Plot twists, continuity, predictability, likability of characters… these are some of the general elements that people use to judge a storyline within a video game. But often times, this is the furthest people look when holding up a writer’s craft to the light for inspection. But character name etymology is sometimes just as important to a storyline as the events of the story itself. It’s a popular literary tool, and many great writers are conscientiously selective of their characters names when molding their stories.
To think that only authors of literature take etymology into account while penning their stories would be absurd. Video game writers do it all the time. Often, we the general audience, never take the time to look further into the meaning behind the names of video game characters.
For my first (hopefully of many) glances at the etymology of video game characters and their possible meaning within the storyline, I’m going to put the Assassin’s Creed series under the microscope.
Etymology Within the Assassin’s Creed Series
While Ubisoft proudly touted the etymology of Altaïr, they never truly pointed out the importance of the names of the other characters within the Assassin’s Creed universe. Knowing the meanings to their names adds a little more value to the overall storyline.
Altaïr ibn La-Ahad:
The name of a star in the constellation Aquila, Altaïr means “the flyer” or “the bird” in Arabic. The character Altaïr’s appearance and movements in Assassin’s Creed can easily be described as birdlike, especially when he perches on a narrow beam, or when he tackles his prey. He uses “Eagle vision” to see through the crowds. His love for the high ground is also a connection to his name, as Ubisoft could have easily designed Altaïr as an assassin with a predilection for the shadows.
Digging a little deeper, Aquila means “the eagle.” Aquila was also the name of Zeus (Jupiter)’s personal pet. He was his messenger, retriever, and deliverer of lightning bolts. While the tie to the Greek god had little or no meaning to gamers while playing the original Assassin’s Creed, those who have had the pleasure of completing Assassin’s Creed II know this relationship is no accident.
The name “Ezio” is the Italian derivation of the Greek name αετος (sometimes spelled Aetos), which means “eagle.”
Much like Ezio’s ancestor Altaïr, Ezio’s appearance and movements are described as birdlike. His hood comes to a point like a beak right between his eyes. When perched on narrow beams, Ezio’s shoulder cape drapes to the side and gives the impression of a folded wing. Again, Ezio’s love of the rooftops and striking from above add more to the eagle analogy.
The similarities between Ezio and Altair don’t end with their physical appearances. Hold onto your hats.
Zeus’s pet eagle Aquila is sometimes referred to as Aetos Dios.
Though Ubisoft has not yet released the names of any other assassins within the bloodline of Desmond Miles, don’t be surprised if they’re named Vega, Bezek, or even Tseen Foo. Other likely names for Assassins within the bloodlines might be Anne, Andor, Antinanco, Ari, Arlette, Arnold, Arvid, or Haytham.
Personally, I think it’d be interesting to set the next Assassin’s Creed hero as a native of what is now Chile or Argentina fighting against the Conquistadors or possibly a native American fighting against corrupt settlers and name him Antinanco – eagle of the sun.
Often times, simply referred to as “Vidic,” Warren Vidic’s name has an interesting meaning. Warren means “animal enclosure.” A cage. In the case of Desmond Miles, Warren Vidic is his captor and more often than not, Vidic treats Desmond as though he is an inferior being. He holds knowledge of ultimate truths over Desmond. He’s forceful, demeaning, and he treats Desmond as though he is an animal. A lab rat.
Lucy is the shortened form of “Lucia” who is the Christian patron saint of the blind. It’s an interesting choice for a patron saint, as Lucy within the game of Assassin’s Creed grants Desmond and Subject 17 vision in past lives.
In life, Saint Lucy refused to marry a pagan. She gave her dowry to the poor. And when her pagan husband-to-be had enough of her, he reported Saint Lucy to the local magistrate. In turn, Lucy was to be burned at the stake.
When the guards came to take Lucy away, she began to speak out against her persecutor. Subsequently, she was stabbed in the throat with a dagger. To further her torture, the guards removed her eyes and miraculously she was still able to speak and see.
Rebecca Crane and Shaun Hastings:
Rebecca is the computer / Animus expert in Assassin’s Creed II. Though Rebecca is a very traditional Hebrew name, as she was the wife of Isaac in the Old Testament. In the Bible, Rebeca is referred to as a maiden of beauty and kindness. Oddly, the word “Rebecca” means “to bind” or “to snare.” Out of the two, Rebecca treats Desmond with patience and understanding, while Shaun seems to have no social filters and treats Desmond with the same level of respect as Vidic.
Shaun is the historian for the Assassins. He coordinates the Assassins in the field and fills Desmond in with additional information about places and events that can be seen within the Animus. The name “Shaun” is a derivation of “John” which in turn is a derivation of the Hebrew name “Yochanan” which means “Yahweh is gracious.” Though Shaun’s name doesn’t play a role in his personality, I find it odd that he, Lucy and Rebecca all seem to share very non-“Assassin”-oriented names.
Ubisoft has been amazing about keeping the Assassin’s Creed storyline a secret. But looking deeper into the character names might reveal a little more about the storyline. Time can only tell.
Are those born of the Assassin bloodline the hand chosen of Jupiter / Zeus? Are Lucy, Rebecca and Shaun simply Templars in disguise giving Desmond the illusion of freedom? After all, Lucy’s relationship with Subject 17 is shady at best. Asking Desmond to ride in the trunk could have served two purposes. Sure, it kept Desmond safe from the Templars, but it also kept Desmond from knowing where he was. And I only grow more suspicious of Lucy since her patron saint took a knife to the neck.
Am I looking a little too closely at this? For any other game, I might say “yes” but the writers of the series have taken great care in choosing the names of their heroes. There’s no reason to believe they didn’t take the same level of care in naming the rest of their characters.