Home / Research / the.critical.is

the.critical.is (2014-2015) was a video-game criticism working group comprised of students and faculty at Amherst College. We started with Freedom’s Cry and Liberation, two games released as part of the Assassin’s Creed franchise by Ubisoft. This quickly grew into a deeper exploration of different elements of video games across genres as we explored different structures and issues within video game creation, consumption, and critique.

Screenshot of a scene from Assassin's Creed Freedom's Cry depicting the digital bodies of drowned enslaved Africans floating in water

Our working group efforts resulted in the Codex, a collection of multimedia essays on race, gender, and history in video games and interactive narratives. The essays are brief forays into the aesthetic, narrative, and technological study of video games as a form of digital writing, and also consider the ways gameplay constitutes critical practice. We also presented our research at the 2015 Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) Conference at Michigan State University.

My featured essay, titled “Haunted by Historical Memory,” tracks my experience as a player and black culture scholar through a particularly difficult and gritty section of Assassin’s Creed: Freedom’s Cry. I grapple with the tense gap between playing and reproducing violent trauma, especially as the gameplay speaks to a larger American cultural amnesia around that trauma’s realities.

the.critical.is has since merged under the umbrella of the Immersive Realities Lab for the Humanities (irLH).