I’m back! The move went well, and the study awaits only one piece of furniture to make it complete. While unpacking the box after box after box of books that make my writing space what it is, I had to come up with a shelving scheme; I didn’t do an amazing job in the end, but it sparked a conversation with a friend about the Aztecs.
(I’m aware of the problems surrounding ‘Aztec’ as a term, but you know what I’m talking about; the Nahuatl-speaking peoples of the Triple Alliance.)
Now, I am not an expert on any Mesoamerican civilisation, but the Aztecs are an odd case. People seem to lump them in in a broader category of “ancient civilisations,” and suggest that they’re this very mysterious culture full of ancient wisdom and blah de blah.
I was reminded of this when looking at a trailer for the upcoming Street Fighter V:
So this is Necalli, one of the new characters in the game. As you can see, he’s portrayed as a sort of bestial, caveman type with lots of brute strength and claw-like slashes (his series of slashing attacks looks a lot like the way Wolverine fights in the Marvel vs Capcom games). He doesn’t talk much, just saying things like Devour!, and it’s strongly implied that he eats people.
The name “Necalli” is a Nahuatl word, at least according to baby-naming sites, and means “battle,” so it seems appropriate. The Street Fighter wiki claims that his design is based on the god Huitzilopochtli, although I guess I’m not sure why other than that he has a serpent design on his loincloth. Oddly, some fans seem convinced that Necalli is meant to be Maori, I suppose because he has facial tattoos and was released at the same time as the New Zealand stage. He doesn’t look Maori to me, but then he doesn’t look very Mexican either, so.
The promo material uses a lot of terms like “wild” and “savage,” and there’s lots of stuff about “primal” this and “feral” that. His character screen describes him as an “ancient warrior.”
I guess this is just an instance of the recurring theme “people think everything happened at the same time everywhere around the world.”
For those of you confused about what’s bothering me, the Aztecs are not an ancient culture. I mean not remotely. The Aztec empire flourished in the mid-to-late middle ages and fell in the early 16th century. Is it the pyramids? Is that it?
I’m not saying that video games have a responsibility to educate people about history, even if this one did explicitly state that Necalli was an Aztec character. I think Street Fighter has always been an impressionistic game, with characters based on the association of ideas. I just think it’s interesting that this culture and this character appeared to be associated in the creators’ minds; it shows how widespread this perception of Aztec civilisation is.