lyntek: (altair)
[personal profile] lyntek
I have very mixed feelings about people using a culture foreign to their own if it's merely for the sake of having something "ethnic" or "exotic" in a story. On one hand, it's extremely flattering that others are taking an interest -- and if the story is engaging enough, it might even get more people to do the same. On the other, it has so much potential for encouraging stereotypes and spreading wrong information.

There's something already horribly cliche-ish about the Philippines and Filipinos when they're featured in a story -- it's usually for the secluded barangay, the quirky practices, the weird superstition, and the foul-smelling food. Filipinos are often portrayed as mostly ignorant aside from a precious few that benefited from formal education, when, in reality, isolated towns are a rarity and most of our citizens have access to the Internet and CNN.

This is also why Assassin's Creed, as much as I love it, makes me want to stab it in the eye with a fork sometimes. I'm not saying that AC1 just randomly used the Crusades and the Middle East for something "ethnic" to spice up their story, but they could have given more effort to make the game more palatable to the very people they're trying to portray. I'm lucky enough to have a native Arab speaker for a best friend -- she pointed out the weird names, misplaced accents, and mistranslations in the game. Having been an annoying leech attached to her backside for some odd number of years, I've also learned a bit of what Muslims do and do not do, something which other members of fandom don't have access to.

Muslims, for example, would never say "Allah" the way most others would inconsiderately say "God." As in, "God, what a mess." Converting this to "Allah, what a mess" is just not done. And yet it occurs in stories when one of the characters is a Muslim. Also, there is this weird assumption that all Arabs are automatically Muslim -- also not true. While it's probably safe to assume that everyone knows not all Muslims are Arabs, I think it still bears repeating that not all Arabs are Muslims. I'm a little puzzled as to why AC fanon assumes Masyaf was a Muslim community -- it's a great possibility considering the IRL history of Alamut, but the game developers seemed to steer clear of any firm religious associations for the Assassins, so finding them with religious affiliations in fandom strikes me as odd.

Altair, himself, probably wasn't a Muslim, IMHO. His behavior throughout AC1 was leaning toward atheism more than anything else. The whole air of Masyaf always spoke of neutrality to me, siding with neither Saracen nor Templar, Muslim nor Christian, so seeing others depict it as a Muslim society religiously rather than just culturally is a little weird.

The language in AC2 bears digging into as well, and more people seem to be iffy with it ( "like stereotypical hollywood mafia," I think is the common thread ). From a non-Italian speaker's POV, the whole thing's adorable and sounds exotic -- the mixed-in Italian with the English phrases -- but it's exactly the "exotic" part that's giving me discomfort. I'd probably die laughing if they did the same with Tagalog, with characters saying things like, "It's your family that cries for guards when there's trouble, duwag" (XD) or "Kill that anak ng putang ina!" (XDDD). It CAN be done properly, however -- saying things like "Dalian n'yo! Up the stairs, and out the window!" or "Walang-hiya ka! Come down here and say that again!" sounds less awkward and won't make random Pinoys go :X too much. Well, maybe a snicker or two.

Though a scene with armed men yelling "MAMATAY-TAO! MAMATAY-TAO!" while chasing someone through rooftops makes me wibble a little inside.

Ubisoft's research team was disappointing in this respect. But I do love the amount of research that went into Renaissance Italy, so complaining about the language makes me feel like an ingrate. :(

The problem with large scale productions like this is that consumers feel it's safe to assume everything that's fed them is authentic, especially when developers tout their research teams around, and how they consulted with historians, linguists, so on and so forth. If they get lazy or make a mistake, they're not the only ones who suffer for it. And then you get stuff like non-Arabic speakers trying to tell Arabs how to properly spell Malik's name because Ubisoft spelled it that way.

It's almost like the developers made enough effort for the average gamer to go "COOL, THIS GAME IS SOOOO MIDDLE-EASTERN/ITALIAN" and then went "eh, that's good enough."

Though am inclined to be less annoyed with AC1, because it was the first game and the constraints and limitations were probably more pronounced. As evidenced by Jade Raymond mentioning that they did part of their casting in LA because there weren't enough Arabic speakers in Montreal. XD; GEE, I WONDER WHERE WE COULD GET MORE ARABIC-SOUNDING PEOPLE. I KNOW, LET'S GO TO LA.

AC1 brought us Malik anyway, who is awesome and whose Arabic accent is awesome, so yeah. I'm happy.

This poster is also awesome. Nabbed from [ profile] nothingtrue:

And Altair apparently doesn't really mean eagle, but I'mma stop nitpicking now.
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