What do video games and Ancient Greek texts have in common? TU Gaming and the Classics Department found out.
On Oct. 17, in Richardson Communication Center 319, Trinity University Gaming (TU Gaming) hosted a playthrough of the 11th Assassin’s Creed game, “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” (released on Oct. 5) with a unique cosponsor: the Classics Department.
According to Tiffany Nguyen — junior and secretary of TU Gaming — classics professors Corinne Pache, Benjamin Stevens, Thomas Jenkins and Nicolle Hirschfeld were among the professors who expressed interest in playing the new game, which is set during the Peloponnesian War between Athenians and Spartans in 431 BCE.
Nguyen said that Jenkins — who studies classical receptions, or the study of how classical works are referenced in video games and other modern forms of media — first brought up the idea of hosting this event in Nguyen’s advanced Latin class.
“The Classics Department does a lot of events, and Dr. Jenkins was thinking that this semester we could play Assassin’s Creed because it was coming out,” Nguyen said. “I was like, ‘Oh! I happen to be in a gaming club. I could help you with that.'”
While Wednesday’s event focused on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, according to Jenkins, a wide variety of modern video games owe their creative roots to ancient mythology.
“There’s an enduring fascination for the ancient world in a number of modern video games, including the ‘Rome: Total War’ series (which aims for at least a passing verisimilitude with actual Roman tactics) and ‘Age of Mythology’,” Jenkins wrote in an email interview. “To me, one of the weirdest and most interesting of modern games is ‘Apotheon,’ in which you recreate a Titanomachy: a war against the Greek gods. The art style is completely Attic vase painting, which makes you feel like you are ‘playing’ a combination of movie and Greek vases.”
Jenkins wondered how choice-based video games could potentially adapt Greek tragedies for a new audience.
“I think the most interesting games right now might be ‘adventure games’ where you (as the protagonist) have to make difficult moral choices: I was blown away by the ethical complexity of the first game in Telltale’s series for ‘The Walking Dead,’ ” Jenkins wrote. “It’s occurred to me that a really enterprising video game designer might be able to adapt a Greek tragedy to the adventure game format — or at least include some of the heroes who most often figure in the tragedies (Hercules and Odysseus, among others).”
While the draw of this event was the professors playing the game, Rachel Lopez, junior and public relations coordinator of TU Gaming, said that students would likely have the opportunity to play as well.
“The initial idea was just the professors [playing], but then we were thinking about how long, realistically, they would continue playing at this event. And, you know, students are going to want to play, so we’ll just see how it goes,” Lopez said.
Will Ballengee, junior and president of TU Gaming, was excited to learn more about the historical aspects and accuracy of one of his favorite series.
“I’ve played most of the old ‘Assassin’s Creed’ games — I stopped playing a while ago, I don’t like the new ones — but I never knew how accurate any of the history was,” Ballengee said. “So there are two things that interest me about this event: one, getting the professors’ reaction to this fictional game that’s supposed to be historically accurate, and two, watching ‘old’ professors play these ‘new’ video games. I’m looking forward to some of their commentary, like, ‘No one would wear that.’ “
Lopez agreed with Ballengee and added that, in accordance with classical reception theory, historical accuracy may matter less than what classics-inspired works like “Odyssey” can show us about the present.
“Some of it might not even be so much ‘Historically accurate or not?’ as much as ‘What do we learn from our society by the way that we use [ancient] society? Is there anything ideological about the way that the gamemakers have manipulated their sources?’ ” Lopez said.
To learn about classical receptions, contact Jenkins or Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Email TU Gaming at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about upcoming TU Gaming events.