Playing the Templar

Evolution Through Participatory Media

Chapter 1 defined the two aspects of the Templar narrative of the knight in popular culture using case studies from film and literature. This chapter will continue the analysis of the warrior monk archetype by examining how this part of the Templar urtext has expanded and evolved across transmedia platforms such as games and online fan films. These fan practices will be analyzed using the bad Templar and the good Templar aspects explored in Chapter 1 to ascertain how the Templar narrative has reoccurred and evolved, infusing narrative with participatory media. The chapter’s case studies will be the first game of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft, 2007), massively multiplayer online game The Secret World (Funcom, 2012) and the fan film Predator: Dark Ages (Bushe, 2015). These new texts are worthy of attention as they demonstrate that the Templar narrative is not solely located in traditional media but has evolved alongside the same culture.

The case studies chosen for this chapter will demonstrate how my concept of the Templar urtext has further expanded through digital participation with the Templar narrative. In further analyzing the warrior monk archetype pillar of the Templar urtext, this chapter can examine how interaction with these different depictions of the Templar expand the Templar narrative in popular culture and further impact the Templar urtext. Due to its thematic malleability, fan participation also enables the Templar narrative to further evolve the previously established Templar aspects of the warrior monk archetype.

The methodology will include similar approaches to Chapter 1, such as the use of textual analysis of the case studies to understand the player and viewer experience. The chapter will also draw on interviews with producers and game reviewers to assess the producer’s influences and intentions. However, this chapter will also use web ethnography of YouTube message boards to provide primary evidence to demonstrate how the players’ experience has further expanded the Templar urtext.

The chapter draws from fandom studies to approach the transmedia qualities of the Templar urtext, such as the theories of Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture (2006) and Paul Booth’s Game Play (2015). These studies use the concept of paratextuality to study transmedia texts, which I will also apply to analyze the selected Templar case studies alongside concepts of play and participation. This approach will enable an understanding of how the interaction between the participant and the text influence the perception of the Knights Templar in popular culture and further expand the Templar urtext. After establishing the notions of play and participation, the next section will focus on Templar iconography. The Templar symbol of the red cross on a white background is not just synonymous with the warrior monk archetype but is also a vital visual cue to the Templar urtext. The chapter will address the iconographic connotations of both the bad and good Templar aspect depicted in ­high-concept Templar hero/villain costumes. This chapter will use academic studies of costume and cosplay to identify how costume influences the depiction of the Templar knight in video games and digital cosplay within MMOG The Secret World. This section draws from Paul Booth’s case study of the ­now-defunct Polyvore fashion website in Playing Fans (2015) and Barbara Brownie and Danny Graydon’s The Superhero Costume to determine how Templar iconography further expands the Templar urtext.

The short fan film Predator: Dark Ages is the chapter’s final case study and provides the means to establish how participation with the Templar narrative expands the Templar urtext by creating new texts. The chapter uses Kurt Lancaster’s book Interacting with Babylon 5 (2001) to support the case study analysis and determine the significance of performance in expanding the Templar urtext. To further examine the concept the section also draws from Will Brooker’s Using the Force (2006) and Francesca Coppa’s article “Women, Star Trek, and the Early Development of Fannish Vidding” (2008) to help bridge the gap between Lancaster’s work on performance and support this chapter’s attempt to define how fan videos further expand the Templar urtext. Ultimately, this chapter investigates how the Templar narrative moves beyond watching a film to also involve a physical engagement with the Templar mythos. In examining the experience of fans interacting with the Templar narrative of the knight through the acts of play and performance, this chapter ascertains how interaction enables further evolution of the Templar urtext.

Templar Paratexts

The Templars’ legacy within popular culture has shifted them from a historical understanding and towards a mythical entity, which places them akin to other medieval mythical characters such as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood. These medieval myths have been transferred across media platforms from literature to film and over to computer games, some acting as standalone games in their own right, such as the game Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood (Spellbound Entertainment, 2002) or King Arthur: The ­Role-Playing Wargame (Neocore Games, 2009), games that incorporate common, popular culture traits associated with those mythical characters. The cover of the computer game Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood provides an example of this, where an Errol ­Flynn-type character dressed in a green outfit and feathered cap, a trait that was omitted from the later incarnations of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Reynolds, 1991) and Robin Hood (Scott, 2010). Richard Utz explains that the familiarity of medieval tropes created through new and old media is part of neomedievalism, explaining:

Neomedieval texts no longer strive for authenticity of original manuscripts, castles, or cathedrals, but create ­pseudo-medieval worlds that playfully obliterate history and historical accuracy and replace ­history-based narratives with simulacra of the medieval, employing images that are neither an original nor the copy of an original, but altogether Neo [Utz, 2011, p. v].

Utz’s argument is visible in Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood’s use of the “­pseudo-neomedieval world” depicted in The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz, 1938) in its use of the green tights, feathered cap and dexterous swashbuckling performance by Errol Flynn. This Robin Hood imagery is commonly associated with the English legend and is often used to depict the medieval icon in film and animation such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Brooks, 1993) or the animated movie Shrek (Adamson & Jenson, 2001). Kline adds to Utz’s notion, writing, “Neomedieval games thus are marked by a double vision, looking toward medieval originals but through intermediate sources like Dungeons & Dragons, with little regard for medieval realities” (2014, p. 4). The notion of attempting to create a medieval reality through intermediate sources is seen through how the thematic Templar narrative of the knight has been included and expanded by film and literature. Films such as Kingdom of Heaven have drawn inspiration for their Templar figures from Sir Walter Scott’s characters in Ivanhoe, instead of attempting to recreate the historical Order of the Knights Templar on screen.

Of course, not all of the neomedieval world computer games are standalone titles; often these film adaptations of medievalist creations release a computer game text of their own. For example, the films Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and King Arthur (Fuqua, 2004) have both released computer games based on the film’s medieval reality, which enables fans to enjoy this neomedieval world across a convergence of different texts and platforms. Jenkins defines this idea of convergence, writing, “By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want” (2006, p. 2). Currently, out of the film texts analyzed in the previous chapter, it is only Kingdom of Heaven that ever planned to release a computer game adaptation. According to an article on, a mobile phone game adaptation of the film was in development where players can take on the role of Orlando Bloom’s character, Balian. In 2005, Avery Score posted a review of the early alpha build, stating, “In each of Kingdom of Heaven’s 10 levels, you’ll find huddled groups of Jerusalem’s refugees. Your job is to escort them to safety. Unfortunately, the Saracens keep doing inconsiderate things, like launching volleys of fireballs and arrows at you.” Although the review of the game did not offer a detailed insight into the game, it did suggest that the game was never officially released. At the end of the article, Score wrote, “It’s often a challenge to deliver involving ­movie-licensed mobile games, and we’re interested to see if the final version of KOH passes the test. Check back in early April for our full review” (2005). As there is no full review for the completed game on, which along with the lack of other reviews for this game, it suggests that the Kingdom of Heaven mobile game was never released. This game, had it been released, would have provided great insight into how the Templar narrative of the knight would have been utilized in this mobile game adaptation. However, the review implies that it is the Saracens that are the enemy in this game, and it makes no mention of the Templars, who are the unquestionable villains of the film version. The game’s premise suggests that it approached the Crusades’ narrative from a different perspective than that of the film, having Saladin’s forces as the villains instead of the Templars. The unreleased Kingdom of Heaven mobile game would have stood as a paratext of Scott’s original film text, which Booth defines by citing Gerard Genette, stating, “the paratext exists at the ‘threshold’ of literature, between the ‘inside and the outside of the book’” (2015, p. 5). Genette proposes that in regards to literature a paratext:

comprises what one could call various thresholds: authorial and editorial (i.e., titles, insertions, dedications, epigraphs, prefaces and notes); media related (i.e., interviews with the author, official summaries) and private (i.e., correspondence, calculated or ­non-calculated disclosures), as well as those related to the material means of production and reception, such as groupings, segments, etc. [1988, p. 63].

Booth summarizes the concept of the paratext with an example that a book cover “is both part of the book product, and yet substantially different from the content of the book” (2015, p. 5). Although referring to audio commentary and title sequences, Richard Burt states that paratextual elements are “a critical blind spot in medieval film studies” (2007, p. 220). Burt argues that paratextual analysis offers insights “into the way analogies drawn within medieval films between old and new media—book and film, for example—blur” (2007, p. 220). It is this notion of blurring between old and new media this chapter will be addressing through the concept of paratexts to the Templar narrative.

Like the characters of Robin Hood and King Arthur, the Templar phenomenon extends beyond film and literature. Therefore, an analysis of the Templars across different media formats is needed to examine the evolution of the Templar narrative, which is why this section of the chapter needs to address the notion of video games as paratext first. Booth cites Gray to establish the role of paratext within computer games; he writes,“Gray describes licensed video games—promotional games based on films or television series—as allowing players to enter cult worlds and ‘explore them in ways that a film or television show often precludes, and/or that amplify the show’s meanings and style’” (2015, p. 5). The process of producing content across multimedia formats is what Jenkins explores through the notion of convergence culture. Jenkins explains, “Convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content” (2006, p. 3). Fans can watch the films, read the books, play the games and are able to create their own texts through ­fan-generated content.

In studying transmedia convergence culture, Jenkins uses the Matrix franchise as a key text of study, an example that offers a framework for understanding the relationship within the Templar phenomenon across different formats of popular culture. Jenkins draws attention to the franchise’s multimedia forms of consumption, noting that fans can visit the world by watching the films, playing the computer game and watching the animated short films. He argues:

Each franchise entry needs to be ­self-contained so you don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy the game, and vice versa. Any given product is a point of entry into the franchise as a whole. Reading across the media sustains a depth of experience that motivates more consumption [2006, p. 96].

When examining paratexts, one must acknowledge how far this intellectual concept can go as paratexts ultimately produce paratexts of themselves, and video games certainly create their own paratexts; Booth addresses this concept of video game paratext within paratext. He cites Mia Consalvo, writing, “The paratexts she describes, including video games ­walk-through guides, cheats, and strategy books, have become essential elements themselves, and a diverse array of paratextual content” (2015, p. 5).

In citing Ian Peters, Booth determines, “paratexts can become as important as—or even more important than—the original text, especially given the commercial value of ancillary products surrounding media texts, such as video games” (2015, p. 6). Booth explains that video game paratexts further expand the source text, and using the video game paratexts of The Hunger Games as an example, Booth states, “These video games function as paratexts to further develop the world of Panem (name of the world in The Hunger Games franchise)” (2015, p. 135). This notion that the paratext of the video game further develops The Hunger Games franchise coincides with the Templar narrative’s reoccurring and evolutionary qualities.

Computer games provide the ideal platform to examine the Templar narrative as video games offer consumers a different experience to cinema and literature, as computer games enable a digital engagement with the world of the Templar narrative. Klug and Schell highlight the possibility of engagement with the world of the text, explaining, “Virtual gaming worlds allow participants to experience a universe they may have only imagined” (2006, p. 94). Video games offer a different narrative than that of a film or book; the experience Klug and Schell describe involves participating with the text. Gray explains that there are different types of story narrative and cites Linda Hutcheon to explain:

The process of adaption frequently moves a story across different modes, opening up new possibilities for both the storyteller(s) and the audiences. In particular she notes three modes of narratives: telling, as in novels, which immerse us “though imagination in a fictional world”; showing, as in plays and film, which immerse us “through the perception of the aural and the visual”; and participatory, as in video games, which immerse us “physically and kinesthetically” [2010, p. 192].

The participatory mode found in the Templar computer game texts explored in this chapter allows players to take on the roles of both aspects of the knight narrative—the good and the bad knight and explore the games’ world of the medieval. When discussing video game adaptation, Gray explains, “it moves the story, its world, and its audience to a different narrative mode, wherein the audience can step into (parts of) the story world” (2010, p. 192). The first case study of the Templar narrative of the knight in a computer game is the worldwide success, Assassin’s Creed, a game that features an ­open-world format where the player can visit the Holy Land and explore cities depicted in the Templar film texts. This type of ­open-world computer game enables players to explore the digital world at their discretion. This computer game ­open-world format is not unique to the Assassin’s Creed game, as it features in the popular Simpson’s game Hit and Run, which Gray uses as an example for how a video game paratext offers greater accessibility. He explains:

The television show has created many locations, but has rarely shown how they connect. Playing the game, by contrast, allows one to walk, run, or drive between locations, thereby seeing, for instance, how to get from the Simpsons house to Cletus’s farm, or what separates The Android’s Dungeon and Krusty Studios [2010, p. 193].

This example provided by Gray demonstrates the experience players can have from exploring and interacting with the medieval ­open-world style of Assassin’s Creed, enabling players to discover the geography of the journey from Acre to Jerusalem and obtain a deeper relationship with the story world of the fictionalized Crusades setting. Gray describes this style of gameplay as “‘sandbox’ style … through completing missions advances one through the game to new areas, one has the freedom—with scripted limits, of course—simply to wander the streets and talk to random characters” (2010, Gray). This “sandbox” style is a feature in Assassin’s Creed, but it only presents the player with the appearance of an ability to freely roam the digital Holy Land as accessibility to areas of the city are barred from the player as more of the cities will be accessible to the player once they have completed the predetermined missions.

The game format of the second Templar case study, The First Templar, is in contrast to the style of Assassin’s Creed in that the format is a more controlled, ­level-based system where the player must guide their Templar hero through each designated level, with most of the levels taking place in the medieval Holy Land. However, with both examples of Knights ­Templar-themed computer games, the story and visuals include a heavy emphasis on the player taking on the active role of the Templar knight or interacting with the Templar NPCs in the game. This kinetic interaction with the text’s story sets these case studies apart from the passive visual interaction the audience has with the Templar films explored in Chapter 1.

Unlike The Hunger Games video games or the canceled Kingdom of Heaven mobile game, Assassin’s Creed and The First Templar are original titles and not adaptations from film texts, which make their inclusion as paratexts problematic. To establish whether these games can exist as paratexts in their own right and be considered part of a broader Templar phenomenon, this chapter draws from Gray’s argument to define the substance of a paratext. Gray does this by approaching Gerard Genette’s theory that a paratext can exist without a text, he cites Genette, writing, “The paratext is only an assistant, only an accessory of the text. And if the text without its paratext is sometimes like an elephant without a mahout, a power disabled, the paratext is without its text is a mahout without an elephant, a silly show” (2015, p. 231). Gray disagrees with Genette’s argument, first by criticizing his example as “offensive,” and argues, “In positioning the text and paratext as existing in two distinct bodies, Genette precludes the possibility of the paratext being part of the text, much less therefore of it creating the text or even being part of the text” (2015, p. 231).

In a post on the website Media Commons, Gray uses the example of a trailer for the ­low-budget film C Me Dance (Robbins, 2009), a film he states he “will never see” (2015), to argue against Genette’s ideas. Gray asserts, “as important as I think it is to study paratexts when what Barthes would call their accompanying ‘work’ is absent, I offer this as an example of how paratextuality is inseparable from the text. If the paratext means something—anything—it is part of the text” (2014). Gray claims, “a paratext is not simply the side of a text. Rather, paratexts do the work of texts and are functional parts of them…. Sometimes they do everything the rest of the text does; sometimes they are entrusted to conduct very particular tasks and to play very particular roles in the construction of the text” (2015, p. 232). It is with this approach that the Templar video games explored in this chapter are quantified as paratexts of the thematic Templar narrative within popular culture, as they are part of the evolving Templar phenomenon. There have been no other transmedia Templar studies, which is why analyzing the Templar computer games as paratexts provides an ideal approach for this original transmedia study of the Templar narrative.

This Templar narrative has been reoccurring for centuries and spread across different media formats from literature to film and now to computer games, which adapts and further cements the Templar archetypal roles within the aspects of the bad Templar and the good Templar. The games Assassin’s Creed and The First Templar cannot exist outside the Templar phenomenon because they include the traits and iconography of the established Templar mythos. This concept coincides with Gray’s argument, “we can’t truly appreciate that meaning, nor paratexts’ role in the construction of meaning in general if we see the paratext as removed from the text” (2014). The Templar video game takes the Templar narrative of the knight to the digital media environment; therefore, the next section explores how the thematic Templar narrative is equipped to create a participatory experience for players and how these computer game texts further add to and evolve the Templar phenomenon within popular culture.

Digital Participation

The Assassin’s Creed game series as of 2014, according to IGN UK, “exceeded sales of 73 million” (Seibert, 2014) and included nine major games across multiple platforms. The majority of these games allow the player to take on the role of Desmond Miles in the modern world and his Assassin ancestors in the past. This chapter focuses on the original Assassin’s Creed game due to its setting in the Third Crusade (1189–1192). It is relatively close to the settings of Kingdom of Heaven and Arn: The Knight Templar, which depict Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187. This game, however, is the most successful ­Templar-themed computer game and is the first mainstream game to take the archetypal Templar knight to this new media format. The player takes on the role of the Assassin, Altaïr ­Ibn-La’Ahad, whose goal is to stop the Knights Templar from finding a powerful ancient artifact. Although set in the Holy Land in the year 1191, the game takes place from within the mind of a ­present-day man, Desmond. The player experiences the memories of Desmond’s ancestor and plays as Altaïr ­Ibn-La’Ahad, a member of the Assassins. From within the mind of Desmond, the player battles the Templars for possession of the mystical Apple of Eden. The game depicts the Knights Templar as the outright villains; in fact, the game encourages players to kill all the Templars by having unlockable achievement points for killing them all. According to the website, “Throughout the game there are 60 Templars and the majority of them lay within the kingdom. All you need to do is kill every single one of them.” Even though this game text is the start of what will be its own franchise, it is adhering to the bad Templar aspect established in literature, and Assassin’s Creed further demonstrates the malleability of the Templar narrative in that it is capable of migrating across various media formats.

Although the game is set during the Third Crusade, the player does not directly participate in the conflict as Altaïr does not work for either of the two armies. The significance of not being part of these factions is addressed with Assassin’s Creed Creative Director Patrice Desilets and Producer Jade Raymond for The Guardian in 2007. When interviewer Stuart asked the creative director, “How do you present all this in the game without taking sides?” Desilets replied, “Well you start by choosing a third party—this is what the assassins are, they’re the third faction in that war” (Stuart, 2007). This interview demonstrates that the game designers for Assassin’s Creed went one step further than having a ­third-party villain like Kingdom of Heaven but had two other factions to act as hero and villain, the Assassins and the Templars. To ascertain the creative reasoning behind the game’s focus on two new rival factions, we can turn to Elizabeth Buzay and Emmanuel Buzay’s critique of neomedievalism in Assassin’s Creed, who cite from Raymond’s interview, stating:

Knowing that our subject is controversial by nature we have dealt with religion as a purely historical background element…. We have … worked with cultural experts throughout production to make sure that we treat sensitive topics with respect…. In Assassin’s Creed, Crusaders (and the Saracens) are not the Assassins’ true enemy. War is—as are those who exploit it [2015, p. 123].

The people that exploit war in the game are the Order of the Knights Templar, whose grand master, Robert de Sablé, is referred to by Altaïr as “their greatest enemy” (Ubisoft, 2007). In the game, the Templars are the antagonists to the Assassins, who are spreading their influence throughout the Holy Land through corruption and violence to the detriment of both Christians and Muslims. It is only the Assassins that can halt the Templars’ ultimate plan to gain dominance using the mind control power of an ancient artifact. In the same way as Kingdom of Heaven, the Templars are used as the enemy of both the Christians and the Muslims, further demonstrating how the Templar narrative of the knight has further evolved to be part of a major computer game.

Like with Scott’s usage of the bad Templar, Assassin’s Creed uses the Templar narrative as a means to maintain a stance of political neutrality. In an interview for; Jade Raymond demonstrates this desire for neutrality, stating, “we obviously did not make this game with a political agenda. First and foremost, our goal is to provide a new type of entertainment experience based on crowd gameplay and new levels of interaction with a living game environment” (Max73, 2006). In creating these two factions, the game designers were able to remain neutral by not depicting the Crusaders or Saracens as heroes or villains and therefore not alienate a potentially larger market audience. Buzay and Buzay observe, “One of the striking features at the beginning of Assassin’s Creed is that the game opens with the statement: ‘The game was developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs’” (2015, p. 123). The game’s producers’ desire to remain impartial is clear, but what is significant is the Templars’ usefulness to provide authors and producers with an ample method to maintain an appearance of neutrality. As the historical Order of the Templars was eradicated in the 14th century and without an overarching authority, the Templars provide an ideal body for appointing unpleasant and evil deeds—a method used by Sir Walter Scott and Ridley Scott.

Unlike previous Templar villain incarnations in fiction, the Templars in Assassin’s Creed have members of the organization who are Crusaders and Saracens, which break away from the conventional bad colonialist trope depicted in Kingdom of Heaven. The diversity of Templar membership is revealed in a conversation between Altaïr and another assassin, Malik ­Al-Sayf. Malik exclaims, “Crusaders and Saracens working together?” Altaïr replies, “They are none of these things, but something else; Templars” (Ubisoft, 2007). Confused, Malik states, “The Templars are a part of the Crusader Army.” So Altaïr confirms, “Or so they would like King Richard to believe.” So not only does Assassin’s Creed use separate factions for the game designers to maintain a claim of neutrality, but it also breaks away from the ­pre-established racial prejudice trope featured in the bad Templar aspect. Instead, Assassin’s Creed depicts the Templars as a multiracial organization who all work together to achieve the Templars’ ultimate goal of world domination. This depiction is a clear contrast to the villainous Templar Guy de Lusignan from Kingdom of Heaven, who openly flaunts his hatred of the Saracens, or Ivanhoe’s de ­Bois-Guilbert’s discrimination against the Jewish characters.

The main objective for Assassin’s Creed’s protagonist Altaïr is assassinating nine men, which the game is structured around. These nine targets are later revealed to be all Templars, some of whom are based on real historical figures. The secret Crusader Templars that the player must kill include Garnier de Nablus, grand master of the Knights Hospitaller; Sibrand, a German Crusader, founder of the Teutonic Order; William V, Marquess of Montferrat, Regent of Acre. The secret Saracen Templars were Ibn Jubayr, a traveler and poet, who in the game was Damascus’s chief scholar; Rashid ­ad-Din Sinan, who is the leader of the Assassins. Using characters based on real people as the secret Templars gives the game a sense of reality in an otherwise science fantasy realm and cements the game in the historical time frame. This intention is alluded to by Buzay and Buzay, who cite the artistic director, Raphaël Lacoste, stating, “To best portray the Third Crusade, the developers were inspired by both films and history books in an attempt to ‘remain as close as possible to the historical reality’” (2015, p. 118). This statement from Lacoste showcases the developer’s notion that using real people as antagonists creates a sense of reality and historical authenticity for the gaming experience but while also maintaining the developers’ desired appearance of neutrality. Recreating historical figures in Templar garb was a precedent set by Kingdom of Heaven. The film depicted the King of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan, and the former Prince of Antioch, Raynald de Châtillon, as Knights Templar, which they were not (see Chapter 1 for details).

Apart from the many sequels that followed the success of the original Assassin’s Creed game, the next standalone, ­action-adventure, ­Templar-themed computer game was The First Templar (2011), published by Kalypso Media. The First Templar offers players the chance to take on the role of Templar knight Celian on his quest to find the Holy Grail. Given that the game’s medieval setting is mostly in the Holy Land, the game’s previews drew comparisons to Assassin’s Creed. The comment section of a game trailer uploaded to YouTube by Zeitgeist Game Review in August 2010 demonstrates these comparisons in the vocal and often negative comparisons drawn between The First Templar and Assassin’s Creed franchise. Many of the posts highlight the viewers’ disapproval of a game appearing to copy Assassin’s Creed; for example, Misa Pheonix (2011) posts, “wannabe assasins [sic] creed lol” and Jay Defon (2011) “to me this looks like a crappy assissins [sic] creed copy.” It is plausible that a comparison to the hugely popular Assassin’s Creed was intentional by the game’s publishers, as one of the early shots in the trailer is of the docks in Acre, which look similar to the same location depicted in Assassin’s Creed. One poster commented on the location similarity, writing,OK so…. It’s my opinion only but that city from 1:06–1:14 looks completely like Damascus from Assassin’s Creed?” (Makiturha, 2012). Although the commenter did not see the similarity between both games’ Acre, Damascus is still one of the major cities in the original Assassin’s Creed game and a visually similar setting to Acre. These similarities of ­pre-established tropes create a sense of familiarity that markets the ­Templar-themed game as a new text, which is part of the continual evolution of the Templar narrative.

One of the main causes for complaint from Assassin’s Creed fans in the trailer is a shot from a cut scene of a Templar knight diving off a tall building in the same fashion as Altaïr’s leap of faith, which is a common feature in Assassin’s Creed. Mahmoud Zain (2013) posted, “copying assassins creed in the jump !!”; while LordArcherdon (2011) posted, “It looks like an Assassin’s creed ­reverse-parody sort of thing, right down to the leaop [sic] of faith at the end,” which implies how iconic to Assassin’s Creed players that leap actually is. A more levelheaded post from reggiardito (2011) states, “Man, it has nothing to do with AC, but yet still i can’t see the title withouth [sic] remembering it,” this post suggests that in regards to gaming the Knights Templar have become synonymous with Assassin’s Creed. The apparent similarity identified within The First Templar trailer indicated that the more recent game had incorporated immediately recognizable tropes and iconography from the Ubisoft franchise. The trailer demonstrates that the game publishers want to profit from a sense of familiarity with gamers.

Game designer Nikola Ikonomov, though, makes no direct mention of Assassin’s Creed as an influence in an interview on In the 2010 interview with Charles Husemann, Ikonomov explains, “Because I’m a movie freak, I’ll tell you some of the flicks that inspired our team. First on the list is, not surprisingly, Indiana Jones because it defines adventure like no other” (Husemann, May 2010). The next influence he explains is “Ridley Scott, a visual genius, gave us ideas for the representation of the times of the Crusades with his Kingdom of Heaven and the more recent Robin Hood” (Husemann, May 2010). It is implausible to entertain the idea that a game developer would be unaware of a game franchise as popular as Assassin’s Creed, and it is likely that he simply does not want to claim direct influence from the game. Ikonomov does state, though, “Talking about inspiration, we considered everything that is cool in pop culture. We drew ideas from widely different sources and mediums to create something unique: comic books, art, historical fiction novels, and cult movies” (Husemann, May 2010). So without mentioning inspiration from other games, it is highly likely that Assassin’s Creed came under the inspiration from “popular culture” (Husemann, May 2010).

Besides the setting and leap of faith, more traits from Assassin’s Creed appear in the trailer, such as stealth kills and the main protagonist’s imagery, depicted as a white, hooded warrior. HoneyReno (2012) highlights this in their post, writing, “Is it just me or does it look like the Templar is doing some instant kill moves from Assassins’ Creed.” However, the bad Templar aspect of the Templar narrative of the knight’s inclusion in Assassin’s Creed is also hotly debated in the comments section of the trailer uploaded by Zeitgeist Games. LordArcherdon (2011) posts, “PERHAPS IT’S EVIL TEMPLAR PROPAGANDA?” while TubeSakis (2011) jokingly posts, “hey arent Templars the bad guys..? oops thats from another game ^^”. The trailer also uploaded to YouTube by Gamerspawn demonstrated similar notions around the depiction of Templar villainy. JewishGun (2012) posted, “I loved Assassin’s creed because in that game you kill the Bad guys. in [sic] ‘The First Templar’ you are the bad guy.” While Sandro Del Rosario (2012) demonstrates an affinity to Ubisoft’s villainous Templar identity, posting, “This game is actually made by templars who want to portray themselves as good because of assassins creed. They trying to hide the truth from us by creating this ‘templars are good’ propaganda campaign. Its [sic] not working. The assassins are winning.” The misunderstanding of the Templars as an intellectual property shown in the comments of the trailer for The First Templar is important because it demonstrates the malleability of the Templar narrative. Due to Assassin’s Creed’s popularity, the Templar phenomenon has been introduced to gamers under the ownership of Ubisoft. This association demonstrates that reoccurrence and evolution of the narrative are, in part, due to the lack of authority around the Templars’ legacy and the prevalence of myths and false depictions in popular culture. The Templar narrative of the knight can be used as a recognizable trope to give an immediate understanding of the text’s setting (i.e., the Crusades). However, it also offers flexibility to the text’s producers who can include and alter the established aspects of the good and bad Templar knight that best meet their creation’s thematic desires.

The familiarity of the Templar narrative in popular culture enables the Templar phenomenon to transcend media formats. The ­Templar-themed literature, film and computer games are linked together by the inclusion of ­pre-established Templar iconography and archetypal tropes that act as the green tights motif does for Robin Hood. The Templar texts throw back to one another, adding and changing to the reoccurring Templar narrative. This sense of familiarity within the ­pre-established aspects, alongside the creation of new Templar traits, further evolves the Templar narrative into a new marketable product that still adheres to the popular understanding of what the Knights Templar stood for. Based on the inclusion of visual tropes from Assassin’s Creed and the shared notion among the YouTube trailer commenters, The First Templar promotes itself by drawing upon the iconography and Templar aesthetics featured within the popular Assassin’s Creed, a franchise that draws from the villainous Templar aspect of the knight narrative featured in ­19th-century Ivanhoe and the ­21st-century Kingdom of Heaven.


Templar enthusiasts can never truly experience the medieval world without traveling back in time, but through playing video games, fans can interact with a digital version of how that world might have been. Playing these medievalist reproduction video games allows players to physically interact with an environment that before could only be read about or viewed ­on-screen. However, as Klug and Schell explain, the purpose of playing games is “rather than escape, as they do when they read a novel or when they watch a movie, games allow players to become actively involved in the world they escape into” (2006, p. 92). In his study of board game culture, Booth argues that the paratextual game enables players to “push against the boundaries of the original text” (2015, p. 48) instead of watching the original text and being “part of a bounded franchise” (2015, p. 48). Booth cites Silverstone, writing, “play enables the exploration of that tissue boundary between fantasy and reality, between the real and imagined” (2015, p. 48). This act of play with the environment of the game enables fans and players to participate directly with the original text, and “gaming worlds allow participants to experience a universe they may have only imagined” (Klug & Schell, 2006, p. 94).

This section examines the concept of play and how play enables interaction with the thematic Templar narrative. It also explores how the inclusion of the Templar narrative of the knight influences the participatory play of both the avatar that the player controls, as well as the ­non-playable characters created by the game’s producer. The preconceptions of the Order of the Knights Templar, established by the perception of the Templar phenomenon in popular culture, coincides with how the player relates to the game’s digital environment. In Assassin’s Creed, the antagonists are members of the Templar Order, and then the act of playing advances the awareness of the villainous aspect of the Templar narrative. This villainous association was demonstrated in the confusion of playing a Templar shown in examples of the previous section. This notion of how digital gaming stimulates the players’ perception of the historical Templar Order is supported by Crawford and Rutter’s argument, “new media technologies, such as the Internet and digital gaming, contribute to contemporary media-scapes, providing resources individuals draw on in their everyday lives” (2007, p. 276). This argument suggests that it is how the player associates with the digital avatar that manifests in how the player interacts with the digital reality of the game. This notion of the player identifying and affecting interaction with the game is explained by Nicolle Lamerichs, who states, “a player establishes his or her own identity while interacting with a game and its avatar. This interaction also shapes our interpretation of the fictional material” (2011, p. 11). It is players identifying with the protagonist avatar and interacting with the digital environment of the game, which for Assassin’s Creed further embeds the villainous Templar aspect.

As explained earlier in the chapter, physically participating within the digital Templar environment allows a deeper engagement with the fictional Templar world. However, for the game to offer this interactive Templar experience, it must not deviate too far from the conceptional Templar tropes established in popular culture or risk losing the game’s sense of authenticity. In his study of franchise board game ­tie-ins, Booth addresses that although play allows the stretching of the boundaries, the game also needs to adhere to the original. He explains, “there must be a certain level of adherence to an original text and at the same time a divergence from that original text in order to create a unique gaming experience”(2015, p. 53). For a franchise game to offer a unique experience the player must be able to push beyond the confines of the consumable text’s narrative yet remain true to the essence of the established franchise world, meaning that the popular Templar text must be perceived as authentic.

These ­tie-in games, according to Booth, need to find “a ‘happy medium’ … between the authorial intent of the original text and the originality of the players” (2015, p. 53). The Templar video game allows the player to explore the neomedieval world, which should remain truthful to crucial expectations of the Templar narrative such as iconography, setting and story role to maintain its appearance of authenticity. Maintaining a sense of Templar authenticity is less problematic for producers as the Templar narrative offers several interchangeable thematic aspects (see Chapter 3 for the quest of the knight and the quest to follow in the Templars’ footsteps). This contrast is due to the malleability of the Templar legacy caused by a lack of authorship, which is why a game where the Templars are heroes can be perceived as a copy of a game where the Templars are the game’s outright villains.

The participatory act of play allows players to interact with a Templar environment that they have previously only been able to view passively; this interaction with a digital world coincides with Huizinga’s concept of a “magic circle,” a concept that Jones links to play by explaining, “play sets its own boundaries and rules inside what he famously calls a ‘magic circle,’ drawn around themselves by exclusive social groups, those in the game” (2008, p. 14). For computer games, the magic circle would be the parameters of the digital game itself, but for play in general Jones defines it as a “socially collaborative, cultural construct that affects and is affected by material reality” (2008, p. 15). Jones explains the intrinsic connection between the designed space and the act of play in that the space facilitates the act. Jones explains:

the delineated space of any game is necessarily a social convention. That makes it very much part of the real world. Players come together and agree to stay inside of the circle, as it were, in so far as they remain players, abiding by the rules and working toward the objectives of the game [2008, p. 15].

The concept of play outlined by Booth and Jones is comparable to the creation of the digital play space, but for the digital game, the rules of the game are more restrictive as these limits cannot be broken if players want to play the computer game. Rules and limitations are vital for all games to dictate player interaction. McAllister explains, “The decisions made concerning the limitations of interactivity directly impinge upon a game’s ‘appeal’ and ‘gameness’ and carry signs of how game developers have conceived of their audience” (2004, p. 36). Combining the approach to determine the concept of play within physical games and digital games runs parallel to the role rules have in maintaining the act of play within the designated space. Juul explains that the common attribute of all games (both physical and digital) is “upholding of the rules, the determination of what moves and actions are permissible and what they will lead to” (2011, p. 48). Jesper Juul argues, “Upholding the rules is an actuality provided by human beings,” which does not limit the concept to one medium but encompasses board games, card games, video games and sports. And it is this similarity of convention that enables the “adaption of board games to computers … possible due to the fact that computers are capable of performing the operations defined in the rules of the games” (Juul, 2011, p. 48). Of course, the interaction levels of a video game such as Assassin’s Creed are significantly more immersive than a board game, but it is the correspondence of designated play space and abidance of rules that makes the previously mentioned notions of physical gameplay and computer gameplay applicable. This immersive experience enabled the player to participate with the Templar narrative and to expand perception of the Templar phenomenon through digitally interacting with the historical period of the Crusades.

The importance of a designated space in play is addressed by Booth’s research into paratextual board games, where he explains, “Paratextual board games like LOTR and The Complete Trilogy reflect this ­two-fold structure: there is the space of the game itself (the board, the table, the pieces) and space of the cult narrative world, the place of middle earth” (2015, p. 48). Booth adds, “to play Lord of the Rings is to push against those boundaries” (2015, p. 48). For the Templar video games, there is the space of the computer game as well as the connotations associated with the Order of the Knights Templar within the Templar urtext. The digital boundaries of the game are the game’s limits (i.e., where the player can physically venture as well as the challenges set for the player). The second barrier type is the cultural barriers of the established Templar phenomenon, which further embed the established Templar narratives or facilitates the evolution of the perceptions of the historic order within popular culture.

The adherence to rules is paramount to continue the participation, as to remain playing players must abide by the rules of the game, and it is through the structure of the designated play space that play is possible. For digital games such as Assassin’s Creed, these rules are enforced for the player by the game’s design as straying from them is either impossible or stops the play. In his examination of franchise ­tie-in board games, Booth notes the importance of adhering to the rules of the text’s original narrative and the game rules within these ­tie-in board games, noting:

for paratextual board games, the rules of the game are developed in conjunction with another set of rules: the rules surrounding the cult world upon which the game is based. Every fictional cult world has its own rules that determine such factors as the inhabitants, character relationships, fictional cultures, natural laws and history of the world [2015, p. 22].

For ­Templar-themed computer games, the rules of the game are those that are designed by the game’s producers. They act as both limiters and enablers as they create the text that players can interact with but also set the boundaries for the edge of the designated playing space. The other rules, what Booth would define as “the fictional cult world” (2015, p. 22) in the case of the Templar computer games is the thematic Templar narrative, which has its own set of rules by way of keeping with the archetypal Templar that has been established in popular culture texts dating back as early as the 19th century. For board games though, Booth states, “rules control both the way games are played, and the way cult texts are perceived, so too do rules underline the way that media technologies are used and understood” (2015, p. 23). The video game can, to an extent, control how the player plays the game in both the limits of the digital world (i.e., where the player can go) and by forcing players to adhere to protagonist characteristics.

Although the computer game Assassin’s Creed features the Templars as the villainous antagonists of the game, it does not include the bad Templar aspect convention of adhering to a racist ideology. The bad Templar’s adherence to a racist ideology was depicted in Kingdom of Heaven and Ivanhoe. It is not featured within the Assassin’s Creed Templar villain archetype as the game’s version of the Templar consists of both Saracen and Crusader members. However, the game does feature the other key traits of the bad Templar aspect, including unjustified violence and disdain of religion. Chapter 1 established how violence is used in the medieval genre as a way of designating the heroic knight from the villainous knight. However, the computer game Assassin’s Creed depicts its hero as an assassin, a character who leaves a trail of bodies behind him while seeking his goal, but the playable protagonist is still portrayed as a heroic character, as befits the hero’s justifiable use of violence.

The Assassin’s goodness is established early in the game by explaining to the player in a cut scene that the Assassins must follow a creed, which is a philosophy for order members’ code of conduct. The creed itself is three tenets: “Stay your blade from the flesh of the innocent; hide in plain sight; never compromise the brotherhood” (Ubisoft, 2007). It is the first tenet that demonstrates the brotherhoods’ morality; the other two do not indicate moral values as they are more ambiguous parts of their ideology. Abiding by the first tenet is forced upon the player because if the player accidentally or deliberately kills a civilian, then his health bar is reduced, and eventually he will be “Desynchronised” and the “memory” will start over as if the character was killed. The game also justifies the killing of the city guard, as they abuse their position and assault the civilians, who need Altaïr to save them from the corrupt guards. To explain the role of violence in depicting heroic knights, Elliott states, “the raw aggression which may well have brought knighthood into existence had to be pared down for the big screen, by the use of vengeance themes to justify them, and by increasing the delay between action and retaliation” (2011, p. 81). Elliott’s notion applies to Altaïr’s use of violence against the villainous guards, justifying his actions as killing them is an act of vengeance for the citizens, not senseless murder, which is associated with the computer game’s villainous Templar characters.

The game further underlines Altaïr’s goodness in attributing his Templar enemies with the traits of needless violence, murder and cruelty, traits featured within the bad Templar aspect of the knight narrative. This method of showcasing Altaïr’s morality is by the terrible conduct of the first of Templar targets: Tamir, a ­black-market trader who brutally stabs a merchant to death because he asks for more time to fill an order of weapons. A similar depiction of terrible actions is carried out by secret Templar, Garnier de Nablus, the grand master of the Knights Hospitaller (which was its own international religious order of knights) who carries out cruel experiments on unwilling patients in the Acre hospital. Before the player can assassinate Garnier de Nablus, the player must watch as a prisoner/patient who tried to escape is brought before the grand master and has his legs broken by Hospitaller guards on Garnier de Nablus’s orders. Seeing how Garnier treats his “patients” justifies the player’s assassination mission as this cruel man needed stopping, and the following violence carried out by the player is a justified necessity.

Unsurprisingly, Assassin’s Creed carries forward traits of the bad Templar in the Film Kingdom of Heaven when the game’s producer openly declared the influence of Ridley Scott’s film on the Assassin’s Creed game. Buzay and Buzay cite game producer Jade Raymond, writing that the developers focused on the “epic feeling” of popular movies like Braveheart or Kingdom of Heaven, saying that this is what “we are trying to achieve in Assassin’s Creed” (2015, p. 117). “Epic feeling” is a very loose term which could be attached to a wide range of specifics, such as scale or notions of heroism, including concepts such as good versus evil. Buzay and Buzay believe that Raymond is discussing the game’s narrative, writing, “If Assassin’s Creed is viewed as a transhistorical epic narrative set in a particular time period, then players can relate this type of narrative to the those of the Middle Ages” (2015, p. 117). The narrative of Assassin’s Creed, Kingdom of Heaven and the popular film Braveheart adhere to that story convention of good versus evil and notions of justified violence to distance the actions of the hero from the actions of the villain. The violent evil knight is a common trope within medieval fiction and coincides with Raymond’s comment of the game taking influence from Kingdom of Heaven. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that this trope was purposely attached to the Templars as part of the Order’s established trait of the bad Templar’s prone to violence but simply because it is a proven, successful convention of medieval storytelling.

One major feature of the bad Templar aspect of the knight narrative that Assassin’s Creed shares with Kingdom of Heaven is the Templars’ apparent contempt for religion. The previous chapter explored how the Templars’ Christian faith was depicted within Kingdom of Heaven and established that Ridley Scott’s Templars openly mocked their own supposed religion. Sibrand, one of Altaïr’s targets, demonstrates this open mockery of the Christian faith when this secret Templar and founder of the Teutonic Knights attacks a Christian priest in front of a large crowd, whom he accuses of being an Assassin. However, the real Assassin, Altaïr, is standing in the crowd watching the paranoid Templar accuse a conceivably innocent man. Sibrand openly mocks the priest, declaring, “If you truly are a man of God then surely the creator will provide for you. Let him stay my hand” (Ubisoft, 2007). He then kills the helpless man with his sword. This scene serves two functions: the first being to justify Altaïr’s assassination of the man by demonstrating Sibrand’s violent exploitation of the helpless but also to portray to the player that the Templars are not Christians.

Sibrand’s and the Templar’s atheism is further established when Altaïr asks him what awaits him in the afterlife; he replies, “Nothing, nothing waits and that is what I fear.” Altaïr asks, “You don’t believe?” and Sibrand replies, “How could I given what I know, what I’ve seen. Our treasure was the proof” (Ubisoft, 2007). Whereas Kingdom of Heaven depicts the Templars’ open disdain for Christianity, Assassin’s Creed removes religion altogether by having the Templars as both Crusaders and Saracens who are all atheists. Buzay and Buzay’s notion that the “neutrality which Ubisoft’s developers vaunt” is further demonstrated by removing the villainous Templar from Christianity and making both Saracen and Crusaders part of the Order of the Knights Templar.

In both Templar games, Assassin’s Creed and The First Templar, there is a familiarity with the established Templar archetypes. These also add elements of control to the player’s performance, such as the killing of evil Templars in Assassin’s Creed or protecting the innocent in The First Templar. This reoccurrence of established Templar traits further embeds the Templar narrative within popular culture, despite how removed the fictional Templar is from reality. This idea of creating associations through reoccurrence is explained by Lancaster, who cites Umberto Eco, writing, “The recycling of archetypes ends up creating an ‘intense emotion accompanied by the vague feeling of déjà vu that everybody yearns to see again’” (2001, p. 45). This sense of emotion and déjà vu can be seen depicted in the posts on the trailer for The First Templar; for example, a posted comment on the trailer uploaded by Zeitgeist Game reads, “templars rule assasins [sic] will die GOD WILLS IT!!!” (antec12gtx260, 2011). This post highlights the déjà vu and emotion in the poster’s acknowledgment of the deep hatred of the Templars and Assassins from Assassin’s Creed, which also includes the battle cry of Templars from the film Kingdom of Heaven. The comment showcases how the Templar phenomenon has evolved and expanded through three separate texts to create a perception of the Templars which shows little trace of the historical order of knights. The inclusion of separate Templar texts, such as aligning the heroic Templar with the battle cry of Ridley Scott’s villainous Templar, further underlines the malleability of the reoccurring Templar narrative.

Despite expressing a similarity in marketing, The First Templar game incorporates different traits of the Templar narrative of the knight to that of Assassin’s Creed. The First Templar embraces the good Templar aspect of the Templar narrative, incorporating the themes of chivalry and justified violence explored in Chapter 1. For this ­level-based game, combat in the game is centered on ­self-defense and protection of the innocent, while Assassin’s Creed depicts its Templars oppressing the general populace with cruel acts of violence. These games’ use of violence, justified or not, instructs the player in how to control the game’s protagonist, being forced to fight off attackers as in The First Templar or justifying the killing of evil Templars. The game imposes a playing style upon the players which keeps the desired narrative of the game intact. Therefore, this limiting of player action enables the game to adhere to the overarching themes, which for the ­Templar-themed games would be adhering to perceptions in popular culture of the Templar phenomenon. Limiting the players’ actions to control the narrative is not only key to digital games, but Booth also explains, regarding board games, “by giving players fewer choices, the game locks a particular reading of the narrative into place, closing off players interpretation” (2015, p. 141). By limiting the player actions, the ­Templar-themed computer games lock the role of the Templar into the archetypal character aspects explored in Chapter 1, the good Templar and bad Templar. Assassin’s Creed and The First Templar’s adherence to the thematic Templar narrative of the knight controls how the player plays the game and participates in the digital neomedieval world; essentially the good Templar fights the villains, and the villainous Templar must be fought.

The depiction of the Templars’ relationship with religion offers an insight into how the game’s designer controls the player’s actions. The villainous Templars in Assassin’s Creed are portrayed as an atheist organization who openly mock the Christian faith, while The First Templar incorporates the Templars’ monasticism into the mechanics of the game through the playable character’s act of prayer. In The First Templar, the Templar hero character can heal himself (restore the player’s health bar) by using the prayer ability, which takes the form of Templar playable character Celian, kneeling to pray by resting his head upon his sword hilt, which symbolizes a cross. This act of prayer is reminiscent of the stance Arn took when he prayed after battle in the film, Arn: The Knight Templar. With the game incorporating a similar motif of prayer in battle, the game is able to invoke the trait of piety associated with the archetype of the chivalrous knight in contrast to the atheist Templar featured in Assassin’s Creed. The First Templar’s inclusion of associate traits of the Templar’s monastic identity through the game’s character healing ability demonstrates the limitations of the game as it fixes a narrative in place. In this case, it would be the limits of the game, forcing the player to become a pious Templar knight, which further embeds the good Templar aspect of narrative into popular culture. These limits support Eco’s previously mentioned notion that the reoccurrence of traits creates stronger connotative associations.

Although, through the act of play, players can interact with the thematic Templar narrative of the knight, players are still limited in their experience through the designated play space assigned to the game. This space is not limited to the digital environment created but also the sets of rules that the act of play must adhere to. The rules include both the rules of the game and the conventions of the reoccurring Templar narrative of the knight. In both games, the hero Templar and villainous Templar adhere to the ­pre-established conventions associated with the Templar narrative by controlling how the player interacts with the digital recreation of the medievalist Templar world. This control is seen in how the Templar hero’s healing ability through prayer invokes the widely marketed concept of the Templar hero praying after a battle, which was an image prominent in the films Arn: The Knight Templar and Ironclad. The use of violence is again noted for its inclusion to justify the protagonist’s killing of the villainous Templar, who commit vindictive murders, forcing the player to combat them. The Templar computer games allow players to interact and participate with a world they have only connected with visually. However, this level of interaction is limited, and the player’s participation with or in the Templar role is restricted by adhering to the rules of play. Participating with the game further embeds the Templar narrative within popular culture by enabling the player to experience ­pre-established Templar conventions through a digital medium.

Templar Costume and Digital Cosplay

The Templars’ iconic imagery is synonymous with medieval warfare; the iconography of a man in medieval armor with the red cross upon his white mantle is a frequent reference for the Crusades. This ubiquitous imagery identifies the Templar across all media formats, including the film and computer games’ texts explored in this project thus far. However, the imagery connotes both heroic and villainous depending on which knight narrative aspect the text is adhering to. This section argues that Templar iconography and the Templar knight are one and the same and share the same malleable component. Therefore, analyzing the imagery of the Templar in their knightly costume is instrumental in defining how the Templar narrative transcends across media formats as it is the connotations of that iconography when associated with either aspect of the Templar knight narrative.

Brownie and Graydon address the importance of costume from the perspective of semiotics in their study of superhero costumes, stating, “For Superman, the costume acts as a record of his alien origin by marking him as other” (2015, pp. 17–18). Of course, the Templars are not superheroes, but what makes the comparison apt is that both Superman and the Templars are marked as other by their iconic costume. The marking of the Templars as others enables the audience to separate the Order from the generic medieval knight; this singles out the protagonist or groups the villainous knights for the audiences, highlighting them with the ubiquitous uniform. Concerning depictions of Superman, Brownie and Graydon stated that marking Superman as other is substantial to signifying his alien identity, but it is “expressed centrally by insignia that Superman wears on his chest” (2015, p. 18). The connotations of Superman’s Kryptonian symbol provide an applicable analogy for addressing the relevance of analyzing the iconic Templar insignia of a red cross placed upon a white background, as both are instantly recognizable and have established under-tones.

From a historical perspective, the “red cross was a symbol of martyrdom, added to the mantles of the Knights Templar in 1147” (Ralls, 2007, p. 151), while the Templars white surcoat and mantle carried connotations of purity and righteousness. The Templars’ use of white to suggest purity runs parallel to observations around the cultural meaning of bright superhero costumes, as Myerly proposes:

that brightly colored uniform has connotations of trustworthiness in part because it makes the wearer accountable for his or her actions. A brightly colored costume is so noticeable that its wearer would be unable to commit criminal or dishonest acts without being identified by witnesses [Brownie & Graydon, 2015, p. 20].

This notion of bright colors connoting trustworthiness would coincide with the association of the historical Templars’ use of white for purity and righteousness and with the good Templar featured in Arn: The Knight Templar and Ironclad. However, these notions of trustworthiness and integrity are not compatible with the depiction of the bad Templar aspect featured in Kingdom of Heaven and Ivanhoe, where the Templar iconography connotes rather more sinister themes of oppression, extremism and racism. The contradictory polar associations with Templar imagery further demonstrate how vast the multifaceted Templar narrative has become in popular culture.

The contrasting association of extremism apparent with the Order of the Knights Templar iconography draws further comparison with Brownie and Graydon’s study, which addressed the similarities of the depictions of Superman with the depiction of the Ku Klux Klan in Thomas Dixon, Jr.’s The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905). Brownie and Graydon cite Chris Gavaler, who explains, “the ‘generic formula’ of the superhero—‘the vigilante hero who assumes a costume and alias’—is borrowed from the behaviour of clansman Ben Cameron” (2015, p. 22). The bad Templar also draws comparisons with the Ku Klux Klan in D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) adapted from Dixon Jr.’s novel, which depicts the Ku Klux Klan as knights on horseback who strike a particular similarity to the Knights Templar. The film’s poster depicts a Ku Klux Klan member astride his horse dressed in a surcoat of a white cross upon a red background; this is a reverse on the Knights Templars’ red cross upon a white background but resonates with the bad Templar’s traits of oppression, extremism and racism. When analyzing Superman’s negative connotations, Gavaler argues that Superman “closely resembles Grand Dragon, with his consistent and identifiable ­alter-ego, than previous pulp heroes … commonly cited as Siegel and Shuster’s main influences … tended to be masters of ‘multiple disguises with no single, representative costumed persona’” (Brownie & Graydon, 2015, p. 22). The Knights Templar may not serve as alter ego in the same way as for Superman, but what is apparent is the connotations and thematic links that the Templar costume evokes, which range from chivalrous hero to oppressive extremist.

The five Templar texts that have been analyzed earlier in this chapter and the previous chapter have discussed the two aspects of the Templar narrative of the knight, proposing that the character’s actions set them apart. However, when analyzing the Templar imagery, there are three key differences and similarities in comparing the appearance of the Templar costume with the two narrative aspects. The first of these is the softening of Templar iconography in the Templars’ costume of the good Templar aspect; most notable is the hollowing of the Templar cross worn upon the chest of Arn in Arn: The Knight Templar. Instead of the defined solid red cross that is associated with the order, the cross depicted upon Arn’s chest is created through a red outline that leaves a hollow center that is filled with the white color of the Templars’ tabard. The good Templar, Celian, in the game The First Templar, has his Templar image softened by the use of a ­black-and-white quartered tabard that is further moderated by inversion of the cross points like the Maltese cross, which is associated with the Knights Hospitaller and St John’s Ambulance, which evokes connotations of charity and healing.

The second is the use of the Latin cross in films Kingdom of Heaven and Ironclad; although these films feature different types of Templar, one depicts the good Templar and the other the bad Templar. What is significant about the Latin cross is that in both films the Templars represent nationalism; Ironclad depicts this positively and draws upon connotations of St George with its Templar hero on the defensive. In comparison, Kingdom of Heaven intertwines this nationalism with racism and oppression of the Muslim people. The villainous Templars of the Assassin’s Creed game are not depicted with the Latin cross, but these Templars are a diverse, multicultural organization and are not associated with the conventional prejudiced Templar archetype. The Knights Templar in Assassin’s Creed are depicted in the traditional white tabard and with a solid red cross in the style of the Greek cross, which notably has equal length arms.

The third vital iconographic trait is the use of the helmet to distinguish between the good and bad Templar as evidenced in the villainous Templar’s portrayal in Assassin’s Creed, where the Templars hide their identity beneath their great helms, making them indistinguishable from each other. The First Templar subverts this for the depiction of the Templar in the good Templar aspect, which always has the hero Templar helmetless. This distinction is not only found in the computer games mentioned but is also in the Templar film adaptations mentioned above; the good Templar in Arn: The Knight Templar and Ironclad feature their good Templar not wearing a helm, which, of course, enables the main protagonist to stand out from the other knights for the audience (much like Laurence Olivier in Henry V [Olivier, 1944]). In contrast to that is the depiction of villainous Templars in Kingdom of Heaven who all wear helms in combat (except for Guy) when attacking the Muslim merchant, which makes it difficult to single them out as individuals and with the identical uniform masks them as part of a collective.

With the villainous Templars hiding their faces, the audience or player is made aware that there is something sinister about these knights as there are connotations of wrongdoing: “people who wear a mask to protect their identity are usually people who are undertaking villainous or morally questionable acts” (Brownie & Graydon, 2016, pp. 37–38), which is why, according to Brownie and Graydon, Clark Kent’s mother “would never include a mask as part of her son’s Superman costume…. Martha Kent recognises the associations between moral ambiguity and the mask” (2016, p. 38). This notion of masked identity enabling immoral action is addressed in Kingdom of Heaven; when the Templars attack the Muslim merchants, Raynald informs Guy that no one in Jerusalem will know he is there and then mocks, “you are at Nazareth praying” (Scott, 2005). Guy can join in the violent crime with the knowledge that there will be little consequence due to the anonymity offered to him through the uniform of his Templar costume, while the actions of the hero Templars are just and do not need their identities masked. From looking at the differences and connections between the costumes of the good Templar aspect and the bad Templar aspect of the knight narrative, it is apparent that the appearance of the Templar iconography and costume contributes to the multiple conflations of the Templar phenomenon. This repetition of altered Templar symbols further embeds the fictional Templar archetypes with the associated iconography.

The play experience of the games explored offers players minimal opportunity to tailor the look of their character’s costume; in the same way, the player is forced to play their character in line with the rules of the game in both digital limits and playing style. However, The First Templar offers some element of customization, as the game enables the player to unlock three different costumes for their digital character to don. This customization is limited though, as the costumes are all of a similar style and only differ in color aesthetics, and the player must wear the outfit in its entirety. There is no ability to customize a unique collaboration of items such as armor, trousers or weapons to create a personalized Templar avatar. The First Templar provides the player with a heroic Templar character whose costume matches that role; even with the limited customization, Brownie and Graydon propose that costumes carry a set of rules for behavior, explaining, “Any costume, as it is associated with a particular role, is accompanied by a set of unwritten rules dictating how the wearer must act” (2016, p. 34). Citing Miller, they further explain that all clothes affect identity; they state, “Dress is part of the expectations for behaviour that define a person’s role within the social structure” (2016, p. 34). In limiting the player’s customization of the character costume, the producers further tailor the play experience by compelling the player to conform to the rules of the digital world but also how to play with the Templar character. Not only does the producer incorporate the good Templar aspect of the thematic Templar narrative, which limits the game’s playing style, but also does not offer the player a real customization of costume. The change of outfit only provides different versions of the brightly colored, good Templar imagery, an image that the player must conform with to play the game. The player must adopt the identity and play style of the good Templar aspect of the Templar narrative of the knight.

Although the opportunity for customization is limited in The First Templar, the PC game The Secret World provides a flexible mode for customization of character costume. Unlike the previous computer games discussed, The Secret World is a massively multiplayer online game that incorporates the Templars as a joinable faction for the players to select. The Secret World is themed around conspiracy theories, both historical and modern, where players enter the secret world within ours to fight against supernatural forces for the fate of the Earth. In an interview for senior producer Ragnar Tornquist explains that for the game they aimed:

to make a world that feels exactly like our world, but with a dark twist to it. It’s important for us that players are drawn into the reality of our setting, in order to believe in the story and the characters, and to make the more fantastical and horrific elements more solid and believable [Gibson, 2012].

The Secret World did not share the same success as Assassin’s Creed upon release as the only sales of the game were disappointing: “The game sold only 200,000 copies since its June 29th launch, despite more than half a million players having signed up for the beta” (North, August 2012). The article for also states that because of the poor performance “the company will be cutting costs and staff. Games industry says that they saw a loss of $49 million, compared to $3 million the previous year.” The game found greater success later that year by ditching the monthly subscription fee and making the game a ­one-off purchase. In an article posted on on January 12, 2013, it explained that since the change of approach, “Funcom noted The Secret World’s activity levels rose 400 per cent as a result of the model change” (Petitte, 2013).

In The Secret World, players of the game can fully customize their digital avatar, including the physical appearance as well as clothes and physical abilities. Players can unlock various items of clothing throughout the game, and, if they are part of the Templar faction, players can dress their avatars in clothes that resemble Templar imagery without dressing themselves as a knight; thus the game’s character customization is a form of digital cosplay. Daisuke Okabe states, “Cosplay is an abbreviated term for costume play. The term originally referred to period dramas and historical plays…. The term has gained currency in Japan since the 1970s to describe the practise of dressing up as characters from anime, manga, and games” (2012, p. 225). However, when examining the concept of cosplay, Booth provides a more current definition of the activity, explaining, “Cosplay, as a fan practice that plays with fashion and media representation, emphasizes the fan’s body as a site of transformative power” (2015, pp. 151–152). The customization of the game’s avatar enables players to extenuate aspects of their digital character, instead of conventional cosplay when fans physically create and wear costumes; the cosplay aspect of this game is the transformation of the costume of the player’s digital avatar. This idea of digital cosplay provides players with the same transformative possibility which, Booth explains, “parodies this transformative potential of the body by erasing the fan identity from the fashion. Rather than ‘inhabit’ the fashion, as cosplayers might, these participants in the digital environment hail the aesthetic itself as emblematic of media play” (2015, p. 152). Booth’s notion that digital cosplay parodies the transformation is apparent in the ­Templar-style costume that players can construct in the game, creating a personal ­self-identifying digital avatar that the player can participate with while also benefiting from limited restrictions to the play.

To put into context the concept of digital cosplay, Booth uses as a case study the outfits designed digitally by users on the ­now-defunct website Polyvore. The website was a fashion database that allowed users to create their looks from the database and showcase where they could be ordered. An example Booth analyzes is the image of the digital cosplay uploaded by gapech97 that uses the fashion database to recreate outfits inspired by the film The Breakfast Club (Hughes, 1985). Booth explains, “different outfits for each of the film’s main characters emphasize the way gapeach97 imagines the character, but little is revealed of the person or of the underlying film” (2015, p. 152). All we can ascertain from the image is what clothes the user identifies with that film as he later identifies: “For digital cosplayers, the practices engendered by the website may have less to do with the media text than with the fashion collected from around the web” (2005, p. 152). The uploaders level of interest in The Breakfast Club text may not be evident in Booth’s example, but an outfit uploaded to Polyvore by catherinefox9 for a The Secret World Templar outfit alongside an image of a female Templar character demonstrates not only an interest in the fashion but also in the game text itself. The uploader also states:

My new obsession is The Secret World, the only MMO that I’ve enjoyed for more than a day. The Templar are my faction, and this outfit is inspired by them. The Templar are a unique blend of class and badassery [sic], and I tried to embody that here with touches of gold with black and buckles [catherinefox9, 2015].

The user states that they are a fan of the game and have used the website to create a reflection of the game’s character. Booth defines this as “textual nostalgia—without the identifying text, it would be hard to identify this outfit as representative” (2015, p. 155). A similar relationship occurs with the customization of character clothes in The Secret Templar as players cannot dress up as medieval Knights Templar but as ­modern-day equivalents, and while the costume is inspired by the Knights Templar, they would be hard to identify as such without the knowledge of the character being in that faction.

The Secret World allows the players to unlock specific outfits if they collect a specific number of abilities. These collections of abilities are called “decks,” and once completed the player unlocks a costume that encompasses those specific abilities. This concept of deckbuilding and related costume customization is similar to Jen Gunnels’s notion of cosplay identity cited by Duffett: “aspects of the character are specifically tied to donning the costume. He may not believe that he carries specific aspects of character identity over into everyday life, yet they are available when in costume” (2013, p. 189). The digital cosplay of The Secret World ties specific abilities to the character’s costume, which then enables players to participate with the game and experience what would be impossible outside the digital world. The deckbuilding in The Secret World offers players the chance to tailor their character to specific abilities, but they are also limited in their style of play due to each deck requiring specific weapon choices. For example, if a player chooses to build a paladin deck for their Templar character, then they must be proficient in swords and pistols as the paladin abilities can only be used by these choices of weapons. It is in this way that the game’s rules control how the players play the game. Although there is the appearance of customization of character, if the player wishes to unlock a specific character type and represent them through costume, then they must conform to the established character requirements.

The digital cosplay of The Secret World includes aspects as outlined in Booth’s study of Polyvore, which he defines as being “less fannish and more fashion because it attempts to counter the pathologization of Polyvore’s polysemy” (2015, p. 152) but also influences how the player’s costume influences how they play the game. This notion is comparable to Lamerichs’s thought that in cosplay “the values or features of a character are projected onto the player by the spectators and him or herself” (Brownie & Graydon, 2016, p. 110). Not only must the player’s digital avatar conform to a particular playstyle, but when interacting with other players, that deck type will be expected to perform a specific task role in the gaming group. For example, a player using the paladin deck would be a “damage dealer,” and a player using the Crusader deck would have the role of “debuffing.”

Digital cosplay in The Secret World can affect the play experience for the player through the use of costume to define which deck they are using, which ties the notion of performance into participating with the game, an aspect that Booth observes within digital cosplay. Booth states, “The body is less crucial in digital cosplay, and the performativity that digital cosplay enables becomes less an aspect of the fan and more an aspect of the clothes. As a form of media play, then, digital cosplay hinges on both the novel potential of cosplay and the nostalgic element of pastiche” (2015, p. 164). Booth’s notion concerning the Polyvore website users’ capacity to transform consumable products to create new interpretations of character costume is not only apparent in the way catherinefox9 creates a wardrobe for her The Secret World character on Polyvore but the way players are able to purchase clothes ­in-game to dress their identity and not represent the traditional Templar costume. In resemblance to Booth’s example for the creation of Loki, the player can create “a novel version of the character that simultaneously emulates … color, style, and personality” (2015, p. 155) but of a ­modern-day fantastical Templar dress that combines the familiar traits of the cross and colors white and red with current fashion to create a parody of the Templar iconography synonymous with the Templar narrative of the knight.

Cosplay is about the physical transformation of the fan’s identity and incorporates fan performance to embody the character of play. Booth states that there is a “muted sense of performance” within digital cosplay but notes that it “represents the power of the fan to create meaning out of the human experience of online shopping” (2015, p. 163). However, despite the customization within The Secret World, the player’s ability to play is limited by the game’s association of costume and roles similar to the use of the traditional Templar dress associated with the good and bad Templar within the film and game texts explored. The digital performance is limited as players must abide by the rules of the game and can only access specific costumes through an associated playing style. In using digital cosplay, players can mirror the performance transformation of physical cosplay through the appearance of their video game avatar. In doing so, they would further embed the Templar narrative in popular culture via personalizing the Templar iconography in their individual Templar character.

Although digital cosplay enables players to tailor their character to adhere to their perception of the Templar phenomenon, they are still bound by the limits of the game. As in The Secret World players must adhere to the traditional playing style associated with their created costume that limits the player’s control when participating with the Templar narrative in a digital environment. The limitations of costume customization are factored within the digital limits of the game in the same way as the rules of the computer game influence the player’s interaction with the digital world. Although performance cosplay within the digital space allows the player to ­self-identify with the digital avatar, the player cannot truly kinetically participate with the fantastical Templar world as their level of interaction is encompassed by the limits of the game’s fixed narrative and the ­pre-established conventions of the Templar narrative. However, the personalization of Templar iconography enables a greater sense of immersion for the player and also enables the Templar narrative to be further evolved by the player’s creation of a new Templar character by using archetypal Templar imagery.

Performance Through Fan Film

Through the medium of computer games, players can be a Templar in a digital world; however, that experience is hindered as the game compels the player to adhere to the limits and boundaries of the game. Even games with the ­sandbox-style gameplay, such as Assassin’s Creed, control and influence how the player plays and interacts with the digital avatar. Although players can experience the thematic Templar narrative of the knight in a medieval setting, it is controlled by the limits of the digital creation and the direction of the game’s narrative. The relationship between customer and producer can be understood from a hierarchal perspective, which Abercrombie and Longhurst argue, “present a ‘continuum’ of audience experiences and identities, ranging from the ‘consumer’ at one end, to the ‘petty producer’ at the other end of the scale” (Hills, 2002, p. 29). It is the customer end of the hierarchal scale that this section will address, examining how ­fan-generated content can further evolve and extend the Templar phenomenon in popular culture, incorporating the existing Templar archetypes of the narrative.

When examining the relationship of fans with products, it is imperative to acknowledge the perception of this hierarchal chain as representative of subject authority, as it can propose a diminishing of the validity of fans’ expertise. Hills is critical of the hierarchal perception of fandom, writing, “This view of the consumer is an essentially negative one: consumers lack the developed forms of expertise and knowledge that fans, enthusiast and cultists all possess in ­ever-increasing and ­ever-more-specialised forms” (2002, p. 29). Despite the implications of fans lacking the authenticity of the text producers within the concept of fandom, Hills highlights the active and less passive perspective that Jenkins sees of the relationship between fans and texts. Hills cites Jenkins, writing that he has addressed television fan culture “through what he concedes is a ‘­counter-intuitive’ lens, beginning from the position that ‘[m]edia fans are consumers who also produce, readers who also write, spectators who also participate” (2002, p. 30). This approach to perceiving fan activity moves away from the idea of the passive consumer and fans actively engaging and producing their own content. This act of fan activity can also demonstrate a place within a hierarchal relationship with the new text conveying a sense of authenticity to the original due to the inclusion of basic tropes and themes known, due to their fan knowledge. The fan texts, perceived as authentic, will further evolve the Templar narrative in popular culture as they will be included as ­pre-established tropes but a unique take on the Templar fiction.

The active relationship fans have with the object of their fandom involves fans creating their own texts from fan fiction, art and fan film that can be a new take on the text or a homage to the original. To define this creative interaction, Booth highlights Fiske’s concept of a “Producerly” text; “with producerly texts, viewers can ‘construct narratives,’ produce their own meanings and find their own values, but can still appreciate the construction of the text, the artificially created narrative” (2010, p. 36). It is this idea of participation with the Templar narrative that this chapter proposes will further cement and evolve the Templar phenomenon within popular culture. The chapter has explored the transmedia properties of the Templar narrative within the participatory engagement of consumable computer games, proposing how the act of play further embeds the connotative Templar within popular culture, despite the limitations of the game mechanics. This section examines the other end of Abercrombie and Longhurst’s scale to look at how the Templar narrative of the knight is embedded further and evolved through the fan’s creation of new Templar texts.

Fan fiction allows fans to actively participate within the world of their fandom, which Lancaster suggests is the closest fans can get to entering the reality of the fictional space. Lancaster explains, “If fans can’t live in the imaginary fantasy, they can at least participate in the culture of creation. By writing fan fiction and publishing web pages, fans immerse themselves in the Babylon 5 universe” (2001, p. 132). This level of participation, suggested by Lancaster, is higher than that of the participation fans can have with ­role-playing games and computer games since these readily available consumables all come with rules and restrictions. Fans who perform in ­role-playing games are restricted by adherence to established rules, which Lancaster explains, writing, “players buy a rulebook, which describes how participants play the game. Without the rules there can be no performance” (2001, p. 38). Computer games also restrict limitation regarding the player’s adherence to a preexisting digital landscape, be it ­sandbox-style or ­level-based. To define fan participation through creation, Lancaster cites Jenkins, writing, fandom “becomes a participatory culture which transforms the experience of media consumption into the production of new texts, indeed of a new culture and a new community” (2001, p. 132). Although the production of fan texts enables less restriction on participation, Lancaster argues that there are still restrictions imposed upon fan texts. He argues, “performances occurring within fandom … rely on the circulation of the performance’s originating production. Only by relying on the representation of the original … can fans ‘play’ with it: reperform it and make it into a new kind of performance” (2001, p. 133). Lancaster’s notion of restriction in fan texts implies that Templar fan fiction should conform to the ­pre-established conventions of the Templar phenomenon in popular culture because without these archetypes the new text would lack the authenticity of the phenomenon that the fan text is attempting to adapt. Although the fan text need adhere to the ubiquitous archetype and iconography, that does not mean the fan text need copy the original and that this fan creation can further evolve the Templar narrative by such divergence. The divergence by fan fiction is a factor addressed by Coppa, who suggests that fan fiction is not restrained by a necessity to represent the original. Coppa states:

The existence of fan fiction postulates that characters are able to “walk” not only from one artwork into another, but from one genre into another; fan fiction articulates that characters are neither constructed or owned, but have, to use Schechner’s phrase, a life of their own not dependent on any original “truth” or “source” [2006, p. 230].

Coppa here suggests that fan fiction is about breaking away from the conventions of the original and exploring different themes with the new text. She states, “decontextualizing of behaviour echoes the appropriation and use of existing characters in most fan fiction; in fact, one could define fan fiction as a textual attempt to make certain characters ‘perform’ according to different behaviour strips” (2006, p. 230). The notion of reshaping behavior is shared by Lancaster, who cites from Schechner, “Restored behaviour is living behaviour treated as a film director treats a strip of film. These strips of behaviour can be rearranged or reconstructed; they are independent of the casual systems that brought them into existence” (2001, p. 146). The notion of established behaviors being rearranged indicates how fan fiction further embeds the ubiquitous Templar in popular culture by reaffirming the Templar narrative. It assists in the Templar phenomenon’s continual evolvement due to a new direction or focus that these texts have with the Templar narrative. The consumable texts inspire the fan producers who, Lancaster explains, “become ­high-tech nomads, poaching images and texts as a means to perform in their favourite fantasy universe. The spectator becomes the performer” (2001, p. 151). It is from the perspective of what the fan producers poach and reimagine within their new Templar film texts that this section explores, expressly, how the reoccurring Templar narrative of the knight is incorporated into fan film and how the ­pre-established conventions of the Templar narrative influence the new ­fan-produced Templar text.

Will Brooker describes fan films as “simply a branch of fan fiction and has a very similar relationship to the primary texts: a creative departure that stays within a recognisable framework, an experiment that sticks to acceptable rules, a filling in of gaps within the official narrative” (2002, p. 173). Brooker explains that there are different types of fan film, giving the example that (The “The TFN theater site organises its offerings to some extent distinguishing ‘Animation’ from ‘short film,’ ‘music video,’ ‘coming soon’—which indicates a trailer, rather than the full movie and FX project” (2002, p. 178). These types of fan productions are towards the professional end of Abercrombie and Longhurst’s scale of fandom in that fan film requires technical ability and often the support of a production team. This type of ­high-tech fan fiction is analyzed to understand how the conventions of the Templar narrative transfer to a fan production, where the consumer can produce their own inclusion to the Templar phenomenon in popular culture.

Fan films came about in a form that Coppa describes as a “vid or a songvid” (2008, p. 1). She explains, “Vidding is a form of grassroots filmmaking in which clips from television shows and movies are set to music” (2008, p. 1). Jenkins states these types of fan film “are edited together from found footage drawn from film or television shows and set to pop music” (2006, p. 155). Coppa links the origin of “vidding” to how “­Second-wave feminism had popularized ideas of female independence and sexual subjectivity, priming woman to take control of the camera” (2008, p. 3) and argues, “Vidders locate the origin of this distinctive female filmmaking practice within Star Trek fandom” (2008, p. 3). Coppa notes, “To be a vidder is to work to reunite the disembodied voice and the desiring body, and to embark on this project is to be part of a distinctive and important tradition of female art” (2008, p. 20). Jenkins informs, “Though the gender lines are starting to blur in recent years, the overwhelming majority of fan parody is produced by men, while ‘fan fiction’ is almost entirely produced by women. In the female fan community, fans have long produced ‘song videos’” (2006, p. 155). There are many examples of vidding using clips from Templar film texts on YouTube; for example, Arn: The Knight Templar—Only One was uploaded by MrsPygmyPuff20 and focused on the tragedy of Arn and Cecilia’s separation by war. It also ends on a happy note as Arn isn’t mortally wounded during the film’s climactic battle. The songvid gives Cecilia equal screen time to Arn, an approach not shared by the feature film, which emphasizes more on the good Templar aspect of the Templar narrative, focusing on Arn’s struggles in the Holy Land. A songvid uploaded by teresatesssa called Eva Green—Sibylla—Blue eyes uses clips from Kingdom of Heaven to tell the story from Sibylla (played by Eva Green), the Queen of Jerusalem’s perspective, often depicting her from a position of strength, looking down at Balian and Guy from horseback or the battlements. This songvid breaks away from the film’s theme of the good knight versus the bad knight, with Sibylla merely a political pawn, and instead depicts her as a queen who is caught up in a love triangle between two knights. Coppa states, “a high percentage of vids are still engaged in fleshing out marginalized female perspectives” (2008, p. 20). This notion is mirrored in the Kingdom of Heaven songvid but also can be seen in the Arn: The Knight Templar song, where Cecilia’s character is given equal exploration to Arn.

Fan film can produce a more ambitious product but will require significant resources. Brooker cites from an email from Star Wars fan Nathen Butler; explaining the difficulties of fan production, he says, “unless you have a lot of backing and a great crew, your scope is limited by what you can or cannot do on film and post production” (2002, p. 174). The authenticity of the product, especially one set in an iconic medieval period, will require a certain amount of plausibility in the costume and set design, which will require a significant budget to create a new Templar narrative text. The short film Predator: Dark Ages (2015), written and directed by James Bushe, is almost half an hour long and pitches the good Knights Templar in a battle against the alien hunter from the Predator franchise. The film aimed for high production value and was subsidized using crowdfunding website Kickstarter, which was set up by Simon Rowling in June 2014. The ambitious producers were hoping to raise between £10,000 and £20,000 but added, “£5000 is our ­back-up, to make an epic extended trailer or micro short film!” (Rowling, 2014). The project was able to raise £5,525 from Kickstarter, and according to an interview Bushe gave to on June 2015, “originally if we got 5K (our minimum we were going to shoot a high concept trailer)” (Hicks), but the project ended up being a short ­25-minute film. Bushe explained that the short film was only possible, as after “the campaign finished, one of our backers, Tim Clayton, asked us what we needed to at least shoot a version of the short. We told him and he offered to come on board as Exec producer and basically gave us another 7–8K to film it” (Hicks, 2015).

The Kickstarter page describes the film as a “Predator fan film set in the Dark Ages” (Rowling, 2014), which is contradictory as the short film focuses heavily on the Knights Templar and includes established tropes from the Templar warrior monk archetype. Further contrast to Rowling’s statement on the Kickstarter page is a short synopsis, stating, “Templar Knights are put to the ultimate challenge, to hunt The Predator. Testing not only their skills as fighters but also their faith” (, although the title states a prominence for the role of the Predator, the synopsis focuses more on the Templars, referencing their dual identity of warrior monks. The Kickstarter page organizes its pledge amounts into an ascending numerical value from £5 up to £1,000 but also names them with stereotypical medievalist titles such as “Page Boy,” “Archer” and “Knight’s Templar.” These different pledge levels all reward the backer with different rewards and privileges; these range from “A special Thank You [sic] shout out on Twitter and Facebook!” to “An Executive producer Credit. Plus all downloads and an invite to production meetings.” For the latter privilege, you would need to pledge £1,000, which one backer did; £500 is needed to achieve the pledge level “Knight’s Templar” and be gifted “A Templar Knight’s helmet, signed (if preferred) by cast and crew” (Rowling, 2014). It is unclear what the Templar Knight’s helmet offered looks like as there is no photo included, but it is likely to be a great helm, which is the type of helmet worn by the Templar knight protagonist in the film. This reward, as well as the emphasis of popular medievalist traits to secure funding and alongside its ­Templar-heavy synopsis, demonstrates that this film is also aimed at Knights Templar fans. These Templar traits suggest that the film is not only a Predator fan film as page creator Rowling suggests. If the funding requested was aimed solely at Predator fans, then surely the themes around pledge levels would have recognized this with ­Predator-type titles instead of a clear focus on ­Templar-associated conventions. This crowdfunded film is a new Templar text that further evolves the Templar narrative by repurposing Templar archetypes for a science fiction horror setting.

Bushe stated that he “never had any plans originally to make a Predator fan film. I have been a huge Predator fan since I first saw it when I was 10” (Hicks, 2015). Bushe had ambitions of making a Predator major motion picture, stating, “I already had this medieval Predator idea in the back of my head, waiting to take to Hollywood” (Hicks 2015), but he decided to move forward with his vision when he “realised this probably wouldn’t happen and I discovered Phillip Lane and his Predator costume I decided maybe a fan made trailer of my film idea would at least get it out there” (Hicks, 2015). In an interview for in November 2015, Bushe explained, “I also have a big love of medieval/period films like Braveheart and Kingdom of Heaven etc” (CD). Bushe’s influence from Kingdom of Heaven can be seen from the original plans for the film, as Bushe had initially planned to set the film in Jerusalem. Bushe stated that the initial idea of Jerusalem “was the perfect setting we really wanted, for the Crusades War and of course the extreme heat. But with our small budget it just wasn’t possible” (Hicks, 2015). Instead of setting this Templar project in the Holy Land as recent Templar game texts have, the film is set in the English countryside, which is not due to the creative team not knowing the conventional setting for a medieval Knights Templar story but a reflection of the challenges fan filmmakers face when creating their new text.

Filmmakers often use ambitious fan films as a way of demonstrating their skill, according to Brooker, who states, “Amateur filmmakers increasingly see their projects as calling cards and potential springboards to careers in the movie industry” (2002, p. 175); a ­well-executed film like Predator: Dark Ages would act well as a showcase for the filmmaker’s skills. According to its YouTube page, the short film has over 1,000,000 views and was the winner of “best fan film” at the ­Tri-Cities International Film Festival. Bushe demonstrates his vision for the progression of the project when he states, “A lot of people have said they would love to see a different era of history, which would make for a great miniseries or something. But time and funding is the main problem we would face. Unless Fox got involved of course” (Hicks, 2015). Like Brooker’s notion, Bushe’s aspirations move beyond creating a fan film but of a collaboration with mainstream media and projection above the idea of a petty producer of fandom texts. Bushe’s professional credits are noted when introduced in the interview, with Hicks introducing him, stating, “James is a ­multi-award winning filmmaker, having written, produced and directed a number of short films that have featured in various film festivals…. He is also one of the founders of Fascination Pictures” (2015). The Fascination Pictures website showcases several short films that they have produced, which include a trailer for a planned film called Vatican Knights. In a trailer uploaded to YouTube in 2008 to the Fascination Pictures account called Vatican Knights (VK) trailer, the synopsis states the film is “about a group of elite soldiers that have to battle a horde of the undead.” The trailer informs that James Bushe directs the film, and despite being set in modern times incorporates a similar theme to Bushe’s Predator: Dark Ages in that the focus is on a group of knights battling monsters.

IMDb states that VK was a ­15-minute short film with an estimated budget of £1,300 but is unclear whether a finished film was released as only the trailer is available online. However, the trailer is an early indication of Bushe’s intention of incorporating medieval and horror themes together. Aside from including an elite knightly order with close links to the Vatican, it is unclear what other conventions of the Templar narrative Bushe included in the film. A more detailed analysis of Predator: Dark Ages is possible due to the successful fundraising and higher profile for the production. However, Bushe does state his interest in “Medieval/period films like Braveheart and Kingdom of Heaven etc” (CD, 2015); Predator: Dark Ages appears to draw inspiration from the Templar film text Ironclad, despite Bushe making no mention of the film’s influence on his own Templar film.

Bushe’s film incorporates the good Templar as its protagonist, but instead of using the good Templar aspect of the Templar narrative as inspiration, it appears that Bushe has lifted the character straight from Jonathan English’s Ironclad. The apparent similarities start with the hero Templar looking very similar to that of James Purfoy’s Thomas Marshall, while Bushe’s good Templar is called Marshall Thomas and identically to Purfoy’s character he is also referred to as “Marshall” throughout the film. The inclusion of Purfoy’s Marshall coincides with Coppa’s notion, “fan fiction articulates that characters are neither constructed or owned” (2006, p. 230). Although Bushe does not openly state his influence from English’s Templar film, knowing his “love” for Kingdom of Heaven and his previous work depicting of a knightly order similar to the Templars suggest at the very least he has an awareness of the Ironclad film. The similarity was questioned in a comment on the Predator: Dark Ages YouTube page by Anthony Pinon (2016), who wrote, “is this supposed to be Marshall Thomas from Ironclad?”

Further similarities are apparent during an early scene in Bushe’s film, in the scene which suggests that Marshall Thomas will leave the Order after this mission, and the Templar priest questions this, saying, “I hear you are to leave the Order after this mission.” He responds with “Your grace my men have seen too much too much death; some deserved, some not.” The priest then says, “Many return from defending our faith only to find themselves questioning it” (Bushe, 2015). This dialogue scene mirrors that of an early scene between Ironclad’s Marshall and a priest, where the priest says, “I know the Templars placed a heavy burden on you, I know you are deeply scarred. The cross on your tunic is a symbol of your faith in God’s will, you should be full of the torment it now bears upon you. When you arrive at Canterbury, I am requesting your leave from the Order of the Knights Templar.” And when Marshall meets with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop addresses this absence, stating, “Some men have returned from defending our faith, only to find themselves questioning it” (English, 2011). Although not directly indicated by the director, the line of the priest in Predator: Dark Ages and that part of the story are lifted directly from Ironclad. This dialogue, along with the hero’s look and name, indicates that not only has the Templar hero aspect been incorporated into the fan production of Predator: Dark Ages, but the film suggests an influence of James Purefoy’s portrayal of the Templar hero character.

In incorporating what is arguably a copy of the good Templar aspect from Ironclad within his fan film, Bushe is staking his claim of ownership of Purfoy’s character in his ­low-budget Templar text. The notion of ownership of popular fictional characters is addressed by Booth, who cites Jenkins when explaining, “once television characters enter into a broader circulation, intrude into our living rooms, pervade the fabric of our society, they belong to their audiences and not simply to the artists who originated them” (2010, p. 36). In taking ownership of another’s original content, using Babylon 5 as an example, Lancaster defines the fan producer as “Performing as textual nomads staking individual authorial claims, fans poach the primary text of Babylon 5 in order to enter its universe” (2001, p. 134). Lancaster explains that the performance is acted through “poaching images and texts as a means to perform” (2001, p. 151), and it is through the poaching that “the spectator becomes the performer” (2001, p. 151).

Bushe however, does not only take ownership of the conventions of the Templar aspect depicted in Ironclad, but he also incorporates elements from the villainous Templar aspect, which coincides with Coppa’s notion that fan fiction is to “make certain characters ‘perform’ according to different behavioural strips” (2006, p. 230). Bushe’s Templar hero incorporates the racism and religious prejudices associated with the villainous Templars featured in Ivanhoe and Kingdom of Heaven. To defeat the predator, Templar Marshall must work with Sied, a Saracen. When introduced to Sied, Marshall is quick to protest his involvement, stating, “What help could a Saracen give me?” He then adds “Brother, he cannot be trusted, he is a savage; they all are” (Bushe, 2015). In the heated confrontation, Marshall is stopped from physically attacking Sied. This attitude of prejudice is depicted in the villainous Templar characters of Guy de Lusignan and de ­Bois-Guilbert but has not been associated with the hero Templar. For example, when Arn meets Saladin, the two are respectful of each other and do not focus on racial or religious difference. In the closing scene of Predator: Dark Ages, Marshall and Sied have a newfound respect for one another by battling the predator. Marshall shows his gratitude by saying, “Thank you for coming back,” to which Sied replies, “Where would be my honour if I did not” (Bushe, 2015). Bushe has used the polar opposite Templar traits of the thematic Templar narrative of the knight to create a story arc for his Templar hero, thus further adding to the Templar narrative by merging parts of the two aspects to create his own version of the Templar hero knight. It is through Bushe’s act of performance with the Templar texts that Bushe can visit that medieval world and is able to incorporate the good Templar aspect of the narrative text and then further expand the Templar conventions in popular culture through his Templar hero’s behavior, which amalgamates different aspects of the Templar narrative.

Bushe’s film is a variation from the two aspects of the knight narrative by including aesthetics from the bad Templar aspect. Within his Templar hero, he demonstrates how the perception of the Templars has further evolved in popular culture through the malleability of the contradictory Templar narrative aspects. Bushe’s merging of the two aspects of the knight narrative coincides with what Coppa perceives as the attractiveness of creating fan fiction, as it enables making “certain characters ‘perform’ according to different behaviour strips … or able to walk out of one story and into another” (2006, p. 230). Fan fiction showcases the fan producers’ desire to state their claim of ownership and gain some authority over the myth by diverging from the established associated conventions, a divergence that Bushe takes in his version of the good Templar aspect, which is a Templar protagonist that incorporates characteristics associated with the bad knight Templar aspect. Bushe’s take on the Templar hero demonstrates the evolvement of the Templar narrative, which runs parallel to the changes made by Ubisoft to the Templar villain archetype in the Assassin Creed franchise, which shows how the Templar narrative further expands the Templar phenomenon within popular culture.


The reoccurring thematic Templar narrative traverses multiple media formats and forms of consumption due to the thematic narrative’s malleable quality. The chapter has identified the multitude of Templar texts as paratexts to approach the Templar narrative’s transmedia qualities of my Templar urtext concept. Although the texts exist on their own, they collectively incorporate the ­pre-established aspects of the warrior monk archetype and expand on the perception of the Knights Templar in popular culture. For producers of new Templar texts, the Templar narrative provides identifiable tropes and iconography established within popular culture. However, due to contradictory perceptions, the Templar narrative gives the producers the flexibility to expand the thematic narrative within new media formats. These developments still coincide with the popular perceptions of the Templars and expand the Templar urtext.

The globally successful computer game, Assassin’s Creed, provides this study with the most significant example of how the Templar narrative of the knight expanded through transmedia forms into a participatory format. The game’s producers drew from the Templar narrative of the knight to define the game’s villains by using traits of the villainous Templar aspect depicted in Ivanhoe and Kingdom of Heaven. In this alternative media, the producers evolved essential traits for the digital Templar villain to meet the game’s desired perspective of neutrality, meaning the Templar were neither Crusader nor Saracen but a diverse atheist organization. The malleability of the Templar narrative enables the producers to include aspects of the warrior monk archetype that suited their project’s requirements but further expanded the perception of the Templar by depicting the Christian warrior monks as diverse atheists. This change to the archetype further embeds the established Templar perceptions in popular culture, and due to the game’s popularity, it associates the historical order with a new image of the Templar archetype.

Although The First Templar is a far less successful computer game compared to the Assassin’s Creed juggernaut, the game holds significance as an example of how, as a participatory media format, Assassin’s Creed further embed their game’s perception of the Templar phenomenon in popular culture. From examining the message boards of promotional video trailers for The First Templar on YouTube, the accusations of copying from Assassin’s Creed fans was evident as the incorporation of the Templar narrative has made the game’s villainous Templar synonymous with digital gaming. Despite the claims of intentional copying, The First Templar focused on the good Templar, choosing to allow the player to control a Templar hero protagonist. Many of Assassin’s Creed fans disliked this as they perceived the digital Templar as a villain, demonstrating how the Templar narrative has evolved across media formats. Although one game was ultimately far more popular than the other, the thematic Templar narrative is seen in the way in which games that showed apparent similarities provided polar opposite playable characters.

The ­Templar-themed computer games offer a more immersive experience than literature and film as the gamer can participate with the digital recreation of the Templar historical setting. In participating with the ­Templar-themed text players were able to interact with the Templar narrative through the act of play although not able to divert from the designed game narrative as the game’s rules, such as the digital constraints and the game’s adherence to the Templar narrative, prevent such divergence. The game’s adherence to the Templar narrative conventions ensures that a degree of passivity is retained albeit with the possibility to experience it at the player’s leisure. The producers of The First Templar incorporated the religious aspects of the warrior monk archetype by creating “prayer” as the Templar protagonist’s healing ability. The limitations of participating with Assassin’s Creed is shown through the game’s use of the villainous Templar’s unjustified violence to highlight the virtuousness of the Assassins.

Although the computer games mentioned above enable the exploration of a digital world, it is limited due to the constraints of the game’s rules and adherence to the ­pre-established Templar conventions. The exploration falls short of players identifying with a Templar due to the necessity of playing a predetermined character devised by the game’s producer. However, this gap in the experience is bridged in the computer game The Secret World, which offers players the ability to practice digital cosplay with the mechanization for a level amount of customization. Digital cosplay enables the player to perform digitally as their avatar. Although this is limited to the game’s prerequisite playing style of needing to play to unlock character costume, the costumes once obtained allow the player to recreate the essence of the archetypal Templar costume in a neomedieval stylized sense. The digital cosplay possibilities in The Secret World might not allow the player to fully shape the identity of their digital avatar but will allow players to echo the performance quality of cosplay in enabling players to create different and unique depictions of their Templar characters.

While The Secret World enables greater participation with the Templar narrative through a digital avatar, the interaction is regulated by the rules of both the digital world and the ­pre-established conventions of the Templar urtext. The migration of the Templar phenomenon to computer games has further evolved the Templar narrative through reworkings of the established aspects of the knight narrative. Digital cosplay incorporates elements of performance which enable the player to take on the role of their digital avatar and personally identify with the Templar narrative, although the digital constraints of the game limit the performance within the thematic narrative.

Participation with the Templar narrative demonstrates how the ­pre-established Templar archetype has been further embedded in popular culture but also further evolved to suit the mechanisms of the digital medium. The symbolic transformative qualities of performance demonstrate how the Templar narrative can be further evolved through altering the iconography in digital cosplay and in a greater sense through the creation of ­user-generated content. This ­Templar-themed generated content enables the ­pre-established traits to be revisited and the narrative altered from the new perspective to the ­Templar-themed text. The malleability of the Templar narrative is demonstrated by further evolution of the narrative by ­user-generated content, be it reediting of themes in a Templar film text via songvids or a reworking of Templar narrative aspects in a crowdfunded film. The fan film Predator: Dark Ages, was a crossover of the director’s genre interests and allowed the fan film producer the freedom to explore different aspects of the Templar character by merging traits of both the good knight and the bad knight. The fan producer utilized established aspects and iconography of the Templar narrative of the knight to situate the film in the Templar urtext but also further expand the perceptions of the Knights Templar in popular culture.

The two aspects of the thematic Templar narrative of the knight originated within literature and then embedded further in popular culture through film, but through participatory mediums such as computer games and ­user-generated content, these aspects have evolved further still. The case studies examined demonstrate how the malleability of the Templar archetype broadens through performance and play—further expanding my concept of the Templar urtext.

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