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Gaming Brew: ‘Assassins Creed: Valhalla’ Plays to Flimsy Ancestral Claims

While many people are excited about the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I have to say that I’m underwhelmed. It’s not that the game won’t have a great new story, mechanics, and graphics – it’s that the theme is boring.

I’m sorry to say, but Vikings are “meh.”

After so many Eurocentric games, from a Welsh pirate to a French noble to British twins, the game returned to its Middle Eastern roots with Origins. Instead of continuing with this direction, however, we (understandably) turned to Ancient Greece and then moved to Vikings.  After shifting more worldly settings to “sub-games,” as they did with India and China, Ubisoft has now chosen one of the most overused ethnic groups embraced by Caucasians in modern times. Vikings are ubiquitous, and people who romanticize and idolize them are as pervasive as the Celtophiles who appear at every Irish and Scottish celebration (outside those actual countries).

Sure, it’s not a viking festival, but you get the idea.

The concept is a sociological one called symbolic ethnicity: pride for a culture to which a person has tenuous ties (at best), and which they more often only know stereotypes or basic concepts. It’s prevalent among white Americans who often have a minimal cultural identity of their own, and thus latch onto the perceived culture of their ancestors.

As expected, the symbolic ethnicity of Vikings is based on little that’s historical. It’s a romanticized image that often blends Germanic or Celtic barbarians and incomplete knowledge of Norse mythology.

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Many Viking fanatics are about as historically accurate as Marvel

Those who idolize this ancestry are often looking for a “noble warrior” culture of their own, and use it as a pale imitation of the living cultures of many PoC. Which is especially bad when you consider that the “noble savage” and “native warrior” tropes of many PoC cultures are nothing but stereotypes, and the reality is far worse. As usual, white Americans want all the positives without any of the negatives.

For Assassins Creed to move away from its PoC origins (it’s based on a Middle Eastern sect!) to the overused, romanticized Vikings that so-called descendants love so much, is cliché and boring. I’m sorry, but there could have been better directions than to cater to yet another symbolic ethnicity of white people, especially one that’s been commercialized in music and even co-opted by white supremacists.

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Some “very fine” people, showing pride in their ancestry

And before anyone says, “That’s racist!” and “This is my culture!”, let me be clear – I’m white and descended from Vikings. I can directly trace my lineage back to Viking royalty, including Rollo, the first ruler of Normandy, and Ubba, commander in the Great Heathen Army and supposed son of the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok.

Vikings are my ancestors, but I’m tired of the misinformed romanticization and idolization of them. Assassin’s Creed could do so much better than cater to the latest craze by white gamers, who are obsessed with a symbolic ethnicity which is about as true as being descended from Native Americans.

About Brook H. (240 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... Brook has degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology and has majored in everything from computers to business. He's worked a variety of jobs, including theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is HoH and a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate, a lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.

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