Following a sequence including quotes from George W. Bush about privatization and code that declares the Iraq War to have been fought by contractors for profit, a Templar says "Democracy must die to ensure the stability of the world. Capitalism will end it." To solve the puzzle, the player can look at, among other related images including quotes from Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, the faces of the Supreme Court justices, each with a quote taken from their opinions on the Citizens United case. The solution to the puzzle involves discovering the Templar ring on Chief Justice Roberts' finger. No joke. Solving the puzzle unlocks the following letter:
Supreme Court of the United StatesDecember, 2000
I have convinced Sandra to join the majority opinion. The enticement of retirement under a Republican president tipped the scales. Although the ruling will differ from our previous decisions on Equal Protection, it will not call attention to our actual goals. With Sandra gone, we can pave the way for the key majority member of the Order to be seated. As discussed, W. will prove the perfect distraction. I have no doubt he will restart animosities with Iraq. Let him, it will give C.'s contractors more work. When the time comes, I will make sure W. is given Roberts' name.
With Roberts on the court, it will only be a matter of waiting for the right case. After the destruction of Campaign Finance laws, the Company will be free to elect anyone they choose to the Senate, the House and, eventually, the Presidency. Soon, our hopes will be realized. Government will no longer derive its authority from the people, but from us, their protectors. --Antonin Scalia
Yes, this is a video game. One that sold millions of copies in the United States. And there are many, many puzzles like this along similar themes.
One of the other beauties of the Assassin's Creed games is the way that the fictional pseudo-history is woven into the real history often in the service of political points. The corruption of the Borgias is an easy entry for the game to take shots at corruption in the Catholic Church. Ezio meets Leonardo da Vinci who helps him in his cause, even as Ezio discovers his da Vinci's male partner. Da Vinci is fearful of being discovered, but Ezio as an agnostic Assassin doesn't care about da Vinci's homosexuality and wishes only the best for both of them. Lucrezia Borgia is a sympathetic character and victim of her father's and brother's brutality. Rodrigo Borgia's debilitating illness is supposed to have been caused by poison. And the anonymous soldier who finally throws Cesare off a bridge (his actual historical death)? Well, the player controls Ezio in that confrontation, who is turned into the man who does it. There are a wide range of nifty historical fictions like this that reward further research into the real history and further an appreciation of the writing team that developed the Assassin's Creed games.
After a beautifully conceived sequel that sends Ezio to Constantinople to run parkour atop Hagia Sofia while resolving intrigues that ultimately bring the enlightened Suleiman the Magnificent to power, the most recently released installment takes Desmond into the history of yet another ancestor: a half-Native American, half British young Assassin named Connor under the tutelage of an African-American master assassin at the dawn of the Revolutionary War. It's a gut-wrenching tale that not only nicely weaves real American history into the game's mythos, but also forces serious introspection on the part of the player by silently breaking the fourth wall. As young Connor takes the side of the American Revolutionaries (and leads the Boston Tea Party--being, after all, a Native American without need of disguise!) in their fight for freedom against the Templar-backed British, the encyclopedia provides constant reminders of just how much of a gray zone the conflict and its reasons often were. Most problematic is the treatment of Native Americans: even as Connor helps the Patriots most of his tribe is assisting the British (as is historically accurate.) Connor continues to insist the Patriots desire only freedom and will leave his people, the Iroquois, in peace. But the player knows better, and the cognitively dissonant false hope can be almost unbearable at times. Connor saves George Washington from assassination, only to be shown by a Templar Washington's orders to destroy his village and slaughter his people in an attack presaging the Sullivan Expedition (helpfully noted in the game's database.) Here's the video of the confrontation:
Connor ends the game successful in his mission, but disillusioned as his people flee their lands and slaves are sold at the docks while the crowds cheer their newly won "freedom." Desmond also finds what he seeks, but must choose between becoming the next world's messiah only to die and have his words taken out of context by evil men who use them to control society, and a fate almost as unacceptable.
Yes, my friends. This is a video game.
And it can be under your Christmas tree this December if you'll give it a chance as the amazing work of art and subversive political treatise it is.