2. Transmedia Storytelling and Transmediality
[…] represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.
3. Game World, Storyworld, and Transmedial World
- Existents, i.e., the characters and the objects that have special significance for the plot.
- Settings, i.e., the space in which the existents are located.
- Physical laws, i.e., the principles that determine what can and cannot happen in the world.
- Special rules and values, i.e., principles that determine the obligations of the characters.
- Events, i.e., the causes of the changes that happen in the time span of the narrative.
- Mental events, i.e., how the individual characters react to both actual and perceived events.
4. Mythos, Ethos, and Topos
5. The Transmedial World of Assassin’s Creed
- Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent
- Hide in plain sight
- Never compromise the Brotherhood
- I did as I was asked.
- No, you did as you pleased. Malik has told me of the arrogance you displayed, your disregard of our ways.
- What are you doing [he is being held back by two fellow Assassins].
- There are rules, we are nothing if we do not abide by the Assassin’s Creed. Three simple tenets which you seem to forget. I will remind you. First and foremost, stay your blade…
- from the flesh of an innocent. I know [the mentor slaps him].
- And stay your tongue unless I give you leave to use it. If you are so familiar with this tenet then why did you kill the old man inside the temple? He was innocent, he did not need to die. Your insolence knows no bounds. Make humble your heart child or I swear I’ll tear it from you with my own hands. The second tenet is that which gives us strength. Hide in plain sight. Let the people mask you such that you become one with the crowd. Do you remember? Because, as I hear it, you chose to expose yourself drawing attention before you struck. Third, and final tenet, the worst of all your betrayals. Never compromise the Brotherhood. Its meaning should be obvious. Your actions must never bring harm upon us, direct or indirect. Yet your selfish act beneath Jerusalem placed us all in danger. Worse still, you brought our enemy to our home. Every man we have lost today was lost because of you. I’m sorry, truly I am [he draws a dagger].
- But I cannot abide a traitor.
- I am NOT a traitor.
- Your actions indicate otherwise and so you leave me no choice. Peace be upon you Altaïr. [The Mentor stabs Altaïr with the dagger, fade to black]
6. Assassin’s Creed and Transmedia Storytelling
7. The Ethos of Assassin’s Creed’s Transmedial World
7.1. The Main Games
- Stay my blade from the flesh of the innocent.
- Hide in plain sight.
- Never compromise the Assassin Brotherhood.
- These are the tenets of the Creed.
- The principles I used to live by.
- was a young man then.
- The Seven Years’ War was about to begin.
- could not have imagined what the future had in store for me...
- Nor the cost I would choose to bear...
- My name is Shay Patrick Cormac.
- This is my story…
- Uphold the principles of our Order, and all that for which we stand.
- Never share our secrets nor divulge the true nature of our work.
- Do so until death—whatever the cost.
- This is my new creed. I am Shay Patrick Cormac.
- Templar of the Colonial... of the American Rite.
- am an older man now, and perhaps wiser.
- war and a revolution have ended, and another is about to begin.
- May the Father of Understanding guide us all.”39
7.2. The Mobile and Online Games
- Please note that following the assassin’s creed,
- your ancestor’s way of life, will assist you with staying in sync.
- The Creed consists of three tenets.
- First: Never hurt an innocent person.
- Second: Always be discreet.
- Third: Do not compromise the clan.
- Should you lose sync, you can restore synchronization
- by reviewing key moments of your ancestor’s life
- or by respecting the creed.
7.3. The Books
- You say these men are cruel,’ said Altaïr. ‘Has any man raised his blade
- against an innocent?’ ‘Alas, yes,’ Cemal replied. ‘Brutality seems to be
- their sole source of pleasure.’ ‘Then they must die, for they have
- compromised the Order,’ said Altaïr. ‘But those who still live by the
- Creed must be spared.’ (p. 309).
7.4. The Comic Books and Graphic Novels
7.5. The (Animated) Films
Conflicts of Interest
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In his 2005 book Half-real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, Jesper Juul distinguishes between Games of Emergence, i.e., games where the outcome is determined by the built-in rules, and Games of Progression, where the designer determines the sequence of events.
This does not mean that the first two modes (telling and showing) are not interactive, but as Hutcheon says “the move to participatory modes in which we also engage physically with the story and its world—whether it be in a violent action game or a role-playing or puzzle/skill testing one—is not more active but certainly active in a different way” (Hutcheon 2013, p. 23).
By the end of the 20th century, most media corporations have become global with interests in multiple media, e.g., books, films, comic books, games, theme parks, etc. cf. Harry Potter.
Although in light of our present convergence culture it is only a matter of time before such franchises will also expand their storyworld into other media.
I use the terms books and films as placeholders for respectively the reading mode and the viewing mode. Of course, these modes represent different types of media.
Of course, theme parks are also interactive, but I would argue that their narratives are emergent.
For instance, real world places that evoke a particular atmosphere, such as New Orleans or Transylvania.
See Veugen 2011.
It should be noted that while the concept of genre may be seen as being medium-agnostic, its interpretation/application is medium-specific.
Klastrup and Tosca explain that their concept of transmedial worlds is based on genre and adaptation theory. In a later article ‘MMOGs and the Ecology of Fiction: Understanding LOTRO as Transmedial World’ (Klastrup and Tosca 2009), they explain that their methodology follows the traditional humanistic aesthetic approach. The terms Mythos and Ethos stem from Aristotle’s Poetics (Aristotle 1996), where Ethos is the moral or ethical character of the agent, an interpretation that in modern narrative theory more or less has the same meaning but now also denotes the values of a people, group, nation, etc. Mythos in Aristotle’s view denoted the plot as a logical sequence of events, focusing on the actions of the characters rather than on the characters themselves and their myths as modern narrative theory does.
In this article I will only discuss the Assassin's Creed texts (various media) that were launched between 2007 and 2017, up to the game Assassin's Creed Origins. The data stem from a close reading of the various media texts.
In the game itself it is not clear; only later in the book The Secret Crusade (2011) we learn that Altaïr’s mother was Christian and his father Muslim. As his mother died in childbirth, Altaïr effectively grew up with his father in the order of the Assassins (Veugen 2014).
Instead of the usual Sandbox design of other open world games.
There are certain places in the gameworld, such as wells and haystacks, that the Assassin can use to hide. After a certain amount of time, the player character becomes anonymous and can leave the place safely.
An exception to the first tenet are bombs. In Assassin’s Creed Altaïr’s Chronicles, Altaïr has to use a bomb. In Assassin’s Creed Revelations, lethal bombs are introduced to help the player overcome opponents in the game world, a gameplay device that became a standard element in the games. Obviously, a bomb is indiscriminate and will kill innocent bystanders as well.
The special edition of the first Assassin’s Creed game came with a short comic that takes place in the storyworld of the first game (both the modern as well as the historic part) and adds to the story. However, as it is not separately available it is usually seen as a paratext rather than a part of the transmedial story. There is also a non-canonical Penny Arcade Assassin’s Creed comic about Altaïr.
See Veugen 2016.
Assassin’s Creed 1: Desmond as well as Assassin’s Creed 2: Aquilus (2010) and Assassin’s Creed 3: Accipiter (2011) are part of the so-called The Ankh of Isis Trilogy (bundled in 2013). As the modern-day part tells an alternative version of Desmond’s story, this set of graphic novels is considered non-canonical by many fans.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation was first released as a PS Vita game and only later ported to the PS3, Xbox, and PC. As it only takes place in the Animus, it cannot be considered a main game. The next main game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, is already announced.
See Appendix A for the complete list.
Eagle Vision allows the Assassins, for instance, to distinguish between enemies and targets.
In Assassin’s Creed Project Legacy, the player already was an employee of Abstergo, but now to gather information on Pieces of Eden and other Ancestor Assassins.
The player is now addressed with the ‘title’ Initiate and her handler is an Assassin called Bishop.
Originally only by a Sage in the so-called Observatory through a specially prepared Chrystal Skull. However, as the game shows, the Skull also works outside the Observatory and does not require the presence of a Sage.
Apart from the book Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, I will come back to this when discussing the books.
Before Assassin’s Creed III, the Assassins, both in the games as well as in the graphic novels, had names related to birds of prey, e.g., Ezio which is translated ‘Eagle’. Interestingly, in the recent film, this tradition is reinstated: Callum (=dove, not a bird of prey of course but a bird) and Aguilar (=Eagle).
For the years of publication/release of the separate media texts see Appendix A.
Of those who are responsible for the murder of his father and brothers.
As a mentor Ezio does, however, uphold the tenets. There is a more covert reference to the tenets in Revelations. On the door to Altaïr’s library, underneath the original Assassin stronghold in Masyaf, it states in Arabic “Revere the blood of the innocent” and “Hide in the midst of the crowd”.
As already mentioned, in the first game Altaïr is an avatar and not a character with a background story etc. The Seals, in a sense, repair this by telling Altaïr’s life story, how he grew up, his travels, his research into the Apple of Eden, etc., thus turning the erstwhile avatar into a fully fledged character. This story can also be found in the book Assassin’s Creed The Last Crusade. Ubisoft also included the first Assassin’s Creed game for fans who had not played the game before.
In the storyworld of Assassin’s Creed III, Ratonhnhaké:ton is half Native American. His tribe, the Kanien’kehá:ka, show respect to all living creatures and that is why he does not kill (initially also not Templars).
In most games, there are on-screen instructions. Apart from not being detected and becoming anonymous, hiding places are most often used for stealth assassinations.
In fact, Assassin’s Creed Black Flag is the only game that at the very end mentions the Assassin’s Creed bureau.
The gameworld and gameplay of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag is more like that of Assassin’s Creed II than Assassin’s Creed III, as Edward can again use ‘courtesans’ to lure guards away and has more opportunities to blend in with crowds and sit on benches to remain undetected while waiting for his assassination victim.
When his father is murdered, Arno is adopted by the Templar Grand Master of the Parisian Rite, Élise’s father. From the book Unity it becomes clear that Élise from an early age knows that he is an Assassin, even though Arno does not know yet. The game and the book are very much written to show that both in the ranks of the Assassins as well as the Templars there are traitors and there are those, like Élise’s mother, who want to end the feud between the two groups.
In the book it becomes clear that the Creed has been ingrained in them by their father Ethan. Evie is the true believer of the two. She often reminds Jacob of what their father would have said or wanted. Jacob is more a brawler and fights more openly, thus violating tenets 2 and 3, although the British Brotherhood has been greatly diminished and there is no Assassin’s bureau in London. Evie and Jacob report to Henry Green, who, as can be found out in the book Assassin’s Creed Underground, in fact is Jayadeep Mir, the son of Arbaz Mir (Assassin’s Creed Brahman and Forsaken).
In Black Flag I have killed 3016 opponents to date. Of course, Edward is not an Assassin. Still, in the book his mother asks him “How many men have died at your hand, eh?” Edward does not reply directly “I looked at her. The answer, of course, was countless” (p. 428). This basically acknowledges that only killing a select number of opponents is no longer part of being an Assassin in the games, even though in the scene in the book his mother disowns Edward publicly for his deeds.
Amongst others reconfirming why Achilles calls Ratonhnhaké:ton Connor.
“May the Father of Understanding guide us all” is part of the ‘Creed’ of the Templars. Note Shay’s correction in line five: first he says Colonial (=Assassins) then he corrects it in American (=Templar). This basically reveals that even at the end of his life Shay still thinks of himself as an Assassin.
Voodoo Dolls are only part of the game world. The reward for collecting all of them is a special outfit.
Most notably the short animated film Assassin’s Creed Embers, where Shao Jun, the protagonist of the China Chronicles, seeks out Ezio and receives a Precursor Box which features in all three Chronicles games.
Even though the Ezio books are adaptations, they do all contain new parts as well. In Renaissance, they are relatively small, but in Brotherhood Ezio also goes to Spain to look for Cesare Borgia. In the mobile game Discovery, Ezio also travels to Spain but for a different reason. In Revelations, we learn what happened after Brotherhood and why Ezio travels to Constantinople. Then, his story from the game is told. However, the book ends with Ezio’s last days as told in the short animated film Embers.
See Appendix B for the full dialogue.
This was also the premise of Assassin’s Creed Liberation, where the data came from the very first participant, Subject 1 (Desmond is Subject 17). This was still in the experimental phase of the Animus Project.
The film was released on 21 December 2016, a month and day with some significance in the Assassin’s Creed transmedia storytelling world, as is of course the date of the Tweet.
Aguilar is the Ancestor Assassin in the film.
Showing the commitment of the fan community to keep the Mythos of the transmedial world intact. As already mentioned, in the book Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Ezio returns again to Spain, but this takes place in March 1507, so after the events of the film.
He is the son of the sultan and has been kidnapped to force his father, the keeper of the Apple, to hand it over to the Templars.
Al Mualin is Ezio’s mentor and head of the Brotherhood.
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