Scholastic has published Assassin’s Creed A Walk Through History 1189-1868, an educational book about the Assassin’s Creed series and I am not sure how I feel about it.
The book wasn’t sent to me. I hadn’t seen a single press release about it. I honestly, wouldn’t have known it existed had I not practically stumbled on a copy of it at Wal-Mart. I, obviously, bought it. I brought it home and started reading it right away.
I was very excited… at first. Part of that is because I have been advocating for the settings and characters in Assassin’s Creed games to be utilized for educational purposes for a long time. The design team spends countless hours faithfully recreating historical locations and landmarks for their games. It feels like all of that work is wasted when they don’t find a way to spin all of that awesome material into an educational sandbox.
That excitement was still there after reading the book and discussing it more with my wife, but it was definitely dulled a bit.
First, let me take a second to talk about what this book is. I have a feeling that people might be confused just looking at the cover.
“Assassin’s Creed A Walk Through History 1189-1868” is NOT a book about the Assassin’s Creed games themselves. The book ignores the main plot points of the different Assassin’s Creed games and focuses on the real-world- historical events, places, and people that Ubisoft has included in the franchise over the years.
The time periods explored in the book are:
- The Third Crusade
- The Italian Renaissance
- The Ottoman Empire
- Sixteenth Century
- The Golden Age of Piracy
- The Seven Year’s War
- The American Revolution
- The French Revolution
- Victorian London
That is a pretty broad list that covers almost a thousand years of history so it doesn’t get into much detail at all. It does, however, do a good job of highlighting some of the most interesting facets of the different historical figures.
A good example is their description of Leonardo Da Vinci. They said, “If anybody embodied Renaissance ideals, it was Leonardo da Vinci. Painter, engineer, sculptor, anatomist, inventor, cartographer, scientist, writer – in many ways, da Vinci seemed superhuman. In 1502, he was briefly employed by Cesare Borgia as his chief military engineer and architect. He designed fortification and created remarkably accurate, detailed maps for his patron.” That is a pretty solid representation of the blurbs they included for the other figures as well.
My favorite part of the book is the artwork. Every page has artwork from the game as well as historical artwork that helps to represent the time periods in question. I found myself flipping through the book and looking at the art even in the days after I finished the book.
It isn’t all positive though. Jenna and I have significant concerns about what this books existence says. It is being published by Scholastic which means an implicit endorsement of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Scholastic books find their way into school libraries and onto teachers’ shelves. We would hate to see parents and educators who aren’t super savvy about video games recommend games in this franchise to families that aren’t ready for it.
Even when I take my concerns into account I think the book is worthwhile purchase for anyone who has enjoyed the games. This book provides some interesting historical context that can enrich the experience of playing them. Some of that context might be wasted on younger kids who haven’t played the games,