notre-dame
The Notre-Dame Cathedral as seen in the video game 'Asssassin's Creed Unity' Image Credit: Ubisoft

Dubai: The blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral, an 850-year-old landmark that has survived revolution after revolution in France, was an international tragedy, with some historical artefacts being lost in the monumental blaze.

While this tragedy affected mostly the French citizens, historians and patrons of the arts, there is an unlikely group of young and old that has also been affected by this disaster; gamers.

This is an unusual demographic to be affected by this tragedy, but it so happens that the French game developing company Ubisoft, are famous for their Assassin’s Creed series, a franchise that solely focuses on historical events, widely ranging from the siege of Jerusalem in 1187 to the American Revolutionary War of 1776. In the catalogue of this vast franchise, there is a game that slipped through the cracks between two major eras in the game, but has regained popularity since the fire.

Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game set during the French Revolution of 1789, has had the Notre Dame Cathedral as one of its prized landmark that plays an important role in enhancing the plot of the game. Gamers who were well-accustomed to the historically themed game also felt a sense of sorrow to the news of the fire, which occurred on the early morning of April 15.

“I learned of the fire in Notre Dame through the most Gen-Z way possible: a meme of the Duo lingo owl in front of the burning cathedral with the caption “You forgot your daily French lesson”, said Nabeel Hussain, a student and animal rescue volunteer from California. “As someone who has never visited France before, I did not expect this news to elicit the sort of response that it did. However, I did visit Paris in a video game called Assassin’s Creed: Unity, back in 2014. Stealthily parkouring through the parapets of the cathedral, I stopped mid-mission many-a-times to marvel at the meticulously recreated stained glass windows and other artwork inside Notre Dame”, he continued.

Adhithya Shankar, a former resident of Dubai studying in Bengaluru, India said, “Assassin’s Creed: Unity was set during the French Revolution in Paris and a particular mission was set in and around the Notre Dame Cathedral. Scaling the building and exploring the insides was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride; it was almost as if I was transported to that tumultuous time period.

He continued: “The architecture in-game was done after running down the actual structure and it was, even according to the French government, one of the most precise pieces of work in video game history. Although the desecration of the cathedral was true in reality, the building stood tall and magnificent both in the game and in real life till the recent past”.

Vishnudathan Devdas, another student from Bengaluru, was optimistic that the in-game schematics of the cathedral could definitely help in efforts of rebuilding the historic building, stating, “After spending countless hours climbing around the architectural marvel, it’s easy to see how much hard work the developers put into making the monument stand out as much as it did.”

Donations have flooded in from major sources and organisations, with Ubisoft donating $563 million and releasing “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” for free online for PC users. All in all, with many French billionaires and the common public pledging money to the cause, rounding out an un-equivocal $1 billion in less than two days.