4 Historical Eras That Need Video Games
3: The Rise of the Aztec Empire
Where: Mexico and Central America
When: 1428 C.E.
WARNING: Extremely Awesome Names Ahead.
It’s hard to believe, but in 1427, the Aztec, based in the city-state of Tenochtitlan, were a mere tributary to the far more powerful Azcapotzalco kingdom, at the time possibly the biggest military power in Mexico in hundreds of years. Alas, Maxtla, king of Azcapotzalco, stupidly picked a fight with the Aztec leader Chimalpopoca, eventually assassinating him. This inspired Chimalpopoca’s successor, Itzcoatl, to run out of f***’s to give about what the lords of Azcapotzalco thought about anything. He forged an alliance between Tenochtitlan and two other city states, Texcoco, and Tlacopan, and they soon made short work of Azcapotzalco. The Triple Alliance (as it is now known) quickly developed into the Aztec Empire, with Tenochtitlan as the new capital.
The architects of the new empire were Itzcoatl’s two nephews, Tlacaelel and Montezuma. Not only did the two boys help forge those crucial alliances, they served as Itzcoatl’s seconds in command. When he died in 1440, Montezuma ended up with a I next to his name when he was declared king, while Tlacaelel opted to be Monty’s brain trust, reforming the state religion and burning a lot of history books that failed to paint the new state in the best possible light. Together, they turned the Aztec empire into the nightmarish, human-sacrifice-obsessed warrior state the Spanish conquistadors encountered in 1521.
Incidentally, ‘Aztec’ is a modern word. The Aztecs called themselves Mexica; Aztec is a Nahuatl word meaning ‘people from Aztlan’, which was the Mexica people’s mythical homeland.
Why It Needs Video Games
Because every time we visit Mexico or the Caribbean, it’s either from the POV of pirates or conquistadors, or of explorers digging into SCARRRRRY abandoned temples where bad magical things involved with Human Sacrifice happen, with the descendants of the Mexica relegated to superstitious or conniving sidekicks. Mexica civilization was at least as interesting as the period that followed from its destruction, and their mythology, while terrifying, is incredibly cool. For instance, their obsession with human sacrifice? It’s because they believed it was necessary to prevent the end of the world. Even making war had a religious component, with the aim not to kill enemies but to gain prisoners, who would then be sacrificed willingly (they called these things ‘flower wars’). If you can’t mine this kind of thing for a game, you clearly don’t have an imagination.
And the game?
While the century of Aztec dominance of central Mexico has plenty worth exploiting, the rise to power part has the coolest stuff, not to mention the benefit of an empirically awesome protagonist in braniac and future minister of propaganda Tlacaelel. The obvious thing to do is make a sandbox shooter (arrower and sworder?) inspired heavily by Red Dead Redemption, and follow Tlacaelel’s journey from young, idealistic vassal to ruthless master of an entire culture. Bonus points issued for having the whole thing unfold as a frame tale, Dragon Age 2 style, from the POV of Montezuma 2 as he contemplates rumors of the mysterious bearded pale people from the east.
We’ll call it ‘Call of Quetzalcoatl’.