It’s all Greek to me!: Print Project Proposal

My proposal for a print project is an analysis of depictions of ancient Greek figures in video games. In particular, this project will focus on the Assassin’s Creed franchise, a series of video games that are notorious for featuring real historical figures in their open-world role-playing games. But what can those depictions tell us about how popular culture perceives these figures? This paper will focus on the depiction of Socrates, Alcibiades, and Herodotus in the titular Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, a game that takes place in ancient Greece and brings to life many of the key figures from that time. The paper will highlight how the figures are characterized through their dialogue, quest lines, and “lore pages” to determine what aspects of the real historical figures are being highlighted.

A key aspect of this paper will be to determine what real-life sources are being used as the base for the characters. Many of the quests given by these historic figures tie into the real-life achievements and lore surrounding them. I will analyze these quests and find the source material the developers used to determine how “realistic” the depictions are. These three figures also have in-depth lore pages which espouse the “real” history of the character; it will be important to note what source base these pieces of information come from and what information about the figure they chose to highlight.

Another possible angle this paper could have is analyzing the reactions to these depictions on the internet. After its release, many historians reacted on their blogs, in videos, or in podcasts to the depictions of these figures and gave their personal opinion on the subject. Understanding how historians in the field of ancient Greek study felt about the depiction it could provide valuable data on both how accurate the depictions were, but also how they were received by the history community.

The goal of the paper will be to determine what aspects of the characters are being highlighted, what source base the development team used as their foundation when building the characters, and how historians have reacted to the characters. This should create a detailed examination of how these ancient figures are being perceived in popular culture, and perhaps some of the historic misconceptions or tropes that have permeated the popular notion of ancient Greek life and the role these figures played.

3 Replies to “It’s all Greek to me!: Print Project Proposal”

  1. I love a good example of Classical Reception! It always intrigues me to see how the Classical world enters our world today. However, since I am not a gamer myself (excluding Mario Kart and Mario Party of course), I have not heard of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. I would be very interested in seeing what sources were used for the research of this game, as well as historians take on said research. Do these characters speak in Ancient Greek or English? I have a feeling I know the answer, but you could technically make the claim that the usage of language is historically inaccurate (if they are indeed speaking in English).

  2. From a person who used to be interested in Greek Mythology, I think this topic is fascinating. It will be interesting to see your findings of these historic figures’ public memory in the present-day, especially as American society currently is interested in Greek Mythology and history through popular books and other games.

  3. Hi Austin,

    I really love this idea! I think specifically looking at the way that Greek philosophers are used in the Assassin’s Creed games is likely to generate some really interesting ideas/questions. I think the idea of doing analysis of the games themselves and discourse about the games online is smart too.

    If you do run with this, I would suggest that you get a copy of Playing with the Past Digital Games and the Simulation of History and review the book for examples of how you can analyze and study video games like this. The book has a lot of good examples, and if you find anything particularly useful in there you can then go over to google scholar and look for more recent books and articles that cite it. Along with that, it might be useful to skim posts over time on Play the Past where Assassin’s Creed comes up. A range of folks have had varied and interesting takes on the game over time on the site.

    The question that comes most to mind for me out of everything you have laid out here is why are these philosophers included in the games? What work do they do for the games? Like they could have just been made up figures but the game creators chose to use these specific historical figures.

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