Counter-hegemonic commemorative play: marginalized pasts and the politics of memory in the digital game Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry

In this article, I argue that digital games hold the potential to influence processes of cultural memory related to past and contemporary forms of marginalization. By bringing cultural memory studies into dialogue with game studies, I account for the ways through which digital games and practices of play might influence historical discourses and memory politics pertaining to marginalized identities. In order to demonstrate this, I conduct an analysis of Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, a digital game which includes representation of the eighteenth-century transatlantic slave trade and its racist systems. This analysis is then contrasted with statements by two critics, Evan Narcisse and Justin Clark, about how Freedom Cry highlights specific marginalized identities and represents the past through the game form. These statements, coupled with my game analysis, make the case for a concept that I term ‘counter-hegemonic commemorative play’. This makes visible a form of potentially cathartic power fantasy within a historical struggle, alongside emphasizing a form of designed recognition of marginalized identities within contemporary historical discourses and memory politics.