‘Assassin’s Creed III’: Is this ‘America the beautiful’?

March madness, indeed. Watching the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, I happened to catch an advertisement for a video game called … Continued

March madness, indeed.

Watching the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, I happened to catch an advertisement for a video game called ‘Assassin’s Creed III.’

Casey Rodgers


Adam Snyder, right, plays Ubisoft’s “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier” at the Athletes First Classic Players Lounge as Dennis Pitta, second from left, looks at Assassin’s Creed on Friday, March 2, 2012 in Dana Point, Calif.

This ad featured a very youthful sounding choir singing “America the Beautiful,” as a hooded (and very nimble guy) hacks 18th century, red coated soldiers to death.

The assassin sheds a lot of blood in 30 seconds. Too much for me to watch comfortably, even though I know it’s “just a game.” I’m simply not conditioned to find gore entertaining.

But then I am not this game’s market.

Checking out ‘Assassin’s Creed III’ out on Amazon, I found it was already selling briskly, better than its earlier iterations, even though it’s not out until October. Is this because that ad so effectively fuses patriotism and violence?

Evidently that’s precisely the reason – at least for some. On Nerd Reactor, a Web site designed as “a place for nerds to talk about what they love and a place for geek entertainment news and features,” John Spartan Nguyen writes:

Okay, me too … if I close my eyes. The stanza of America the Beautiful that goes “America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!” gets me every time. I do like to believe that my country is worthy of God’s grace.


I did a little more research on Assassin’s Creed III. The assassin, who goes by the name of Connor (aka Ratohnhaké:ton) has already been on a four game rampage spanning nine centuries. The game’s fantastical history, as presented on the site gameinformer, begins in the 12th century with the Assassins pitted against the Templars:

So order and free will are mutually exclusive? Is that what we’re saying, here?

Sure, the assassin takes no sides, but there is that choir singing America the Beautiful, which makes us feel he is one of us, right? Americans have long identified with gunslingers. I mean, I certainly played pow! pow! pow! with the neighborhood children when I was growing up. But somehow, this didn’t teach me to equate “free will” with unbridled violence.

Another site, gamesradar, announces that “Assassin’s Creed III images wage a one-man war.” One man war? There are too many recent examples of one-man gun violence to even single one out.

My reaction to the ad for Assassin Creed III, and its conflation of gore and patriotism, was a kind of alarmed wonder. It struck me as “Guns, God, and Glory” propaganda aimed squarely at a very large audience.

Guns, God, and Glory appears to be making inroads in society. Virginia just repealed the Commonwealth’s limit on handgun purchases to one-a-month. I don’t get it. What in the real world necessitates a person buying more than one handgun a month? Is this what the oft-invoked Founding Fathers’ intended when they wrote the Second Amendment?

I really would like to understand the appeal of Assassin’s Creed III. Then maybe I would find its ramifications less alarming.

And about that ad featuring “America the Beautiful:” Does anyone out there really think that God showers grace upon a nation that finds bloody violence entertaining?

Martha’s note: This essay is a feature of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the Web site), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.

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  • ZeroSystem

    I’m not entirely sure where this post is going. It seems more like a ramble about not knowing what something is about, but not enjoying the link of violence to our culture? Greetings, welcome to America, violence has been as much a part of our founding (reason for leaving Europe and keeping through with that theme up until… well not until, still)

    Assassin’s Creed is a story about a man in the near future who can access biological memory from his previous ancestors, relive those experiences, and thus gain a greater knowledge about a plot that, yes, involves two shadow organizations.

    Religion or it’s wrapper is a central focus, as from the dawn of man it was believed that God/gods/whatever were giving humans items for power, and what for, has yet to be revealed.

    “You” play as the present day character for a tiny bit, but mostly his ancestors. That is seemingly relavent information to inform your(author of this article) audience of when writing about how religious beliefs play into the game series. Religion is a thing in the game, as it is today, but why there is religion is highly fictionalized (I won’t spoil why). But the game plays out violently as revolution vs control is also a central theme.

    The final point I’d like to make is that the violence is a part of the game because as presented, it’s the only method the two sides have in an argument that has no clear right or wrong, much like in real life. When people won’t negotiate with you, violence is likely to be the next move. It’s unfortunate, and that point is ALSO brought up in the game series.

    “Does anyone out there really think that God showers grace upon a nation that finds bloody violence entertaining?”

    Old testament? I don’t practice religion.

  • bryanz

    Here is another article about a subject where the author has no idea or concept of what she is talking about or than her perception of assassin’s creed which has not been exposed to what it really is about (the game)

    I would recommend playing the game before writing an article such as this one, or using the tags “guns” “religion” & “violence”. A smart or smarter person would write something positive or factual about the game to gain social proof from the assassin’s creed community. If you care about people reading you article before thinking that you are to be the next “Emily Glazer” from WSJ…

    Like you said you are not Ubisoft’s target market for this game so it’s hard for you to understand the game or the whole series which makes your article and the washington post less credible and a less reliable source of content and information.

    I hope you don’t take this personal as if you take the feedback I’ve giving you, you can write a better article when the game comes out.

  • fatboy1271

    I signed up just so I could post a reply…

    ZS, when I read this article I thought many of the same things as you. Mostly, maybe Ms. Woodroof should allow me to critique something that she enjoys that I have no clue about. This “article” shows that absolutely no research was done.

    As every AC game has stated at the loading screen, this game was created by people of varying religious faiths, country origins, and backgrounds. There is no one or really any “God” message in the game and it certainly is not all about “guns.” If you look for info on the game you will see that the story is well thought out and contains many webs to tie it all together.

  • TopTurtle

    The repeal of sensible gun laws is a legitimate phenomenon for criticism. Why not discuss that, instead of this half-formed, Rube Goldberg attempt to connect video game violence with actual violence.

    Besides, anyone who’s read the Old Testament can tell you that god is a fan of violence.

  • ccnl1

    The Old Testament lists of the god-approved atrocities:

    •Exodus 32: 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf.

    •Numbers 31: After killing all men, boys and married women among the Midianites, 32,000 virgins remain as booty for the Israelites. (If unmarried girls are a quarter of the population, then 96,000 people were killed.)

    •Joshua: ◦Joshua 8: 12,000 men and women, all the people of Ai, killed.
    ◦Joshua 10: Joshua completely destroys Gibeon (“larger than Ai”), Makeddah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir. “He left no survivors.”
    ◦Joshua 11: Hazor destroyed. [Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), estimates the population of Hazor at ?> 50,000]
    ◦TOTAL: if Ai is average, 12,000 x 9 = 108,000 killed.

    •Judges 1: 10,000 Canaanites k. at Battle of Bezek. Jerusalem and Zephath destroyed.
    •Judges 3: ca. 10,000 Moabites k. at Jordan River.
    •Judges 8: 120,000 Midianite soldiers k. by Gideon
    •Judges 20: Benjamin attacked by other tribes. 25,000 killed.

    •1 Samuel 4: 4,000 Isrealites killed at 1st Battle of Ebenezer/Aphek. 30,000 Isr. k. at 2nd battle.
    •David: ◦2 Samuel 8: 22,000 Arameans of Damascus and 18,000 Edomites killed in 2 battles.

    ◦2 Samuel 10: 40,000 Aramean footsoldiers and 7,000 charioteers killed at Helam.
    ◦2 Samuel 18: 20,000 Israelites under Absalom killed at Ephraim.

    •1 Kings 20: 100,000 Arameans killed by Israelites at Battle of Aphek. Another 27,000 killed by collapsing wall.
    •2 Chron 13: Judah beat Israel and inflicted 500,000 casualties.
    •2 Chron 25: Amaziah, king of Judah, k. 10,000 from Seir in battle and executed 10,000 POWs. Discharged Judean soldiers pillaged and killed 3,000.
    •2 Chron 28: Pekah, king of Israel, slew 120,000 Judeans

    •TOTAL: That comes to about 1,283,000 mass killings specifically enumerated in the Old Testament/Torah.

    The New Testament has only one major atrocity, that of god committing filicide assuming you believe in this Christian mumbo jumbo. Said atrocity should be enough to vitiate all of Christiani

  • WmarkW

    Canadians play the same video games we do, and watch the same movies and TV shows, and read the same books. Why is their homicide rate one-third of ours?

    If you want a cultural explanation, why not start with the 13% of the US population who commits half the homicides, and look for cultural pathologies.


    The U.S. is still at war in Afghanistan, even those 75% of Americans want us out.

    “Assassin’s Creed” is JUST A GAME.

  • Chip_M

    I’m a pacifist. I find real world violence and war patently abhorrent. I have been in exactly one physical confrontation in my life. I was six. I have also been playing violent video games, watching violent television programs, and watching violent action movies throughout my life. The point? For normal well adjusted people there is absolutely no correlation between the entertainment someone enjoys and how they behave towards their fellow human beings. Look at the number of people who go to church weekly, ostensibly to learn love and tolerance, only to be mean and intolerant the rest of the week.

    Excluding religion, most people can separate fantasy from reality. For those that can’t their problem runs much deeper than a video game. If there is violence within me and I don’t believe there is, it would seem that entertainment provides an adequate outlet for it so that it does not leak into the real world. Video games like sports are an excellent outlet for aggression.

  • Chip_M

    One other thought – violent crime rates have been in decline as long as video games have been around.

  • dcrswm

    The author raises a good point, what does a ficticous character (god) think about a different ficticous character (Conner from AC). Next lets ask Count Chocula how he feels about Captain Crunch.

  • leibowde84

    This is a pretty shameful article written by an out of touch old-fogie I presume. As a kid who grew up in the 90s, I’m used to a little violence on TV and video games. Those, like me, have grown to accept violence in entertainment as a viable source of artistic expression. The sopranos is a great example of how violence is used artistically and to make very important points in the show. This article was written by someone who was either sheltered or simply deprived herself of certain enjoyment because her parents or priests told her that they were wrong. But, guess what? They aren’t wrong. There is nothing wrong with making something fictional violent. I have never started violence in my life, and I, truthfully, hate video games. But if some religious person is going to sit on their high chair and say that we are all destroying the souls of our children, /I will be the first one to shove that chair over and scream “God bless America” in their face. Freedom is what is important. Censorship is what is evil.

  • Catken1

    Um. You do realize that it used to be normal to frequent cockfights, place bets on dog fights, and attend public executions for entertainment (bring the kiddies! Maybe it’ll take him an hour or so to choke to death, and they can watch his eyes bug out!)? Duels to the death, in certain parts of the country, used to be something a gentleman couldn’t avoid if he wanted to maintain his “honor”? Terroristic lynchings, with so little fear of justice that murderers sometimes openly posed for photographs over the body, used to be an accepted response for a black boy whistling at a white woman, or worse, trying to vote? Wives and children used to be “disciplined” with a rod, regularly, with almost everyone calling it normal, even virtuous as long as not TOO much injury resulted? Remember?

    At least now, the violence is virtual…

  • lastofall

    What the people do, the nation becomes. For this cause did the Lord Jesus warn us to beware of our own selves, that the light that is in us, is not actually darkness.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Maybe 100 years from now, the irony will not be lost on people when they see exchanges such as this from the past. Here we have a commenter who disapproves of violence among imaginary video game characters, and in order to justify this disapproval he evokes the dear leader baby jesus. One man’s video game hero is another’s storybook hero.

  • PDS9

    You see, you really need to research the series. This isn’t the same assassin as the previous games. This character is half colonist and half native american, colonists destroyed his tribe. He will be fighting Templars on both sides of the Revolutionary war.

    The Assassin’s aren’t Anarchists seeking the dissolution of all order, as you seem to imply your understanding is. The Templars don’t just promote order, they promote an elitist system that has total control over the population. One could call their goal a form of Fascism. The Assassins want to stop that.

    If you think Assassin’s Creed 3 is all about patriotism, you’re all wrong.