly, does not behave like a representation; it models systems and processes. It requires input from the player, which changes the results. This system of choices will most likely not correlate with an evidence-based narrative, such as a thesis (MCCALL, 2018, p. 408-9).

However, this does not need to be seen as a problem; after all, we are talking about games. The main goal here is fun and entertainment, but this does not make it impossible to use games as a tool for education. According to Lisa Gilbert (2016), Assassin’s Creed games can be used for educational purposes. The Animus could be compared to the labor of historians, as it has the skill to view the past not through the eyes of the present, but as those who lived through it (GILBERT, 2016, p.2).

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate features one of the best settings in the franchise: Victorian London during the Industrial Revolution. Players relive the memories of the Frye twins, two prominent Assassins in the English Order, as they eradicate Templar influence from London. In this game, we encounter important figures of the 19th century, such as Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx. Players traverse the dusty London landscape, observing the struggles of its inhabitants. The game includes a line of side missions where Assassins work to free children from labor, with the bourgeoisie portrayed as the villains. When meeting Karl Marx, players are asked to help ‘those who really need help’—the working class. The game does not shy away from addressing class issues during this period, depicting the exploitation and unhealthy conditions of labor in factories. These segments could easily be used to discuss the situation of labor during Victorian London with students.

Furthermore, we have a female protagonist who is not sexualized, a rarity in games (REDAÇÃO, 2023). Evie Frye is depicted as an intelligent woman with a pivotal role in the downfall of the Templars. Additionally, the game introduces us to a transgender character in the narrative, Ned Wynert, whose identity is portrayed as natural and requires no justification.

Ubisoft itself recognizes the value of Assassin’s Creed as a tool for education, as evidenced by the development of a derivative product called Discovery Tour. As stated on the company’s official website:

“The Discovery Tour series is made up of dedicated games that allow visitors to roam freely through ancient Greece, Egypt, and the Viking Age to learn more about their history and everyday life. Students, teachers, non-players and dedicated players can learn about these eras as they wish, or follow guided tours by historians and experts (UBISOFT,2024).”

As we have seen, digital games are an object that can be used to discuss History beyond their role as entertainment and in the case chosen here we have historians as consultants for the construction of these simulations, helping to create a sense of verisimilitude.






10 HISTORICAL Settings We’de Like to Visit In Assassin’s Creed. S.I: Triplejump, 2023. (14 min.), son., color. Disponível em: Acesso em: 06 mar. 2024

ASSASSIN’S Creed Origins – Modo Discovery Tour. Produção de Ubisoft Brasil. Realização de Ubisoft. S.I: Ubisoft, 2018. (3 min.), son., color. Legendado. Disponível em: Acesso em: 11 mar. 2024.

AUGUSTO, Kallil. GAMERLILL Games. 2024. Postado no Youtube. Disponível em: Acesso em: 05 mar. 2024.

POR que um ASSASSIN’S CREED BRASIL seria PERFEITO?!. S.I: Darknicebr, 2024. (9 min.), son., P&B. Disponível em: Acesso em: 06 mar. 2024.

THE Best Historical Landmarks from Each Assassin’s Creed. S.I: The Hidden One, 2023. (26 min.), son., color. Disponível em: Acesso em: 06 mar. 2024.

THE Best Time Periods Assassin’s Creed Should Explore. S.I: The Hidden One, 2023. (12 min.), son., color. Disponível em: Acesso em: 06 mar. 2024.

UBISOFT. Discovery Tour. 2024. Elaborado por Ubisoft. Disponível em: Acesso em: 11 mar. 2024.






BELLO, Robson Scarassati. História e memória em Assassin’s creed (2007-2015). Revista Tempo e Argumento, v. 11, n. 27, p. 304-339, 2019.

GILBERT, Lisa. “The Past is Your Playground”: The Challenges and Possibilities of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate for Social Education. 2017.

MCCALL, Jeremiah. Teaching history with digital historical games: An introduction to the field and best practices. Simulation & Gaming, v. 47, n. 4, p. 517-542, 2016.




Créditos da imagem: Imagem retirada da página oficial da franquia Assassin’s Creed no site da Ubisoft.





Matheus Bomfim e Silva

Formado em História pela Universidade Federal do Ceará, colunista no Instituto Memória Musical, pesquisa sobre a formação da ideia de MPB e a exclusão dos artistas conhecidos como “cafonas”. Escuta de Odair José ao trio norueguês a-ha. Além disso, também se interessa por discussões envolvendo o cinema e os games digitais.

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