The Tyranny of Realism: Historical accuracy and politics of representation in Assassin’s Creed III


  • Adrienne Shaw Temple University


Like other games in its series, Assassin’s Creed III (AC3) is heavily invested in a wellresearched, nuanced representation of historical conflicts. Yet as with any historical text, designers must be selective in their storytelling. Through their choices, we can better understand who might be the expected audience for this “speculative fiction.” This article addresses AC3’s tensions around realism. In it, the author addresses the politics of representation in how players are asked to identify with particular characters (constructed identification), how the game was produced (constructed authenticity), and the version of history portrayed in the game (constructed history). The author argues that the game’s ludic and narrative possibilities limit its ability to critique colonial powers during the American Revolution. The article concludes by looking at what counterhistorical approach to AC3’s story might entail. Throughout, the author discusses how the game’s expected audience, that is Ubisoft’s construction of the intended player, is reflected in each of these decisions and limits the emancipatory possibilities of AC3.

Author Biography

Adrienne Shaw, Temple University

Assistant Professor, Media Studies and Production