Gameological At Large

This Is Just A Game

“This Is Just A Video Game”

A publisher’s effort to create art without all that messy relevance.

By Ryan Smith • October 9, 2012

Video game publisher Ubisoft set up a photo booth area at the Chicago stop on their traveling “Art Of The Assassin” show last week. In most of the sepia-toned snapshots the booth produced, the view of the American flag was obscured. But draped behind partygoers dressed in curly white wigs, tricorn hats, glossy coats, and other garb of Revolutionary War-era soldiers hung a 13-star “Betsy Ross” style flag with one notable addition—a white teardrop-shaped emblem with the roman numeral three in the upper right hand corner. The logo for Assassin’s Creed III.

Assassin’s Creed seems like an unlikely game for a publisher to swath in an American flag and use as a vehicle to encourage political participation. A deep suspicion of government consistently pumps through the veins of the series’ narrative. The protagonists of the first two games, Altair and Ezio, are asked to kill dozens of political and religious leaders in the 13th and 15th centuries—aristocrats, governors, even a pope—to stop the ambitious aims of a shadowy, age-old Templar movement. Along the way, the assassins unmask a secret history of the world hidden in images of real-life historical figures. It’s the stuff of wild-eyed conspiracies, a Dan Brown book or Glenn Beck lecture in game form.

Art Of The Assassin show

That didn’t stop the organizers of this art show from drawing a puzzling parallel between the political assassinations committed by Connor—the anti-hero who stars in the upcoming Revolutionary War-era Assassin’s Creed III—and the political participation of voting for president in November. The two-fold purpose of the four-city tour, which stopped at Chicago’s Pilsen art district last week and hits New York City tomorrow, is to promote the third Assassin’s Creed game with images commissioned from contemporary artists while also partnering with the non-profit organization Rock The Vote to encourage voter registration.

“It’s an election year, and if you look at right now, the same demographic of young voters is the same demographic we’re trying to reach for this game,” said Nate Eckman, a marketing professional tabbed to help with the show’s creative direction. “It’s a way bring the game to that urban, millennial audience—a cool accessible way that brings in lifestyle.”

Eckman’s agency, SA Studios, touts the “unmatched authenticity” of its campaigns on its website, including a recent effort to market Lipton Brisk Ice Tea to Hispanics. For “Art Of The Assassin,” SA Studios asked the artists to create pieces that tied in Assassin’s Creed III with the Revolutionary War.

Art Of The Assassin show

The result of the collaboration is a collection of more than a dozen pieces that borrow, remix, and mash up iconography of America with that of the bloody action game. Halfway through the exhibit, Connor started to resemble a figure of state propaganda—a deranged, tomahawk-wielding nephew of Uncle Sam. The hooded assassin stands in front of a background that melds the stars and stripes with a bluish bald eagle in Samantha Boeger’s airbrushed piece called “His Spirit Lives.” In corresponding pieces by New York City-based artist Artek, two figures stood in front a tattered Declaration Of Independence—one the shadowy visage of Connor, the other a skull-faced George Washington.

“It kind of represents death,” Artek said. “It’s just that one’s an assassin, so there’s also gotta be an assassinee. One’s a killer, someone’s getting killed, so this is putting them together.” So, Washington is meant to be one of Connor’s targets, right? No, said Artek. Their placement together is an act of symmetry, not to be taken literally. “I wanted a great focal point with the composition being the flag, so it made sense to put a character like King George III or George Washington,” Artek said. “It’s all about the imagery to me, really.”

That’s also true for his poster “We Will,” which features the bold words “We will ignite a revolution” under a clenched fist holding one of Connor’s tomahawks. “We Will” strongly evokes rebellion and militance, but Artek isn’t suggesting that people take the streets to overthrow the government. “Times change, so back then maybe they felt like the political structure wasn’t what it should be, whereas now it’s in a better place. It’s progression.”

Art Of The Assassin show

The art was designed to be relevant, but not too relevant. Eckman had instructed the artists to explore the idea of “igniting a revolution” in their work, but not the kind actually depicted in Assassin’s Creed III. “Igniting a revolution is a big piece of the Revolutionary War, and that era and right now in our political climate, we can ignite a revolution by rocking the vote and empowering yourself for change. That’s the same essence we wanted to see in the artwork,” Eckman said.

When I countered that the idea that a revolution would fit in better with a movement like Occupy Wall Street than choosing Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in an election, Eckman smiled and said the event was really about aesthetics, not ideology. He also suggested I talk to Ubisoft’s public relations about my inquiry.

After hacking up more than a dozen British troops in 18th-century Boston during a short demo of Assassin’s Creed III, I did exactly that. “I don’t think patriotism is a bad thing, but that’s not our theme or direction. We focused on liberty and freedom,” Ubisoft Public Relations Manager Stone Chin said.

Pressed about the contradictory politics of the event, Chin replied, “We’re just making video games.”

“The Revolutionary War is a nice backdrop, but Connor doesn’t give into those affiliations. He’s an assassin,” Chin said. “And really, I think that we have tried not to read into this that much, to be honest. At the end of the day, this is just a video game.”

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  • Bdarka

    Neutered art. That’s the most sickening thing I’ve seen in recent memory 

  • caspiancomic

    Several times during the reading of this article I almost fell over myself with disbelief. Was this a real event? Could dozens of people have planned and organized and participated in this? It seems so at war with itself on every level. I almost don’t even know where to begin, this is so strange. Assassin’s Creed actually lends itself relatively well to political ruminating, but definitely not to a room temperature youth voting initiative like Rock the Vote. Surely a game in which you violently and publicly murder political figures demands a movement with a bit more teeth. Oh, and the PR flavoured insistence that a twentysomething voting and a turn of the century Native American murdering the president with a tomahawk are somehow equivalent is pretty surreal.

    Plus, something about an artists trying to explain that their work is actually less inflammatory than it seems is a total reversal of the natural order. I’ve never known an artist who, when asked, explained that his piece was about how everything was pretty much okay, and that democracy is super, and the corporation that commissioned his work makes a dependable product.

    I just… I don’t know man. America is pretty weird. You guy have a pretty weird country goin’ on down there. I mean it’s pretty weird up here too, but we’ve got nothing on this. Just… everyone should vote. Make sure you vote. I think that’s the takeaway on this one, that voting is good. I don’t know why they had to take a circuitous and self-conflicting path to get there, but at the end of the day their thesis is pretty solid.

    I just… I gotta go lie down or something. This is weirding me out.

    • PaganPoet

      Therein lies the denouement, though. Young Americans really don’t care about voting, so political interests have to resort to bizarre outreach bs like the back-alley abortion you just read about.

      Also, they never work.

      • The_Misanthrope

         You think that makes no sense, @PaganPoet:disqus ?  How about this hot nonsense:
        http://halo4nation.com/news/earn-gold-avatar-armor/

        (Although maybe they just feel bad because the game is releasing right on election day.)

        I won’t excuse the youthful indifference to voting and politics, but I can certainly see where it might stem from.  The many cancers on our political system–entrenched partisanship,  duplicitous media, even more duplicitous politicians, an outmoded voting system–seem designed to kill any youthful idealism one might have.  I’ve often thought that, in addition to the boilerplate civics and government units in most social studies classes, there should be lessons on the very real issues in modern politics and on media literacy.  I’ve seen the latter creep in some core standards, but since social studies as a subject is often completely omitted from standards, I don’t hold much hope for the latter.

        Well, since that was all somewhat dispiriting, here’s something to pick your spirits up again:

        http://www.hulu.com/watch/404175

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Honestly, what they’re doing for Halo isn’t a bad thing. They got a lot of bad press for releasing the game on Election Day, so I don’t mind them trying to make up for it. Some people really like having every possible collectible in their games. If this pushes those people to watch the debates, form an opinion on the issues, and ultimately cast a ballot, then that’s great.

          On the other hand, half-assedly trying to promote civic engagement at a video game art show just strikes me as weird and unproductive. Not bad or counterproductive. Just strange.

          • The_Misanthrope

            It doesn’t bother me all that much either; It just seems another absurd corporate initiative. Though from everything I’ve read or heard about the live debate streaming, I think they do ask you informal poll questions throughout the debate, so it looks like Microsoft is probably getting a little filthy side-lucre selling demographic data on that sweet, sweet 18-35 gamer segment.

            Also, I never thought I’d live to see the day that a gamer or computer user actually came to the defense of one of Microsoft’s business practices. What a world, huh?

        • ToddG

          To add on to what @Merve2:disqus  says, I think the other big difference is that the promotion there is clearly one-way, whereas the event in the article consists of two entities trying to cross-promote each other despite some glaring conflicts in tone and message.  Microsoft, though, isn’t trying to imply that Halo has anything to do with the 2012 election.  They’re just leveraging their most popular and visible property to promote a new Live component, and also encouraging political participation as a consequence.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          Yeah, that’s pretty lame, but not so bad. What’s funny though is people in the comments on there whining about Ron Paul not being in the running. GAMERS!

        • hubrisofsatan

           ”This clip was brought to you by ASSASSIN’S CREED III”

          You’re a motherfucking wizard.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      The fact that the artist asserted his own (banal, half-baked) interpretation over the author’s justified read of his (apparently accidentally) ambiguous imagery also kind of undermined things.

      Apparently, truly ‘democratic’ artists have no time for lamewads of the general public to derive and propose their own interpretations of their work. They need to pronounce the one true Meaning of the work from on-high.

      • Captain Internet

        Eek, that’s a bit harsh. Some big company phoned him up and told him about the game, then asked him to paint something, working in a few key phrases and images. I don’t see any strident assertion of meaning. or claim to a grand artistic vision, just some guy getting paid for painting.

        The whole event seems completely absurd, more like someone making a list of things that are cool, and things that are relevant, and assuming that using all of those things at once will result in something that is both cool AND relevant. 

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        I’m not won over by the artist’s stated interpretation, either — to say the least — but in his defense, at least he found it worthwhile to engage in the discussion.

        • Effigy_Power

          I can’t claim to ever be satisfied with a discussion if the sentence “Talk to our PR department” is in it. It very clearly betrays a fear to say something that hurts the cause you claim to drive on, which shouldn’t happen if what you do stems from a certain passion.
          Art without passion is, in my opinion, inherently worthless and has no message. Claiming to further a (perfectly fine) cause while backpedaling on your message seems very strange to me. It’s been mentioned in other comments and I have to agree that an artist who tries to deflate and minimize his art’s influence is an odd thing to behold.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          @Effigy_Power:disqus Unless I misread the piece, I don’t think the artist, Artek, tried to pass the buck to the PR department. The marketing specialist did that. That doesn’t diminish your point about art without passion, but it does give the guy some credit.

        • Effigy_Power

           You are right, I confused Artek and Eckman. The article switched there and I didn’t apply the “he” to the right guy. My bad.

        • HobbesMkii

          I’m reminded of a quote from the movie Cradle Will Rock, which, while not a terribly excellent movie, does contain one of my favorite quotes (given to the movie’s Bertolt Brecht) on the nature of people who create art:

          “Artists are the worst whores of all!”

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4

           @HobbesMkii:disqus Every poet is a cannibal, every artist is a thief.

          Yes, I did come up with that on my own.  You like it?

    • George_Liquor

      I guess it goes to show: Just because you can art, it doesn’t always mean you should.

  • Cloks

    Scott McCloud says that art is anything you do that’s not related to reproduction or safety. This is “art” according to that definition but lacking in substance enough to necessitate the “”.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

       This sounds frustratingly anemic.  I understand that marketing has become a cultural hedonist, happy to rub well-lubed elbows with any small sliver of culture that is perceived to carry sufficient cache to move units, and really, that’s fine.  But if you’re going to set up this elaborate PR gimmick ostensibly to expound on the totally intense philosophical undercurrents of your Highlander 2-cum-video game franchise opus, and then shy away from doing anything of the sort, I call shenanigans.

       “It kind of represents death,” Artek said. “It’s just that one’s an assassin, so there’s also gotta be an assassinee. One’s a killer, someone’s getting killed, so this is putting them together.” So, Washington is meant to be one of Connor’s targets, right? No, said Artek. Their placement together is an act of symmetry, not to be taken literally. “I wanted a great focal point with the composition being the flag, so it made sense to put a character like King George III or George Washington,” Artek said. “It’s all about the imagery to me, really.”
       I’m primarily a visual thinker myself.  So I can understand the idea of a predominantly visually-guided image.  Most of my ideas for illustration are aesthetic first, with any sort of relationships or meaning either emergent or thought over after the initial idea is expressed.
       But that said, I do tend to see those ideas and understand what might be invoked by an image I create.  To have him utterly shy away from the most obvious connotation of a skull-headed Washington because it carries a commercially undesirable air of middle-school level anti-establishment provocation is silly.
       The whole tone of is infuriating.  If this show is acting as a symbolic affirmation of uplifting freedom and independence, with nary a potentially troublesome context in sight, then why is everything blood and skulls and upraised hatchets?
       And finally:  “And really, I think that we have tried not to read into this that much, to be honest. At the end of the day, this is just a video game.”
       Well fucking bully.  With those two sentences, Chin has successfully managed to diminish the potential of art, illustration and video games. 

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      You know, I’d like to be sympathetic to Chin, because I’ve met him and he’s a well-meaning guy. I also know that he has to operate under the insane contradictory pressures of the major-studio marketing machine, which insists that video games enjoy the societal privileges of art without being forced to participate in the cultural dialogue that art entails (because that might introduce complexity that does not conform to a PowerPoint marketing plan).

      Still, “At the end of the day, this is just a video game” is simply impossible to defend as a thing said by the representative of a video game company, because it does exactly what you say it does, Spacemonkey. I had to get up from my desk and punch a wall when I read that. I can’t imagine how it makes the Assassin’s Creed creative team feel. I get that Assassin’s Creed may not be Tolstoy, but it’s a pretty clever, layered, and thoughtful game. It deserves better than to be given such humiliating short shrift by its own PR agent, who’s looking for an easy way out of a mildly challenging conversation.

      The whims of the marketing department are hardly a scourge limited to games. It’s a common tension in the broader media business. Still, I think the video game studio system may be the only creative industry that actively works to downplay its own cultural relevance. Even porn has more self-respect.

      • HobbesMkii

        I think his winning the name lottery balances out with me not feeling much sympathy for Mr. Stone Chin.

        Unless, you know…his chin is actually made of glass.

      • ToddG

        I hope you didn’t actually punch a wall.  I mean, come on, this is just a video game.

      • Bad Horse

        In order to be taken seriously as art, video games need their version of the 70s (in film) in the worst way. Find a bunch of really talented designers with completely unique sensibilities, give them decent budgets and creative free rein, and let them go. Hopefully we would wind up with games that actually have distinct points of view, actual politics, and more interesting stories.

        You can name a few “directors” who put out real auteur-feeling games, like Suda 51, Tim Schaefer, Hideo Kojima, or Fumita Ueda. This generation, those guys have underperformed sales-wise (or put nothing out – I’m looking at you, Ueda), and there’s no way major studios are going to greenlight something that is likely to lose money. Heaven’s Gate killed off the 70s in film for the same reason.

        Now half of the problem goes back to my theory about how games don’t have so-bad-it’s-good because they need to be controllable to be fun at all. Brutal Legend, for instance, has serious control flaws that diminish its appeal. I’m willing to forgive that in the interest of an interesting design, or a captivating game world, and I’m guessing most people here are too. But we remain a minority of gamers, most of whom are apparently looking for a pure play experience – hence multiplayer in everything.

        In other words, the culture is the issue, and the reason this whole lame event is touching a nerve with us is that we don’t get the games we want to play because of that attitude.

      • ShrikeTheAvatar

        I understand the guy’s reluctance to really even have that conversation, but if you’re working as a PR manager you should probably at least have some lines ready for a question like that.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Yes, that part of it is baffling to me.

    • caspiancomic

       Thank you a hundred times over for maintaining enough composure to say what I was too stupefied to. I can’t tell if I’m most upset by the unsound marriage of gaming and politics, the dismissive attitude the game’s developer has towards gaming as a medium, the toothless backpedalling artists, or the fact that the whole circus will in all likelihood neither increase sales of Assassin’s Creed III nor youth voter turnout, resulting in a colossal failure of the event’s every goal.

      • Dunwatt

        I wouldn’t be upset at all by the fact that the event will likely be a colossal failure.  That sounds to me like they’re getting exactly what they deserve with this boondoggle.  It’s a bad idea to try and market a video game by making a half-assed attempt to combine artistry and bland democratic platitudes, and it’s a bad idea to try and combine your bland democratic platitudes with corporate-sponsored, marketing-driven art, and to combine those two bad ideas and come out with not even an awesomely bad idea that is at least entertaining in its execution, and not even a terrible idea that is so poorly conceived it fails to ever be realized, but instead simply end up with this double-bad idea that sits there festering like that giant pile of dinosaur poo in Jurassic Park, well, that’s just priceless.

    • HobbesMkii

       I’m a big fan of Artek, if only because he seems pretty lazy in his approach to this. The marketer told us to explore the idea of inciting a revolution? Boom, art with the slogan “incite a revolution” in it. Art’s one of those beautiful things were even the worst of it has some fan, so no one can go, “um, when we asked for something good, you gave us crap,” so he can just live on Heavy-Handed Literal Alley and just collect his money.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Do you mean you’re not a big fan, or you are a big fan, but wryly?
           But yeah, it’s a strange thing when, as an illustrator -which is to say one who deliberately makes images in a popular, easily accessible way that is less concerned with thematic dialog than open, approachable imagery- looks at his stuff and thinks, “C’mon, buddy.  You can try a bit harder than that.”

        • HobbesMkii

          Yeah, I’m an ironic fan, is what I mean. 

    • lokimotive

      It will be very interesting to me to see how Assassin’s Creed III plays out, because its setting is so fraught with problems in terms of the tone and themes that the previous games have set up before. Assassin’s Creed has always attempted to tow the line of individualism through history and has, perhaps inadvertently, raised questions about the balance between totalitarianism and anarchy, perhaps suggesting that the tension between the two extremes, both practiced in the game by two shadowy organizations, is what keeps the world rotating at a fine clip. I’m somewhat concerned, however, that the American Revolution will be presented as the culminating vision of the Assassin’s Creed: a coup de grace from individualism. 

      Of course, that’s not really what happened, and, given the implications of a, well, somewhat Native American protagonist,  I would hope that the actuality is a bit more complicated. But then we have this nonsense, a distillation of the, already somewhat distilled, message of Assassin’s Creed to you can be an Assassin too if you just vote!

      Of course, previous incarnations of this game didn’t try to marry the concept to a get out and vote message, but I wonder if the marketing team is somewhat ramping up the patriotic imagery of the game to stop the guns of ultra-patriots who might have an issue with a video game, ahem, taking liberties with their favorite historical period. Given the curious controversies that have come up in different franchises in the U.S. I’m guessing that marketing departments are gun shy in the face of anything that might incite annoyance by the media. But, of course, that caution is not how you make art. So, instead, they’re just making video games.

  • Staggering Stew Bum
    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Despite never hearing that bit before, it is a word-for-word transcription of my thoughts every time they quoting that “marketing professional.”

    • Captain Internet

      I wonder which brand of cigarettes killed him.

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    Other poorly thought out video game related marketing ideas:

    - 2K Games and Random House combine forces to offer 50% off Atlas Shrugged with every copy of Bioshock sold.

    - Flower launched at Republican Party convention.

    - EA enlists Beck to record concept album on themes of the Dead Space universe.

    - Naughty Dog invite Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač on publicity tour to promote Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

    - Rockstar Games and RSPCA join forces to release Red Dead Redemption branded pet toys.

    - Sega hires Germaine Greer to write a review of Bayonetta.

    - Siemens manufacture a limited edition run of Infamous power transformers.

    - Activision launches Modern Warfare 3 at Domodedovo airport.

    - Tiger Woods signs copies of latest PGA Tour at Sexpo ’09 convention.

    - McDonalds offers free copy of Worms with every Happy Meal.

    - Medal of Honor: Warfighter

    • HobbesMkii

       Still, not as bad as Team Sonic’s Sonic the Hedgehog Supersonic Hedgehog Rolling. Defended on the grounds that, “At the end of the day, they’re just hedgehogs.”

    • Effigy_Power

      Well, there is this long-term promotion deal for Modern Warfare called “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, but I think in the end it’s probably costing more money than it makes.

      • ToddG

        Wow, they started that promotion quite a bit early.

        • Effigy_Power

          They had to set it up for the pre-order bonus items, which was a piece of the Saddam statue.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/leavethesilvercity,114326/ leave_the_silver_city

      I know some guys who were in the military who are super excited for Medal of Honor: Warfighter but every time I hear or read that title I have to restrain myself from bursting out laughing.

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    “a Dan Brown book or Glenn Beck lecture in game form.”
    Woof! I don’t think I’ve ever read a more damning summation of a game. I kind of wish they would put that quote on the box.

    • Effigy_Power

      Dead on though. I mean, I love the entire AC series, but there’s no denying that it plays to every fucked up conspiracy theory ever thought of by sad, lonely, angry people.
      Apart from that, it may be the biggest PR any group has ever gotten from a game, what they did for the actual Hashishin, who were actually not very nice at all.
      I enjoyed them immensely, but the brain does take some mild mental bludgeoning at times and yes, some of the plot-lines are probably pretty popular with insane anti-government and anti-corporation folks.

    • blue vodka lemonade

       I’d only played a little bit of the first game, up to about halfway through the tutorial, so I didn’t actually know what the series was “about” until I read some wiki articles a few weeks ago because I was trying to decide if I wanted to just skip the first one and move ahead to 2 (I very very rarely skip iterations in any series, unless I’m giving up on the series altogether.)

      It is well and truly batshit. It did give me some great fodder for giving a confusing, half-crazed rant on the “true nature of American politics” while soused at an end-of-midterms party.

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    fun fact: just recently I tried playing Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2 for the first time in anticipation of 3 and I hated them both and didn’t finish either of them

    Assassin’s Creed is one of the most boring and repetitive games I’ve played in quite a while

    and Assassin’s Creed 2, while a bit better, still gets boring after a while and it’s nigh PS2 quality graphics somehow manage to be worse than the first game’s, how’d that happen?

    so Assassin’s Creed 3 has gone from a “must buy” to a “wait and see” for me

  • HobbesMkii

    Oh, Rock the Vote, is there no star too ugly or ridiculous that you will refuse to hitch your wagon to it?

  • stakkalee

    Jesus, where to start?  I can’t think of game with a theme more anathema to the idea of participatory democracy than the AC series.  The games are premised on a capital-C-Conspiratorial View of History where all of society’s choices are circumscribed by a shadowy cabal and regardless of those choices the outcome is predetermined.  The Templars as a group are so big, and so intertwined with the levers of power, that the only option available to the Assassins, being as they are outnumbered, outgunned, and constantly on the run, is to resort to mass murder (Sure, the game may tell you that Ezio doesn’t kill civilians, but that line is blurry as hell, as our own @Effigy_Power:disqus discusses.)  To use a piece of art (the game itself) to encourage participation when the explicit theme of that piece of art is that “participation” is a false choice is weird and jarring.

    Then there’s this terrible corporate-PR-sponsored “art” show with works that are absolutely paralyzed by those same competing themes; all it really reinforces is that corporate sponsorship makes artists slaves to the whims of their patrons.  Here we have presumably gifted, passionate artists who were told to explore the idea of revolution, but were then instructed to not make it too controversial.  I can get that from the next commercial that appropriates Occupy Wall Street imagery!

    As to the George Washington piece by Artek, it’s a little weird in that Ubisoft has already leaked the plot of their DLC, and a large part of it will revolve around Washington succumbing to ultimate power, so perhaps the piece is more prescient than the others, but if that prescience is unintentional does the artist really deserve any credit for it?

    Finally, Rock The Vote hasn’t been relevant in 20 years.

    • Effigy_Power

      On a lighter note: Corporate sponsorship making artists slaves to the whims of their patrons fits too beautifully into the Renaissance setting AC2 plays in.
      Food for thought.

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    I barfed in my mouth a few times reading that. I’d be curious to see who these “contemporary artists” they got were though. Honestly I can think of a lot of artists on the web who do video game related work who I would love to see but I don’t think they’d fit the feaux-art-gallery style that the marketing dept at Ubi was going for.

    So, skip the article, check out Zac Gorman: http://magicalgametime.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=15929841 Ryan Smith

    Postscript to this story:

    -I asked someone at the Rock the Vote table about registration numbers and they said about 300 people signed up to vote during the evening session of this event. 

    -The crowd at the event I went to seemed more interested in taking their own pictures at the photo booth wearing historical garb than actually observing the art exhibit.

    -I think this story shows how devalued the word “revolution” has become. It used to mean a tangible political or military rebellion, as in the Revolutionary War, but it’s been co-opted by marketing speak to mean something like “fresh” or “different.” 

    • ToddG

      I’m not sure why you’d be doing that unintentionally.  It seems awesome.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      I think you’re very much devaluing those who perished in the Dance Dance Revolution.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0BuY8GjBWs  *pops out to the Pop’n Music 17: THE MOVIE version of Taps*

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      Revolution now means a cheese-covered corn chip taco shell and a new color of soda.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

        Quiet you, the Revolution Whopper with extra onions is delicious.

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          Especially with a Revolution-sized Occupy Wall Sprite!

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Well apparently you’ve got the knack for it.  This was a great article.  In a very frustrating-in-a-satisfying-way to read.

    • Bad Horse

      That is just a great beat. With any luck, in 10 years we will be looking back on your articles, playing the latest AAA blockbuster from Tim Schaefer, sipping Laphroaig and laughing about how stupid video game marketing used to be.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Disconcerting video game marketing ideas, you say? Here’s a start: http://kotaku.com/5926481/5-hilarious-video-game-industry-screw-ups

  • hastapura

    “Igniting a revolution is a big piece of the Revolutionary War…” 

    Hold up. Was it really????

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Ha!  Really, though, most war names ARE the consequence of federal marketing efforts.

      War Of Independence = Revolutionary War
      Great War = World War…I!

      I’m convinced that the French And Indian War would be much more well-known here if it was the 7 Years’ War (very old school) or, better, The War Of Conquest (which could be a video game title).

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

    *shrugs*  To me, this just demonstrates how less tolerant we are of inanity when we have an emotional attachment to what is used.  The entire series, spinoffs and all, is based on siphoning meaning from real events to fuel its own asininity.  It’s about accepting the “limitations” of the game’s setting in level design and a.i. while pushing the usual unstoppable action tropes with the player-character.  It makes popular history do 80 percent of the narrative work and adds only…”modern Ubisoft”-ness to it.  The result has always been compromise (or, in my view, pandering) to “games are art” and “games are cool” crowds.

    Don’t get me wrong.  I can appreciate the clever or humorous “misuse” of real things to create fiction.  This may be my favorite game map of all-time: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/tengai/T4MAP2.jpg  I just don’t think this is different from marshaling x00 artists, coders, designers, and such to make you kill a guy in front of Richard I.  It just becomes self-apparently dumb when it’s about voting and people on OUR money.

    • ToddG

      The problem isn’t just that the campaign is asinine, though.  It’s this additional aspect of entering into a bizarre arrangement with a cross-promotional entity whose message is in pretty direct conflict with the themes and tone of their game.  And also that, when confronted with this observation, they chose to dismissively devalue their own game in lieu of having an actual conversation about it.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

        My point was that it’s silly not to see the difference between the game’s themes and the game’s tone.  The game’s story, gameplay, design, and aesthetics push certain ambitious themes, sure, and this event is in conflict with those.  It PERFECTLY matches the game’s tone, which is the aforementioned emulsion of WORLD-CHANGING EVENTS and brooding, free-running dudes wearing hoodies.

        If someone didn’t recognize that Brotherhood was dumb (feel free to think that it’s still fun, well-designed, and an overall excellent game, of course), then I don’t see how they can think this is dumb.  The game’s story and gameplay premises were always dumb and always in conflict.  The only reason to roll your eyes is if you thought their treatment of Asia and Europe was better than that of North America (and how they tie it to the 2012 United States).

        This event is not a dismissal or debasement of an ambitious concept; it’s an acknowledgement of what already is.  I’d prefer that to pretension.

        Get To The Point: The game’s theme is revolution.  The game’s tone is, “Assassin saves constitutional republicanism by running, sailing, and riding openly and all cool-like through battles at evil Brits http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inkQcj5zbsg despite this being the exact opposite of how the Americans won the stalemate…OR WAS IT?!?!”

        • ToddG

          Ah, I see what you are saying.  Thanks for clarifying, your point is now well-taken.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          @BreakingRad:disqus You and others have rightfully pointed out, however, that the consequences of, hm, “in-game rhetoric” conflicting with “actual message-making” aren’t limited to the game itself.  Dante’s Inferno/its marketing was another good example of this.  (I wouldn’t count something like God Of War, but I suppose I would with Koei’s historical titles and their weird marketing.)

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/LGYJ4HXQQKQGQCD6L5I4PQZKJE Juan

           But the event wasn’t openly acknowledging the inanity of the concept.  The marketing people had to be confronted with questions and backed into a corner to acknowledge their hypocrisy, and only with a lame “its just a videogame” cop-out.  I could see your point if they really were only focusing on revolution as an aesthetic, despite how angry that makes me.  But then why would they encourage their attendees to participate in actual real world politics? Why make the connection between their product, and voting?  And I know that the art world isn’t some sacred virgin to the corrupting influences of marketing and capitalism, but why also use the anti-establishment cache of fine art to sell your product if you, no bullshit, meant to incite revolution?  These assholes weren’t just being pretentious by using revolution aesthetically, they managed to cheapen art, political participation, and video-games in one great little pr stunt/art opening.

  • Mookalakai

    Phew, I was worried the Assassin’s Creed games might be getting nuanced, but this alleviated my worries. I’ll still play AC3 for probably only a few hundred hours, but that’s because I like stabbing folks, especially 18th century folks.