Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeWorld newsGaming's latest culture war focuses on Yasuke, the Japanese black samurai

Gaming’s latest culture war focuses on Yasuke, the Japanese black samurai

For centuries, an African slave coming into the orbit of Japan’s war-torn daimyo was an interesting historical tidbit. As of last week, he became the catalyst for the latest in the so-called culture wars.

On May 15, developer Ubisoft Quebec announced Assassin’s Creed Shadows, an upcoming chapter in the long-running action-adventure series set during Japan’s Sengoku (Warring States) period (1482-1573). As usual in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, players will control a main character (in Shadows this is Naoe, a female ninja) through stealth missions that usually culminate in the violent elimination of a target. In a slight deviation, players will also control Yasuke, a character based on a real-life African slave brought to Japan by Italian Jesuit missionaries and who gained the trust of warlord Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582).

For many gamers, Ubisoft’s announcement was their first introduction to Yasuke, a well-documented historical figure with a strong claim to the title of Japan’s first non-Japanese samurai. For a vocal minority, however, a black protagonist in a game set in feudal Japan was a call to war.

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