Video games often crop up in the cross-hairs of outraged politicians, but more often for their gratuitous violence than their actual politics - until now.
Assassin's Creed Unity recently angered the French former Minister and presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who declared the game to be 'propaganda' with an anti-revolutionary agenda.
Unity is the latest game in developer Ubisoft's historically inspired Assassin's Creed series, which has sold over 70 million copies to date. This particular chapter in the franchise's story follows the roguish Arno as he becomes involved with an ancient brotherhood of assassins on the eve of the French Revolution.
During an interview on French radio, Mélenchon said the game:
presents an image of hatred of the Revolution, hatred of the people, hatred of the republic which is rampant in the far-right milieu.
He then referred to Marie-Antoinette as "that cretin, who is celebrated as a poor little rich girl." The leftist politician believed the game's depiction of the 1789 revolution showed bias in support of the wealthy aristocrats, while demonizing the working class up-risers.
Furthermore, Alexis Corbière, secretary general of the Left Front, warned players of the dangers of ideological manipulation, writing on his blog:
To all those who will buy Assassin’s Creed: Unity, I wish them a good time, but I also tell them that the pleasure of playing does not stop you from thinking. Play, yes, but do not let yourself be manipulated by those who make propaganda.
Of course, it's important to remember that Unity is ultimately a work of fiction, as much as Les Misérables is. Ubisoft's series has never claimed to be a completely accurate depiction of historical events, having taken vast creative liberties with its representation of the American revolution in Assassin's Creed 3.
As one of the developers eloquently put it, it's a “consumer video game, not a history lesson.”
Ubisoft, meanwhile, has more pressing issues to deal with, working on the third patch for the game which is still struggling with technical issues.