The Value of Absurdity

Happy Friday everyone,

Yesterday and today in class, we discussed some sections from Playing With The Past, a book that dissects the relationship between history and video games. Within these sections, the idea of counter-factual history in video games was presented. Specifically, it mentioned the Assassin’s Creed series and DLC that was for the third installment. Assassin’s Creed III is based in the American Revolution and follows the Native American character Connor as his involvement in the war increases. The DLC was called The Tyranny of King Washington, and yes, it calls Washington “King.”

In this DLC, George Washington sets up a monarchy in “The United Kingdom of American” and declares himself the king. I remember when I first saw this DLC’s trailer back in 2012, my mind was blown. What an insane idea, I just played this game where I help the 13 Colonies overthrow the British, and now I had to fight George Washington! My 12-year-old mind exploded a little, but why?

This DLC is the definition of counter-factual. In reality, a democracy was put in place, and a monarchy would have gone against everything the founders believed in. This part of history had been crammed into my mind over and over again by teachers reading out of a textbook with Washington’s face on the cover. The idea of Washington being the enemy was different and exciting, subconsciously I started running through the history I knew to be true and then asking, “what if?”. A part of history that had previously been just another section in a textbook was now revitalized.

That is the power of video games. They allow one to “play” with history and to engage with it, instead of just reading facts. The question of “why?” is extremely power in history, as we have learned in this class. With this DLC in mind, why even do something like this? Granted, it is mostly for monetary value, but I think that it also has educational value. It helped little 12-year-old me to consider how a different system of government would affect America and then to visualize that difference in the game. This is undeniably valuable, even if the concept of the DLC is absurd.

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