Indigenous Animus in the Age of Liberation
October 2012 saw the release of two highly anticipated video games. The first, Assassin’s Creed III, was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and features a half-English, half-Mohawk character named Ratonhnhaké:ton. Set during the early 21st 2012 apocalypse as well as during the late 18th century on the cusp of the American Revolution, the game focuses on Ratonhnhaké:ton, also known as Connor, as he grows up, trains to be an assassin, and maneuvers New England settler colonial civilization as it begins to encroach upon the frontier where his own people continue to reside. The second game, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, released the same day on the PS Vita, features the first female and first black assassin. Centering its gameplay around the mechanics of Aveline De Grandpré’s wardrobe changes, flirting, and stealth, the game spatializes race, class, and heteronormativity within familiar colonial and racial terrains. It also procedurally conscripts the erotics of colonialism and racism into the machinic gaze of the game interface. Through close-readings of these two games, this paper will consider how indigenous studies might intersect with video game studies, especially at the sites of structure, narrative, racial representations, and temporality. Examining how colonialism is reembodied and reencoded as digital differance within machinic late liberalism, Jodi Byrd will argue that indigeneity disrupts the colonial logics of code, law, and sovereignty.
Jodi A. Byrd is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and associate professor of American Indian Studies and English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her articles have appeared in American Indian Quarterly, Cultural Studies Review, and Interventions. She is the author of The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (University of Minnesota Press, 2011).