Wednesday 26 October 2016

Family Tree DNA and Assassin's Creed The Movie

Family Tree DNA has teamed up with 20th Century Fox to offer a special DNA testing package which will be promoted with the forthcoming action adventure film Assassin's Creed.

For the duration of the promotion it will be be be possible to purchase a special Assassin’s Creed DNA Testing Bundle for $89 which includes a Family Finder test, a Warrior Gene test and a one-month premium subscription to Findmypast.

There is a also a competition (what they have called a "sweepstakes") to win a trip for two to Las Vegas for an "Assassin’s Creed-themed adventure". The competition appears to be open worldwide but note that the prize only includes domestic flights in the US so if you were one of the lucky winners you would have to pay your own air fare to the US.

The film is released worldwide on 21st December but the tests are available with immediate effect and the competition has already started. Here's the promotion for the Assassin's Creed package.

The Warrior Gene is interesting because it's transmitted on the X-chromosome. At one time Family Tree DNA offered a standalone Warrior Gene test. Jobling et al comment on the Warrior Gene in their article In the blood; the myth and reality of genetic markers of identity (Ethnic and Racial Studies 2016 39(2): 142-161):
The enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) degrades a subset of neurotransmitters including serotonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine – molecules that transmit information from one neuron to another. Adjacent to the MAOA gene is a region of DNA that controls how much enzyme is produced, and a common variant of the length of this region (called 3R) leads to reduced production of enzyme compared to other common versions (Sabol, Hu, and Hamer 1998). The gene lies on the X chromosome, so males, who have only one X, show the simplest relationship between the version of the gene they carry and its behavioural consequences. Men carrying the 3R version (the ‘warrior gene’) are more likely to respond aggressively to maltreatment or stress (Caspi et al. 2002). Despite charging almost 100 dollars for the ‘warrior gene’ test, the testing company calls the association between gene variant and behaviour a ‘factoid’, and best used as a ‘cocktail conversation starter’. Nonetheless we might wonder if the results of the test have any influence on the behaviour of people who are tested; the possible influence of the 3R variant was used in 2009 as part of a successful criminal defence in the USA (Brooks-Crozier 2011), and made the difference between thirty-two years’ imprisonment and the death penalty.
See also this excellent article by Adam Rutherford for the New Statesman on Why we can't blame "warrior genes" for violent crimes. (Thanks to Ann Turner for alerting me to this article.)

23andMe and AncestryDNA are already advertising on TV and, as DNA testing goes mainstream, it's important that Family Tree DNA promote their products on mass media to keep up with the competition. So whatever you might think about the Warrior Gene test it's good news that Family Tree DNA are now advertising in cinemas and actively promoting the Family Finder test. This will help to familiarise people with the company name, and perhaps introduce a new demographic to DNA testing who might not otherwise have considered buying a test.

To learn more about the Assassin's Creed package and the competition visit:

You need to scroll right down to the bottom of the page to find the information about the competition.

Here is the official press release from Family Tree DNA and 20th Century Fox.
Family Tree DNA and 20th Century Fox Team Up for Historical Adventure 
Genetic genealogy pioneers announce exciting partnership with the theatrical release of Assassin’s Creed. 
Houston, Texas — October 25, 2016:

In association with the upcoming theatrical release of the epic adventure film ASSASSIN’S CREED, in theaters December 21, Family Tree DNA is pleased to announce a new partnership with 20th Century Fox and Findmypast, which features the Assassin’s Creed DNA Testing Bundle and Assassin’s Creed Sweepstakes. 
Loosely based on the popular video game franchise of the same name, and starring award-winning actors Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, the movie’s main character Callum Lynch—through a revolutionary technology called the Animus—travels deep into the past to discover that his genetic ancestor, Aguilar, was part of a mysterious secret organization, the Assassin’s, in 15th Century Spain. The action-adventure follows Callum as he relives Aguilar's memories in present day.

As pioneers in the direct-to-consumer DNA testing industry, Family Tree DNA was tapped by 20th Century Fox to be the exclusive testing partner for the film. The company’s premier suite of DNA tests along with the world’s most comprehensive matching database enable users to trace their lineage through time, explore ancestry and connect with relatives across the globe.

Family Tree DNA Director of Product Development, Michael Davila, noted that “The opportunity to partner with 20th Century Fox on the release of Assassin’s Creed is not only exciting but serendipitous. The storyline of Callum Lynch connecting to his ancestral past ties in completely with what our company does in helping people discover their origins and explore family history,” said Davila. 
“We are excited to be partnering with Family Tree DNA,” said Zachary Eller, Senior Vice President, Marketing Partnerships, 20th Century Fox. “They provide a fantastic opportunity to bring the central themes of Assassin’s Creed to a real world application by allowing consumers to actually discover their past.” 
With the purchase of the special limited-time Assassin’s Creed Bundle, customers will be mailed a sample collection kit which, when processed, will provide both Family Tree DNA’s signature Family Finder test and the Warrior Gene DNA test. They will also receive a free one-month premium subscription to Findmypast’s online genealogy service. 
According to Belinda Hanton, Global Head of Partnerships at Findmypast, “We are thrilled to be teaming up with Fox and Family Tree DNA to promote family history research and genetic genealogy. It’s partnerships like this that allow us to speak to completely new audiences and help spread the word that anyone can start exploring their heritage at the click of a mouse. The lives of our ancestors are not only recorded in historical records, but are also written in our DNA and it is now easier than ever before to unlock the incredible stories hidden in our families’ past.” 
Using a simple cheek swab and step-by-step instructions, users return the sample collection test kit by mail, in a provided envelope, directly to Family Tree DNA. Results typically take four to five weeks and are delivered through a private customer dashboard with email notification. Unlike other testing companies, Family Tree DNA results are kept completely confidential and secure privacy settings put users in control of how much information they choose to share.

Family Finder is an autosomal (non-sex) DNA test that finds matches within five generations and includes myOrigins,a powerful mapping tool that provides a detailed geographic and ethnic breakdown of personal genetic ancestry. The Warrior Gene test determines whether a person carries the Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) gene variant, dubbed the “Warrior Gene,” which some researchers say may cause certain carriers to engage in more risk-taking behaviors and be able to better assess their chances of success in critical situations. 
Together with the Assassin’s Creed DNA Testing Bundle is the Assassin’s Creed Sweepstakes and a chance to win a Grand Prize trip for two to Las Vegas for an Assassin’s Creed-themed adventure. The experience includes a series of high-octane Assassin’s Creed-inspired activities like a master parkour class, nighttime zip lining and an electrifying sky jump from the tallest tower in the city.

Although no purchase is necessary to enter the contest, purchasing the Assassin’s Creed Bundle earns customers ten additional entries into the Sweepstakes for a greater chance to win a trip to Las Vegas as well as other prizes. Followers will also have the opportunity to earn bonus entries by sharing Sweepstakes social posts on their Facebook and Twitter pages. 
With the exclusive DNA Testing Bundle and Sweepstakes movie tie-in, Assassin’s Creed fans everywhere will be able to jump back in time, embrace their inner warriors and unlock their genetic memories.

“The partnership between Fox’s Assassin’s Creed and Family Tree DNA is a perfect fit,” Davila said. “Test-takers get to find out if they carry the “Warrior Gene” in their DNA, and while they’re at it, will be able to delve into the exciting world of genetic genealogy and discover their own family histories…all through DNA. Everyone has a story to tell…so it’s an absolute win-win scenario.


  1. I am distressed about the inclusion of the Warrior Gene test in this promotion. Firstly, that romanticizes the effect -- it could just as well be called the Violent Criminality gene. Secondly, even that effect is controversial. In the course of Googling for some good background reading, I came across this excerpt from a new book by Adam Rutherford.

  2. Thanks Ann for finding the link to Adam Rutherford's article. I hadn't seen that, but I'll add it to my post so that it's more likely to get read. I'm currently reading Adam's book which I'm really enjoying but I haven't yet got to the part where he discusses the Warrior Gene. I see he actually has ten pages on the MAOA gene. It's part of a whole chapter looking at the problems of trying to determine human behaviour based purely on genetics.

    I'm in two minds about this promotion. I do think it will help to widen the FTDNA user base but, like you, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of promoting such a test, especially with all the caveats about its effects. I hope that FTDNA will provide a carefully worded report explaining the limitations of the test.

    On the other hand there is a possibility that the inclusion of this gene in a test will open up the possibility for some research on the effects of this gene. Given that Illumina are retiring the Illumina OmniExpress chip, I wonder if FTDNA will include the Warrior Gene in their test when they eventually come out with a new chip.

  3. They could always offer to test for the Gullibility Gene:

    Though I'm not sure it would be such good marketing!