It's nearly impossible to read about the Notre Dame fire in Paris without your heart breaking a little. Not only is Notre Dame an enduring symbol of faith for Earth's largest religious denomination; it's also an architectural marvel, an historical treasure and a remarkable feat of human ingenuity.
Like all great landmarks, Notre Dame transcends its culture and location, and belongs, in a small way, to every person who can express a sense of wonder. That's why it's at least a little bit reassuring that you can explore a meticulous recreation of the landmark yourself, for free, in Assassin's Creed Unity.
Today (Apr. 17), Ubisoft announced that it would be giving away free copies of Assassin's Creed Unity on PC via its Uplay platform. The game, which debuted in 2014 to mixed reviews, takes place in 1794 at the height of the French Revolution. As such, the game contains a plethora of Parisian landmarks, including the Notre Dame Cathedral as it appeared more than 200 years ago. The in-game depiction is, in fact, so accurate that the game could help scholars rebuild parts of the structure damaged by the fire.
In order to get the game, all you have to do is visit Ubisoft's giveaway page between now and Apr. 25 at 3 AM in your time zone. You'll need to create a Uplay account, if you don't already have one, as well as download and install the Uplay client. But Ubisoft's site can walk you through all of that. It's really a free copy of AC Unity, no strings attached.
Furthermore, Ubisoft has pledged to donate €500,000 ($564,683) to aid the real-life Notre Dame's reconstruction. As a French company that originated in Paris, Ubisoft has a profound connection to the city, and its employees wanted to give something back.
"We stand in solidarité with our fellow Parisians and everyone around the world moved by the devastation the fire caused," an Ubisoft rep wrote. "Notre-Dame is an integral part of Paris, a city to which we are deeply connected. Seeing the monument in peril like this affected us all."
While Ubisoft doesn't specifically recommend making a donation if you download the game, a charitable gesture on your part could go a long way. You can donate directly to the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, and Assassin's Creed Unity usually costs $30, if that helps you figure out an appropriate amount.
Alternatively, if you believe that the Catholic Church could easily apply some of its wealth toward Notre Dame's reconstruction, consider donating to an organization that preserves irreplaceable landmarks in your neighborhood, such as The New York Landmarks Conservancy.