Sure, video games let us shoot at Fidel Castro and play as former Presidents, but where's the game that attacks our favourite conservative Supreme Court Justices? If you don't mind spoilers or hate the Citizens United decision, keep reading.
One more warning... we're talking about Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, though we're not talking about the main events of the game, just some amusingly conspiratorial side stuff.
Still here? Ready to know more about how a video game actually goes after modern political figures, something they almost never do?
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is part of a series of games that are set in in different periods of history, weaving their own story with real events. Most of the action takes place during the Crusades or the Italian Renaissance, and your enjoyment of the game is dependent on how much you want to feel like you are a ruthless and possibly heroic assassin who can scale buildings and stab nobles with graceful ease.
The backdrop for the games adventures is that many of history's greatest conflicts and most notorious assassinations were the product of a longtime war between the player's side, the brotherhood of Assassins and the enemy, the Templars, those former Knights who are, in the game's modern times (2012! End of the world!), an evil corporation. This is not original. It's Bilderberg Group stuff; it's Illuminati hysteria. It is also perfectly fine to take it as fiction, unless you'd like to believe most major political events were orchestrated by a sinister invisible hand.
Many hours into Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, the game reveals how the US Supreme Court fits into this. Specifically the game establishes that the early 2010 version of the Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts that decided the Citizens United case early this year - a decision notoriously condemned by President Obama during his State of The Union address - was in cahoots with the Templars. Roberts, I guess, is in with the bad guys.
The Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United found that it was a violation of the first amendment to restrict corporate contributions to campaign advertising. Critics of the decision, the President included, complained that the decision would allow big companies to use their treasuries to imbalance elections by drowning out voices that dissented with whichever perspectives they advertised and supported. But proponents, including the five justices who voted in the majority, said that corporations deserved speech rights.
How do they work this into a game that is mostly set in the Renaissance? The same way the game's creative team at publisher Ubisoft introduces many of the twists to its international conspiracy: through a series of hidden brain-teaser puzzles that are said to unlock a video file called "The Truth". I captured video of my play through part of the Supreme Court one, which you'll see has many hidden messages skewering the corporate ties of some of the United States' most successful right-wing members of the government.
Get the message in the video? Roberts is a Templar. It all makes so much sense now.
While the message here might be blunt, lacking in balance and semi-preposterous, it's also striking to see in a video game. Major games that are expected to sell millions of copies, which Assassin's Creed is, seldom even mention modern political figures, let alone attack them.
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, however, is no ordinary game. It's one that tucks a crack about Obama's unpopular health care plan into a description of an old Roman building.
For what it's worth, Ubisoft is based in France, while this game's development was directed from the company's massive studio in Montreal. Why, to think such people would have a chuckle at our health care system or our Supreme Court! I haven't seen an American video game company make cracks like this.