Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag and Addiction: Remembering Dad
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It's 2013, you're 13 years old and waiting for what would become one of your favourite games.
You've always loved pirates, spent your childhood watching the Pirates of the Caribbean films so obsessively you nearly know them word for word. You could tell people the difference between a schooner and a brigg, and have visited the last remaining sailing ship of the era docked in London.
It's 2013, you're 13 years old and you learn you'll never see your dad again.
He introduced you to Pirates of the Caribbean when you were probably too young. He'd bought history books for you, and had plastic sword fights throughout the house with you when you were younger. He's gone now, and you don't know why.
9 years have passed and you still think of that strange autumn, the wild month around your birthday which went from excitement to depression. You remember being too young to really understand what's going on, what account documents you're being told about and the will you've been left with. In all honesty you don't care, what does stuff matter now, just leave me to play my games.
9 years have passed and you still replay Black Flag, no game has ever come close to completely absorbing you since. You remember swimming between islands just to see if you can, and finding a glitch to keep your hood up (because honestly who wants it down). The story progresses, and you realise that it's got more to teach you than you thought.
Suicide, you've heard the word before but never really understood it. It was mentioned in bible class when you were younger, but like everything it just washed over your head, a word without any real meaning.
Alcoholic is said now and again, you get the concept but now why people end up like that. "Just stop drinking," you'd think, "it's not that hard."
Edward Kenway hits rock bottom, he's pushed away all his friends, his families halfway across the planet, hope has disappeared. He tumbles through the memory corridor, an area that's become symbolic for beginning your journey, and the success of defeating another target. Now, it's nothing but the falling ground for a man with nothing but a bottle.
It's strange how art can affect you, what it teaches you without you ever expecting. No one went in to Black Flag for an emotional revelation about what it feels like to be hopeless, to give up and turn to bad habits to survive. The fun swashbuckling adventure has slowly peeled away to reveal the sad truths of the heroes of children's books and films, the reality of feeling without a place in a growing world.
I struggled to understand my dad, he was distant and strange, without any explanation. He lived in a village in the middle of nowhere, he was part of a church whose rules he didn't follow, and seemed rudderless in everything he did. It's hard to express what being a child and seeing that feels like, trying to comprehend emotions you're too young or naive to experience feels like.
That confusion can become resentment, misplaced anger or endless sadness. It's easy to repeat the cycle, act out without reason and continue the self destruction.
If it weren't for an odd little game about Pirates and hooded Assassins.
This month marks the 9th anniversary of that tumultuous year, and a lot definitely happens in your teen years. You go through your own heartbreak, learn your own lessons, get to experience sot medium, Darby McDevitt, Matt Ryan, and all the other actors, writers and developers made something that can, at least for one gamer, be life changing.
It's soppy and melodramatic sure, but these fun corny games can be so impactful. They can last for nearly a decade in the minds of players by trying something, by trying to make a statement or express an emotion. I don't want to interfere in the lives of developers, but there's something so personal to the narrative of Black Flag, a passion to its presentation and themes that shines through.
If we don't discuss depression, addiction, greed and imperfections, we're doomed to leave people clueless. Entertainment and art can teach so much, and even without realising, can help improve our understanding of the human experience immeasurably.
I love Assassin's Creed, I love it's gameplay, philosophy and history. I just hope to see more stories from more creative, that touch upon something with such raw truth as Black Flag did all those years ago. me of the emotions that once seemed so alien.
The best part of growing up is being old enough to hear the full story, to learn details that were understandably kept secret. But that journey, surprisingly of all, started with Assassins Creed showing a real, human and flawed character.
It's strange to look back, after games with demigods and narrative choices, to think about how personally impactful watching a pre-written story about a Welsh dude with a few too many guns was in comparison.
I know that to many Assassins Creed is pulpy historical fun, like marvel with dysentery. But it can't be understated, especially now in the age of "content" and "games as a service", how important it can be to include these darker moments and themes in your games. Black Flag was undeniably a fun romp, and the team behind it were exceptionally successful in making a great sandbox that you can jump back into after a long day.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has a problem, there are people you can talk to. You can find some useful phone numbers and links here for free and confidential advice.
About the Author
Finn is a creative writer from Rotherham, UK who has previously supported TOWCB's Fundraising events, and raised awareness surrounding Men's Mental Health.
On a blog dedicated to writing, Finn has been sharing reviews, stories and thoughts. By joining the AC Partnership Program's Writing Team, we are hoping to take Finn's passion for writing to the next level.