The Top 7… Historical figures defamed by games

2. Thomas Edison

You may know him as: The inventor of the light bulb, the phonograph and various other important 20th-century technologies, probably. Unlike a lot of the other people on this list, his place in history was already pretty firmly cemented in the minds of the public before videogames ever got around to demonizing him.

Above: Edison doing what he did best: posing for publicity photos

But in Assassin’s Creed II, he was: A whole lot of terrible things. Seriously, it’s a good thing that it’s legally impossible to libel the dead, or else ACII publisher Ubisoft would have been dragged into a bunch of nasty lawsuits. While real-life perception of Edison has become increasingly negative in recent years, thanks to greater awareness of his efforts to undermine rival inventor Nikola Tesla and his creation of the electric chair as a publicity stunt, ACII takes him to a whole new low.

Above: And also surrounds him with weird numerical clues

As you solve ACII’s Glyph puzzles, you’ll uncover documents detailing the game’s secret history, in which seemingly every notable historical figure took part in the centuries-long war between Templars and Assassins. Some of these “reveal” that not only was Edison secretly a member of the diabolical Templar order, who quashed Tesla because he threatened the Templars’ stranglehold on humanity, but that he was complicit in the rise of the Nazi party.

As the game’s backstory goes, Edison was in possession of one of the mind-controlling “Pieces of Eden,” which he passed on to his real-life friend (and object of Nazi adoration) Henry Ford. Eventually, game-Ford tells game-Edison in a letter that he shipped the Piece to “H.” in Europe, that “war will begin as soon as he can take over,” and that “that kind of purge will be good for Europe.” That he knew about it well in advance also implies that Edison was pretty OK with the whole thing, which, whatever his other flaws, is pretty hard to swallow.

Above: Holy shit

Yes, we know it’s a work of fiction and not meant to be taken seriously. So’s everything else on this list. Bear with us, here.

1. Dante Alighieri

You may know him as: A Crusader so fierce he actually killed Death at the beginning of Dante’s Inferno, and then ran screaming into Hell to rescue his lost love Beatrice by slicing up thousands of demons. Also, if you followed the game’s plot to its end, you learned that not only did he accept sexual favors from prisoners in exchange for their freedom, but that he actually orchestrated the infamous slaughter of nearly 3,000 Muslim hostages at Acre, and then let his (kind of) innocent best friend take the blame.

But in real life, he was: Sure as hell not responsible for any of that garbage. The (very real) massacre at Acre is generally remembered as one of the more terrible events of the Third Crusade and Richard the Lionhearted’s alarmingly shitty reign, and to shift the burden onto Dante’s shoulders isn’t just unfair – it’s impossible.

Above: Oh, like you even care, you French prick

Dante’s Inferno, the game, takes a lot of liberties with Dante’s Inferno, the epic poem, but probably the biggest is making Dante himself a Crusader at all. The real Dante Alighieri wasn’t even born until around 1265, some 73 years after the Third Crusade ended. He was a soldier in Italy’s seemingly endless civil wars, and later a politician in his native city-state of Florence, but there doesn’t appear to be any record of him being a war criminal.

Above: He does look kind of evil, though

That’s not to say Dante didn’t have a criminal record, though. Thanks to his opposition of the so-called Black Guelphs – a political faction that wanted to give more power to the Pope – he was banished from Florence, under pain of death, until 2008. It was during his exile that he actually wrote Inferno (and, later, its follow-up canticas Purgatorio and Paradiso) as literary revenge against his enemies, many of whom are depicted as suffering in Hell (and a few of whom also show up in the game as damned souls). But that’s an awfully far cry from massacring prisoners of war. Historical fiction is cool, but laying blame for a real war crime at the feet of a fictionalized version of a real poet (who wasn’t even born yet) is a little much.

May 31, 2010

Gaming's naughtiest holy men
11 pernicious pontiffs, corrupt clerics and execrable ecclesiasts

How faithful are mythology-based games?
A look at how closely Dante's Inferno, God of War and Darksiders actually stick to their source material

20 lessons from old game manuals
What product docs from the past can teach us about games, life, and hyperbole


Top 7


  • mothbanquet - November 2, 2013 5:19 a.m.

    'You French prick'... Still makes me chuckle to this day.
  • Forsvaine - September 18, 2011 8:33 p.m.

    Honestly, I can kind of see why Ford was demonized, because he was an anti-semite, right? As for Edison, I think it's only speculated.
  • Jamahl - March 19, 2011 3:33 a.m.

    Looking back at this, why was Jesus from AC2 not on this list? It basically says that he wore a peice of eden called the Shroud of Turin (as you may know from real life) and hypnotized his followers, and only when the templars took it from him was he killed.
  • psycho ninja 4 - September 16, 2011 7:16 p.m.

    Wait, Jesus was in the game? O_o
  • FFSamurai - August 20, 2010 6:31 a.m.

    Even though this has been commented on already I can't help but ask. Really, that's the version of Dante your going with? Not doing the whole "Super Metrosexual Trigger Happy Japanese" mercenary one instead? And then there's Virgil, the "Super Metrosexual, slash-happy Japanese" guy who represents the greek philosophy and guide to Dante in the divine comedy? These two are seriously less deserving of a spot than the "Master Chief"-i-fied version from a B-rated action slasher on your list? Aside from this, very nice list, especially of Nobunaga.
  • fattoler - August 19, 2010 12:13 a.m.

    Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb
  • RacoonHail - June 7, 2010 9:54 p.m.

    The history stuff is very well done. With all the mentions of people defamed by Assassin's Creed II (Spoiler's) I am surprised that there is no mention of Machiavelli being one of the good guys! I personally laughed my ass off when he first appeared as a member of the good guys. Read The Prince, and unless he is being sarcastic (which is actually possible) he is one bad dude.
  • SenatorPepper - June 7, 2010 2:37 p.m.

    This is a truly incredible piece of games journalology, and a perfect example of the sort of content GamesRadar offers that you can't find on those OTHER gaming website. Maybe it's just because I'm a history buff myself, but this article, for me, was a total RadarGasm. And happy belated birthday.
  • Darkwun - June 7, 2010 11:11 a.m.

    I love the fact Yasuke gets a mention, as I'm currently writing a book on him :D
  • Zeb364 - June 6, 2010 8:51 p.m.

    Great top seven. I like the touch of serious intelligent discussion, it provides a refreashing change of pace. A little variety never hurt anyone. The General Custer one was hilarious though. Never have to worry about the Gamesradar crew taking themselves too seriously.
  • BrushieTundra - June 4, 2010 4:31 a.m.

    Great article. I love history!
  • JohnnyBarnstorm - June 4, 2010 12:40 a.m.

    Oh man! Don't forget the Indian wrestler The Great Gama! He was immortalized in Shadow Hearts Covenant as a... uh... man who loved the company of other men. And to finish Joachim's side quest, you must... er... take him.
  • NightCrawler_358 - June 3, 2010 12:08 p.m.

    Dante wrote a stern poem? THE FIEND!
  • JenosIdanian - June 3, 2010 10:05 a.m.

    Wow, being burned while being hanged is not a pleasent way to go.
  • jhayen - June 2, 2010 11 p.m.

    For the people calling theemperor an idiot: Read your damn history, he didn', create the light bulb, the bulb was created long before. He just synthesized the first lasting filament. And AC is just incorporating the "what if" that has made so many religions before possible. Stop saying it's exetreme, it's fiction, like almost every other game out there.
  • Shrimpandwhitewine - June 2, 2010 7:03 a.m.

    I loved this top 7, I am quite fond of games and history. Great work Mikel.
  • InFeRnOg - June 1, 2010 4:25 p.m.

    What about Gregori Efivomich Rasputin? Does Shadow Hearts: Covenant, ring any bells? Or how about the film Hellboy?
  • JaptainAmerica - June 1, 2010 3:29 p.m.

    I've been Japanawikiparazed. Great stuff.
  • philipshaw - June 1, 2010 11:08 a.m.

    This was a very informative article

Showing 1-20 of 61 comments

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