Ghosts of Tsushima: Chivalry in Combat- The Modernist Son

Image Credit: Push Square


The 2020 video game epic Ghosts of Tsushima published by Sucker Punch (also the name behind the Infamous franchise) creates a dynamic world, which brings video game players to the time of Feudal Japan. I have previously mentioned that the piece on medieval plague doctors would be the final entry under the “middle ages” articles. However, that idea clearly did not last long. Despite the “middle” period in England and Japan being quite different from one another, there were still some shared characteristics such as nobility and chivalry. In terms of chivalry itself, this refers to the act of respecting other nobles, respecting loved ones, honouring the knight’s code (whatever that really means), and better yet displaying honour even when facing your greatest enemy. Needless to say, Respect was always pretty important. The existing notion of chivalry contributed to how life worked in the middle ages, and it dripped within all aspects of everyday events. For instance, it was a societal perception that men should respect and protect women at all cost. In turn, this refers to the chivalrous acts of knights and nobles. The following article will focus on the issue of chivalrous combat specifically, and how such real world values in the middle-ages worked its way into popular literature of the time (medieval romance) and even resurfaced within the video game epic, Ghosts of Tsushima.

Medieval Chivalry in Video Games:

The inspiration for writing this article came a few weeks ago, when I was watching gameplay of the 2020 epic Ghosts of Tsushima on YouTube, which is available on the Sony Playstation 4. Keeping that in mind, I do not own a Playstation 4. Instead, I bought an Xbox One in the early days of the console. While I was watching gameplay for this game, I noticed something right away. When the person playing the game and streaming it to YouTube was killed during the battle, the artificial intelligence for the enemy went out of its way to kill the player with honour. So, that is definitely chivalry. Here is what happened:

The player was defeated by the enemy A.I. and while the player was mortally wounded, the enemy slit the player's throat causing a "game over".

Okay, so the player was killed in the game. How is that chivalry? Well, this draws from the issue of honour during combat. The issue of respecting your opponent and defeating them with honour was not exclusive to romance narratives of the middle ages. Instead, the concept of chivalry and respect became an integral part of mundane life. For instance, a warrior should never hit an enemy while they are down. If a warrior were to kill their enemy in a blindsided attack, it defies honour and the code knights and warriors lived by. In terms of combat tournaments, if execution of an opponent was necessary, this would also be completed with honour such as slitting their throat or a quick blow to vulnerable areas such as the head. Keeping that in mind, let us return to the video game epic Ghosts of Tsushima. Something to consider is why the enemy slitting the player's throat is an act of chivalry. Nevertheless, the issue of a warrior quickly killing another warrior is a sign of respect. Despite significant differences, the concept of always respecting your opponent was an important part of combat in medieval Europe as well as Feudal Japan. Although it appears that one warrior's life is viewed as insignificant because they are killed quickly. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Drawing from the issue of chivalry, the ultimate act of respect in the middle ages was NOT allowing an opponent to suffer.

(c) The Modernist Son

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