When the developers at Ubisoft Montreal created Assassin’s Creed 2, they created a simulation, not just a representation, of the Renaissance period in Florence, Italy, which stimulates an immersive and rich experience of political intrigue and violence as the hero’s life evolves. This environment borders on being more than just a simulation according to Gonzalo Frasca, who defines a simulation as less complex than what it is portraying but still somewhat like it (e.g. Sim City 2000 is somewhat like a city but still lacks many of the characteristic features such as billboards and graffiti) (2011), whereas in AC2, almost every detail has been included, such as scaffolding and weather.
Although we may not actually be in 15th century Florence while we are immersed in the game, the role-playing element of the game makes us feel as if we really are Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the young Italian assassin. The game’s reference to real historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli and the Medici family, who are known for inventing artistic, economic and scientific foundations on which our world still sits today, situates the game within a wider context of historical innovation.
The immersive, dream-like element of the game is heavily steeped in cultural history around the world throughout literature and art e.g. the 1865 fantasy novel ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and Shakespeare’s 16th century ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, providing the foundation for games which operate on the premise ‘it was all a dream’, e.g. Final Fantasy X and Super Mario 2 (McKinney 2012).
This concept presents itself in the Animus, a ‘projector which renders genetic memories in three dimensions’ (AC Wiki, link below) turning the game into a simulation of a memory of Florence, complete with the complex economic, cultural and socially accurate version of the Renaissance period. This simulation does not simply run as a linear narrative, but is an interactive “…simulation [which] offers a first-hand experience of a dynamic system” (Frasca, 2011).
Frasca, G 2011, ‘Simulation 101: Simulation versus Representation’, http://www.ludology.org/articles/sim1/simulation101.html
McKinney, L 2012, ‘8 games that were all a dream’, June 23, http://www.gamesradar.com/8-games-that-were-all-a-dream/