This paper examines the historiographic potential of video games with Assassin’s Creed III (2012) as a paradigmatic example that shows the aesthetic and political challenges games face in telling counterhistories of marginalized peoples. The article argues that Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, perhaps the premier historical gaming franchise, has developed an authentic-deconstructionist genre that offers convincing simulacra of historical places and events while using games’ multimedia affordances to question how historical knowledge is constructed. In Assassin’s Creed III, this authentic-deconstructionist method is applied to the story of an Indigenous man trying to protect his tribe from white settlers during the American Revolution. However, the game is critically weakened by the historiographic problem of emplotting this tragic tale in the heroic epic of the nation’s founding. This narrative disjunction is exacerbated by the medium’s lack of an internal aesthetic tradition of tragedy to draw on; mainstream games are generally contests of skill in which success brings victory, rather than the defeat necessary for a tragic outcome. However, despite its weaknesses, the game and its transmedia expansions sparked widespread discussions about Indigenous peoples during this historical period and helped advance gaming as a serious medium for critical perspectives on American history.

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