There is divinity and devilry when video games approach religion

There is a dissident in my sect. He complains, refuses to work the land and I suspect that soon he will start turning the other cultists against me. I have several options to neutralize this threat: I could be gentle and “re-educate” him; put him in prison until he retracts; or simply assassinate him to serve as an example. I opt for something more dazzling: ritual sacrifice. As I climb onto my infernal altar, I point it towards the center of the pentagram and mumble some mysterious words. Demonic tentacles rise from the abyss to claim the dissenter, and my cult’s faith level receives a nice boost. My cultists applaud and then go back to work.

In a separate tube Worship of the Lamb, you play as a sacrificial victim who turns the tables on those who lead him to slaughter by creating his own demonic sect. The game is an original genre hybrid, part cult management simulation and part rogue-like dungeon crawler. While his cutesy Satanism comes across as mere pastiche at first, over time it raises deeper questions as you curate your sermons and doctrines, drawing connections between fringe cults and organized religion. Plus, with his warm sense of community, he shows how slipping into a cult can be easier than you think.

The title stands out because it is rare for games to address the theme of religion. While questions of morality, politics, and warfare are regularly questioned, faith is the last taboo in the game. towards each other: online gaming communities tend to be aggressively secular, while over the decades games such as Loss and Diablo have been accused of encouraging Satanism. A shooting scene in the abandoned Manchester Cathedral in Resistance: fall of man prompted legal threats from the Church of England and a rare apology from Sony.

‘Doom’ has been accused of encouraging Satanism

Game developers are understandably anxious to anger religious organizations, so when they want to explore religion they usually lean towards ancient mythology – they can say whatever they want about Odin or Ares and nobody complains.

Religious iconography serves above all as superficial dressing. Players will be familiar with characters such as Zeus, Shiva and Lucifer appearing as deities and monsters, while the word “priest” is used in role-playing games to connote a user of white magic who calls upon the powers of heaven to heal and strike. — but has no apparent inner spiritual life.

Christian iconography is most prevalent, with the books of Genesis and Revelation influencing games as diverse as Halo, armament of war, Shin Megami Tensei and dragon quest. The Assassin’s Creed The series engages religion as a historical but not a metaphysical force, with occasional flights of fancy such as the ridiculous brawl with a pope at the height of Assassin’s Creed II.

“Assassin’s Creed II” includes a scene where you fight with a pope

The nuances of the political role of religion are explored more elegantly in strategy games. In the Crusader Kings II expansion islam sword, you can explore the benefits of celebrating Ramadan or going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The long duration Civilization The series has a system where you gather “faith” as a resource to gain power, portraying religion as a force that can either spark conflict or bring communities together.

There are rare games that use fictional religions to dig into spiritual questions. Fantastic series such as Ancient Scrolls and dragon age do a decent job of presenting the complex role that religion plays in society, while there are evocative ideas in Fallout 3‘s Children of Atom, who worship an unexploded atomic bomb, and the neo-tribal beliefs of Horizon series who, unaware of their technologically advanced ancestors, can only comprehend the elaborate machinery around them as gods.

Rarer still are games that have anything to say about real-world religions. The Last of Us Part II gives us a memorable conversation about Judaism in an abandoned synagogue, while Christian doctrine is questioned for its connection to America’s racist past in Bioshock Infinite and her history of child abuse in The Binding of Isaaca brilliantly nightmarish tale in which a boy flees his violent fanatical mother into the basement of his own mind.

Games and religions may have more in common than we think. Both tell bloody and complex tales of good and evil, asking similar questions: what happens after death? What is the meaning of life? What does it mean to be good? The interactivity of play as a medium might lend itself to exploring religion in a uniquely non-didactic way, but few have taken up this challenge.

Religious transcendence: “Journey” offers a more serious experience of religion in video games

When the games approach religious transcendence, as Journeya deeply existential experience performed at Exeter Cathedral, or This Dragon, Cancer, which explores how faith sustains a couple through the death of their child, they are among the medium’s most memorable moments. Developers don’t have to be afraid to engage religion any deeper – they just need to have a little faith.

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