I don’t really get that sentiment, because if anything Valhalla portrays a complicated political structure between both Saxons and Danes.
I also find it frustrating when people point out the complications of the Vikings being colonialists and slavers, but fail to recognize that the Saxons were slavers as well. They enslaved people all the way up to 1066. Also, the Saxons were fighting with each other well before the Vikings arrived.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like people throw around the heavy implications of the word ‘colonialism’ to any kind of Medieval conflict that was present all around the globe. There are exceptions. Rome decimated the Carthaginians and the Gauls, but the majority of Medieval conflict wasn’t nearly as devastating to the Europeans as it was to the Indigenous Americans.
I’m inclined to agree with Bret’s opinion in the article that waiting until hour 40 of a 60-80 hour game to pull an “I believe you’ll find it’s a little bit more complicated than that” is bullshit. The majority of your players aren’t going to see the end of the game or even the last third of it, this is well-known from achievement statistics.
I am deeply enjoying this game. I am glad an article this critical of its misrepresentation of history exists. I am a sucker for biker-viking aesthetics and I find Norse mythology really compelling. Which is frustrating because of its modern association with white supremacist movements. I feel like I need to constantly remind myself that this interest of mine specifically carries baggage that needs to be examined.
I do have a thought/question though–and this is no excuse for the games white washing of colonialism–related to religious philosophy and treatment of land. I am inclined to believe that “pagan” religions tend to be more integrated with nature and appear to be more eco-friendly than abrahamic religions, but I don’t know enough about the wide swath of sects, sub divisions, and branches under these religions to know that this is true. Living in a heavily evangelical country that has a Christianity that perpetuates the idea of human beings as conquerors of nature instead of as components OF nature that should live with and thrive with it has made me jaded towards my former religious upbringing and I find the “pagan” ideas of living holistically with nature to be compelling. A caveat here: in studying various religious paths I found and read a lot about the anarchist christians who very much did/do their own thing and don’t adhere to the control of a central authority like a church or a pope or what have you, so I’m inclined to believe that there ARE abrahamic religious groups who, like pagan folk, try and live compatibly with nature. I just won’t know. So, that’s my question: Does anyone here know anything about this?
Also, an addendum: There is an argument to be made against norse-style paganism as an avenue for environmental justice here also—given that there is significant cross over with those white supremacist groups who use its iconography and eco-fascist ideology.
I think the answer to that is complicated, especially if it’s a twist being built in the story. You can’t control if players will see the end of your game or not. The examples the director used are early game story beats and if those beats are sprinkled in the story for each region then I’d say it earned the benefit of the doubt because the twist wouldn’t just be out of left field.
I’m not saying Ubisoft did a perfect job or they’re above this kind of discussion but I don’t think outright dismissing the story and its twists because some people won’t get to them isn’t exactly fair. And not just for this game - for any media.
I really liked Bret’s blog, I was about to share it too. I think the slavery point is especially important. The last two AC’s also failed to engage with the slavery that would have been rampant in their settings. Which is weird, because previous AC’s haven’t shied away from it. Though like the developer says in the thread @Jimbot posted, slavery is not an easy subject to work with. Same is true for historical sexism, which is largely ignored too. As Bret points out, all these cultures were patriarchal and sexist, Greece was considered sexist even by other sexist contemporary societies, yet only the “bad guys” are shown as being sexist in the recent AC games. It’s understandable why they do this, of course.
I think this is what he was kind of saying? They are using some pretty shitty modern colonial era tropes in this game that don’t really apply to the period, and which are just bad in general. The example he gives is your settlement, which is empty but is somehow this bountiful land with no Saxon’s or Britons living in it until you show up. And how the lives of the “natives” improves because of your project of conquest.
I still haven’t gotten the game, I’m waiting until I build a new PC over Christmas, but I’ve watched the opening few hours on Youtube. What he said does match up with what I’ve seen and how I’ve felt playing the more recent AC games.
He also puts something to words that I think about a lot when it comes to popular depictions of history:
Does all of that matter? Yes, I think it does . As I have argued here many times , fiction is often how the public conceptualizes the past and that concept of the past shapes the decisions we make in the present . Is one video game going to lead to a return to colonialist thinking? Of course not. But a culture in which such sanitized narratives are common is a culture far more willing to make those decisions; these stories matter in the aggregate . And so it is incumbent on designers and developers to construct their stories and their worlds with care, especially when they are set in the very real past .