My intention for this post was to write something specific and reasonably authoritative on how the character of Stede Bonnet as seen (as performed by means of, really) in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag differs from what we know of the historical Stede Bonnet, and what I think the difference means. That kind of analysis would serve as a very useful example of how, within my model of text as ruleset, player performances of ubiculturality in the Assassin’s Creed franchise embody both games’ potential for critique and the pitfalls of uncritical reception. This post would have functioned both as a companion piece to David Hussey’s wonderful Assassin’s Creed Week posts, and as an extension of my “games precede the humanities” argument.
I planned, that is, to show that if you play ACIV without thinking about how it fails to do justice to the complexity of history, you end up thinking that the real Stede Bonnet must have been a likable fellow, whereas if you play ACIV with the complexity of history in mind, you end up with interesting questions about Stede Bonnet, and new creative tools with which to find the answers.
Time at the end of the semester has got away from me, though, and so instead of attempting a half-baked version of that post, I want to try to open a conversation about Stede Bonnet and about the Assassin’s Creed franchise in general. Quite possibly no one will respond, but I’m guessing that the game is good enough, and popular enough, that at least a little bit of valuable discussion will ensue.
So, in order from least to most abstract, here are the questions to which I’d love to hear others’ answers, in particular as they relate to the issues David raised back in February:
- What are your impressions of the character of Stede Bonnet in ACIV?
- How true to our information about the real Stede Bonnet do you find the character to be?
- What effect do you think Wiki articles like the one linked at the start of this post have upon the critical discussion of this game or any game?
- How important is it to play a game like ACIV critically, keeping in mind the complexity of the real historical forces involved?
- To what extent, when we play ACIV, are we doing history?