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Spoilers for Sokrates’ Lost Tale of Ancient Greece in AC: Odyssey

Butch:

Hey, it’s Friday and….I got something!

Specifically, I did the whole “Sokrates’ Trial” bit. A blue quest. And the interesting little thing involving the guy I met doing it.

You do all that? We can talk on that. Good stuff to talk about on that.

Feminina:

I did that! It was close by. And it was pretty nice and short. Interesting indeed. Kassandra’s approach to the justice system is quite bold and striking. “Just kill the accusers and steal the evidence!”

Classic.

Butch:

Ah, wonderful!

I’m curious to see where we go with this. I figure this isn’t the last we see of Sokrates, though, must admit, I kinda thought it was gonna be. We know how Sokrates’ story ends. Well, we do in real life.

But see, what I found pretty interesting was the end, and how Sokrates reacted to his words being written down. He is not a fan of static history, static knowledge. He raised some good points. As he was raising these points, it occurred to me that the whole game is us reading static history. I’m not as up on the lore as you are, but the animus is, basically, getting to read a really detailed book, right? Everything we’re seeing is static history. We might be making “choices,” but, on the game’s terms, all this already happened. Sokrates story, if taken to its fullest extent, is saying that the animus, the game itself, is not the way to wisdom. A critique of the modern Assassins? A critique of this game? Of all games?

Discuss. But also….by the tomb….you meet someone’s relative? Little impact quest?

Feminina:

Someone’s…relative…I might have missed that. Lately I’ve been ignoring everything that isn’t a question mark or an exclamation point. If it was one of those little hourglasses, I probably buzzed right past it.

Or maybe I’m just blanking on it. I went to look for my father after that, so some other stuff happened.

Anyway, I’m not going back, so you can just tell me what it was.

And yes, Sokrates’ opinion about written words was interesting, and as you say, that does also reflect interestingly on the ‘written in DNA’ information we’re getting from the game.

On the other hand, I’m not sure the game is saying that Sokrates is necessarily correct to be so dismissive of writing. After all, when you have that conversation with the other philosophers earlier, there’s the option to say that the student will surpass the teacher because the student has the benefit of using the teachers’ hard-won understanding as a starting point from which to understand still more. That strikes them as a good point, at least.

Part of Sokrates’ complaint about writing was that it doesn’t allow for real conversation, but another part, as Kassandra articulated it, was that people could read his words and claim to have gained an understanding that they hadn’t really worked for: they hadn’t gained it through the real learning process of asking and answering questions, but only taken it from static written words, which he seems to feel is something like cheating.

I think we’re seeing opposition to writing as a philosophical stand and one that has a counterargument, so we could perhaps assume that Sokrates would not think much of the Animus as a tool for true understanding, but other philosophers might.

Then again, maybe he IS right, since as far as we know, Layla isn’t in the Animus right now seeking philosophical wisdom, she’s just looking for a magic spear or something. What are they looking for? It tends to blur.

However…it’s certainly true that even though we (as players) are engaging to some extent with some version of Sokrates’ words in this game, I doubt we’re really spending much time pondering the deeper questions he raises, but on the other hand, we HAVE been moved to ponder big questions from time to time by video games as a medium. As with other forms of media (including writing, film, etc.) that bring up these issues. So I think Sokrates is perhaps underestimating the ability of static recordings of words (that is, fixed presentations in some form, since even in an interactive media like games, the actual statements made are not going to change) to inspire thought and potentially even learning and wisdom.

Butch:

I ran into Elipinor’s brother. Remember him? First cultist? Sent us to find the Wolf? That guy? Well, when I went to find Sokrates’ student, this dude was there and, what do you know, Elpinor’s brother. Was all “My brother always protected me, was so kind to me….” I didn’t mention I killed him, and gave him some help. I have thoughts if you did it.

As for learning and wisdom…Well….wait. You say other forms of media (writing, film) that bring up the issues. I would say that one reason games are different is that they AREN’T static. True, you don’t “converse” with a game, but you do interact with it. You change it. When it’s at its best, a game makes you wonder “Why did I do that?” It turns a mirror back on you, and, in a Socratic way no other medium has, makes you come to your own conclusions based on how you interact with it.

And I don’t think the game is making a case for or against Socratic wisdom, or even trying all that hard to teach what the hell it is. This is an AC game, not a philosophy class, and for that I’m grateful. But I do think it’s throwing out some rather meta food for thought about the static nature of the animus and the “conversational” nature of games as a whole. At least it got me thinking about that.

Frankly, I’m kinda with Socrates here. If we forget about the whole animus nonsense for a second, and just look at this game as a game, the more “static” stuff, that is, loot treasure, kill captain bullshit that will be the same for everyone is boring as fuck. No themes. No bloggage. Socrates would agree that no themes and bloggage is bad. The blue stuff? The stuff you really have to interact with? The stuff you can alter somewhat? THAT’S got the bloggage. That’s what really gets us thinking. Isn’t Socratic philosophy based around the idea that thinking is fundamentally good?

Feminina:

I definitely did not speak to Elpenor’s brother. Damn it, game! Why you hide things from me?! I totally would have checked out a diamond quest, because that’s how I do, but I totally didn’t see one. (Diamonds, questions marks and exclamation points. That’s what I look at. It’s only hourglasses and message boards I’ve been ignoring, even though I know some of them are instant XP bonanzas.)

I do actually have to go back to Phokis because I have two different completed quests there that I was just thinking last night “damn, should have talked to this person while I was in town for Sokrates,” so maybe I WILL go back.

We’ll talk later.

And yes, you’re right…I was thinking specifically (and narrowly) of video games’ ability to give us a presentation of Sokrates’ words, which is limited, like any recorded media, to the number of different ways they want to store someone speaking the lines.

But if we’re thinking of a medium’s ability to prompt us to think about our own choices, then yes, video games are a different beast than writing (choose-your-own-adventure books aside) or filmed material (choose-your-own-adventure shows aside), since we are asked to make a decision that may present us with very different outcomes, and we may be moved to think long and hard about what outcome we hope for, and why. Sokrates might love video games!

Butch:

Do you think Socrates would love video games? Or would he be too overwhelmed by the falsity of it all?

Yeah, man! Totally Eliponor’s brother! Couldn’t miss him!

It’s amazing: Your magpie finds all sorts of shit and lets you down on the good stuff.

Feminina:

He’d love it. He wouldn’t look up for months!

Nah, he probably would think it was false. I was thinking he might enjoy writing the agonizingly difficult decision points, more than that he would enjoy playing them. But even then, there’s no true interactivity between the “speaker” (or the vast group of people who combine to present the material in any given game scene) and the player, and I think that was one of his points about print as well.

You can read a text, but you can’t ask it questions and have it respond to you. And, it sounded like, the text itself cannot gain anything from the experience, whereas when Sokrates himself is speaking, he also can learn from participating in the dialogue.

In that sense, perhaps he feels somewhat robbed, by someone who’s able to learn from his words, without him being able to learn from theirs. It’s the one-sidedness that’s important, maybe. However well-crafted an argument in any media, it’s done and cannot grow based on its conversations with readers/viewers/players.

Of course, even that is somewhat untrue these days, when games can be updated while you’re in the middle of playing them, based on player feedback. That’s a very rudimentary form of ‘dialogue,’ though.

Butch:

It is rudimentary, but it is interesting that this very quest is one of those updates, right? People wanted more RPG shit, and Ubisoft obliged.

I doubt it was quite that cut and dried. These tales are big enough that they were in development years before the game came out and the “dialogue” started. But technology, and games, change quick. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, ten years from now, we ping back to today’s post and marvel how Ubisoft was already pondering such interactivity way back when.

I won’t be surprised when, ten years from now, I ask “How the hell did you REMEMBER when we talked about that?” and you being all “Hey, man, it was you who said we’d ping back….”

Feminina:

It WAS you who said it! I was all “man, I can’t believe I missed a diamond quest. Siiiiigh.”

It’s not as if I didn’t walk right by that tomb! I obviously did!

I’m still going to be complaining about missing diamond quests in ten years, too. “Dude, I killed every captain on that continent, but somehow missed an actual quest.”

Oh, and when you get to Lakonia and see Lysander on the map? He wants you to kill Athenian Polemarchs. It’s exactly the quest Demosthenes wants you do, but from the other side.

I like to imagine them sitting there seething about each other. “He thinks he can just kill my polemarchs, does he? Well, I’ll kill HIS polemarchs and see how he likes it!”

Butch:

Good lord, TWO Preston Garveys?

Yeah, well, the good news for them both is that they’re both gonna have a whole lotta polemarchs left.

I, however, do not miss quests!

Cuz I played a bunch more. Had to, as we’re back to homework and music lessons and shit that fucks up game time.

Did the whole “Poet’s legacy” line, and met some dude with some piece of a stele and an ancient language and probably just a loot quest.

I….wasn’t as into this poet quest as I had been into the other blue ones. Lots of fetching. Forts. That sort of thing. Still, pretty interesting. We likely did the same stuff.

Then, knowing you did the real dad bit, zooped over to Kos, engraved a bunch of shit, called my boat. Off to see my dad next time!

Whenever that is.

That poet quest was not as good as the Sokrates stuff.

Feminina:

I thought the poet was kind of interesting because it was a nice comparison to the discussion we’d been having about parents, with Kyra on Mykonos whose father turned out to be the murderous dictator she was trying to overthrow.

In this case, it was the thief turning out to be the child the poet abandoned years ago, so the child knew who the parent was but it didn’t really help since she still wasn’t around, and the parent didn’t know the child and what did that mean for her, etc.

But in this case, unlike with Kyra, the missing parent was alive (and wasn’t a murderous dictator) and there was the chance that they could have a relationship as adults.

We haven’t discussed gender in a couple of days, so I’ll note that I also thought it was nice that the game didn’t really mom-shame the poet, like “oh, she’s obviously a horrible inhuman monster, she abandoned the child who should have been her only reason for living.” It was just “sorry, I’m a poet, I had to leave to do poetry.”

Which, if you’re the abandoned kid, is really no comfort: your mom left you! That sucks! And yet, how many male artists through history are terrible parents and we sort of understand because hey, they had to do their art? Maybe people who are really obsessed with their art (or with anything, really) are just kind of generally hard to live with or be around and aren’t very good at the kinds of human relationship maintenance that less obsessed people have the energy to spend more time on? (Although many non-artists are also terrible parents, so it’s clearly not cut-and-dried.)

Anyway, I kind of liked that the terrible, unapologetic artist parent was a woman, who was allowed to apologize for the impact and yet not actually regret her decision.

Butch:

Hmm. Nice point about the gender of the poet. We could double down on her portrayal as sympathetic despite abandoning her child given the (my) ending. I told the dude to talk to her (of course) and recited the poem correctly (of course), so, at the end, there they were, hand in hand. She says to him “It was so hard leaving you,” which is not something you see mothers say very much. When a man is all “It was hard to leave you to go to war/space/the mines/whatever,” no one notices. Men are supposed to say “I wish I could follow my dreams and duties and still be a dad, but meh.” To see a woman who struggled with the choice, chose her career and ISN’T vilified for it is pretty unique.

As a stay at home dad, I should’ve noticed that more than I did.

Still, too damn much fetching in this one. Get guts. Get shells. Etc. Could’ve done without that.

I kinda wonder how it would’ve gone had we told them to do different things. But not googling.

Feminina:

I remembered the poem too! I kind of like these memory challenges–just a little bit of extra thought to mix it up a bit.

And yeah, they ended up friends in mine, it seemed. I felt good about that.

Oh, and I also met the archaeologist who was looking for stele. It was kind of funny (his horror at people who loot tombs just for the money, and Kassandra’s pretend shock at the idea), but also it felt like something that could have come up a long time ago. I’m only now learning why these things are important? I’ve been hunting for them the entire game (for the extra ability point, mainly, but still), and now I finally have some plot about them?

And it was a high-level quest, so it’s not as if we were meant to get to it early but were too busy magpieing around Greece. Normally I would concede that point, but no!–I saw this quest diamond weeks ago and didn’t pursue it specifically because it was level 35 or whatever it was.

Oh well. I haven’t bothered to chase down any of the specific locations he mentioned. I was too busy looking for my father and chasing down the specific locations HE mentioned.

Because he’s my absent, terrible parent who left for his art or whatever!

Butch:

Dude, haven’t met dad yet.

Yeah….I’m not so much into doing his stele thing. It has the feeling of “You found another! So here are the gloves of the dude!” kinda thing. I have enough gloves. I have enough everything. If I do all that shit and there isn’t a massive amount of plot, I’ll be very upset. It didn’t feel all that plotty. When the main character is all “But this is only one part of the armor,” then a big part of everything will be getting armor. Fuck that noise.

I’ll stick to things that might have actual plot.

Because I still don’t want to play this forever. The blue quests have been good, but now, as I resign myself to white quests, I feel less enthusiastic.

Oh, well.

Feminina:

The dad stuff is actually pretty interesting so far! I quite liked the…thing I did, with the guy and the thing.

We’ll talk. Later.

Butch:

Ooo there’s a thing with a guy and a thing? That’s my favorite shit in all of gaming!

Feminina:

I knew you’d be thrilled.

It’s gonna be great. You’re gonna love it.