Player agency in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Over on my other blog, Cosy Catastrophes, you’ll find a review of Ubisoft’s 2010 videogame, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I won’t post the full article here as it’s not directly related to serious games – but there’s a paragraph at the end of the review which refers to a particular scene in which the player’s ability to affect the game is limited, in order to deliver the scene in a specific manner.

Not only is the content of the scene surprising (note:  if you haven’t yet played the game, beware! The review contains spoilers about one quest), but I’m really interested in the approach in terms of its mechanics. The scene joins the Tibetan village section of Uncharted 2, the No Russian level in Modern Warfare 2 and chunks of Heavy Rain as examples of developers testing their ability to deliver mature stories by dictating the limits of player agency. By removing the ability for players to ‘ruin’ a scene by shooting, jumping or punching their way through supposedly emotional moments, perhaps videogames may be able to transcend their (usually) pulp fiction influences.

For the record, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood contains another example of the same technique towards the end of the main storyline, but this time it results in scenes that are frustrating and nonsensical. So there’s work still to be done.


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