Native Americans in Video Games – Part 2 Assassin’s Creed III

As mentioned in the first part of this topic the First People have been generally depicted in a stereotypical manner when it comes down to video games. Everyone has been stereotyped in video games the only difference is that they’re rarely portrayed in any other manner. They are usually a powerful shaman with feathers in their hair, wearing denim vests and jeans fighting with a tomahawk. They barely headlined their own game until Turok and Prey came along. Even though Turok still had the warrior stereotype but as each sequel moved on so did the Turok and eventually he donned a military black ops outfit. Prey featured Tommy Tawodi and the his acceptance of his Cherokee heritage amidst an alien abduction.  But enough about the past let’s talk about what’s happening right now. The nature of the argument is because Assassin’s Creed III is starring a Native American protagonist, he is mixed (English from his father’s side and Mohawk from his mother’s) but nonetheless he still represents Native Americans in video games.

Nightwolf, T. Hawk and Chief Thunder and other fighting games came off ridiculous because those characters looked as if they were isolated from the rest of the world. They are from fighting games and that genre tends to combine as many stereotypes into a character. Turok Evolution featured Tal’set someone from colonial America who ends up in another world populated with dinosaurs. And that is the same era our star of Assassin’s Creed resides. Named Ratohnhaké:ton (Rah-Dooh-Ha-Gay-Doo) or Connor Kenway. Ratohnhaké:ton’s clothing coincides with the era that he’s living in – it’s both Colonial and Mohawk – notice his colonial jacket and a waistcoat (vest). The design isn’t over doing it since he doesn’t have a load of feathers and war paint.

Even the assortment of weapons expands from the typical weapons of tomahawks and bow and arrows to the iconic hidden blade, flint-lock pistols and rifles.

When Ubisoft covered Altair in the first title it seemed that they didn’t make a large effort when it came down to his voice acting. The setting took place in the Near East during the Third Crusade however Altair was chatting away constantly with an American accent. It could be the animus translating to Desmond or the studio didn’t want to hire a middle eastern for the role. From part 2 and on, they’ve been serious about the authenticity and the voice acting. During a discussion with the Playstation Blog the creative director Alex Hutchinson calmed a lot of fears about  Ratohnhaké:ton ‘s depiction.

“His given Native American name is very hard to pronounce, it’s Ratohnhaké:ton. We took it very seriously when we decided to have a Native American assassin, we wanted someone who was one step removed — we didn’t want a Redcoat or a Patriot. We also really liked the idea of having a minority as the lead character, especially one that isn’t really represented in popular culture.

“It comes with a lot of risk as well; we’ve hired a Native American consultant to make sure we’re handling things appropriately, and the actor who voices Connor is Native American as well.”

It looks like Ubisoft is on a path of avoiding the countless mistakes when representing the First People.

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