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.’
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:
Here’s a very patriotic TV spot for Assassin’s Creed III. Even though the ad looks like it’s glorifying America, Game Informer has informed us that we’ll get to kill both American and British targets. Remember, an assassin takes no side.
As an American, I did get teary eyed listening to the epic sounds of the choir singing “America the Beautiful.”
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:
Unlike the Assassins, who embrace free will and oppose such a rigid system of development for humankind, Templars believe that order is the only way for our species to realize its ultimate potential. The philosophical gulf between the two shadow organizations has led to centuries of bloodshed.
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.