Objection! Religion In Video Games

Earlier this week this story was posted, a story which claimed that video games have a 'problematised' view of religion. But what does 'promblematised' even mean? And is religion represented fairly in video games? We catch up with frequent Kotaku contributor Adam Ruch to discuss.

ADAM: So, the other day, University of Missouri doctoral student Greg Perreault made the news when his paper about religion in videogames was picked up by a few game sites. Well, what they picked up was actually the university's little public release announcing that one of their students was presenting a paper at a conference -- something most uni's like to do, advertise their active research etc. The 20-odd page research paper was reduced to a handful of lines in the release, and then reduced even more by paraphrasing journalists. Kotaku wrote a piece which is pretty well representative of what I've seen in a couple other places.

MARK: Alright, alright, I totally need a rewind here to make sure I've got this right. Doctoral Student writes extensive piece of research about the way religion is treated in games. Said piece makes the claim there's a connection between the way religion is presented in video games and violence, and uses Assassin's Creed and Mass Effect as an example of this.

And your problem is that the story took some selected quotes out of context and built a larger 'video games has a problem with religion' story from the research?

You know what, you are probably right, the story was probably taken out of context. But what really interests me here, and where I'd like to take this discussion, is this: do you think the way religion is presented in video games is problematic? Do you think games have it wrong? Is it always presented alongside violence?

ADAM: Well, to begin with, I just think we need to know what the word "problematize" means in these contexts real quick. For an academic, problematise is a pretty old word, and it just means "take something that seems to be simple and make it complicated". That probably sounds like pedantry and ivory tower people keeping themselves employed to a lot of people, but really all it means is questioning assumptions. So problematised isn't a 'bad' thing, the way 'problematic' is, really. It just means "more complex than it might seem".

The point of the research paper is that the presentation of religion is 'problematised' meaning that it's not portrayed simply as one thing. That's actually a GOOD thing, and much more like real life or other art forms. In some cases, religion is used (by the fictional characters in the game) as an excuse for violent projects, like the Templars in Assassin's Creed. Sometimes it's merely a thematic backdrop, or a source of mythology like in Dante's Inferno or the Castlevania games. Other times it is a source of solace, as for Thane in Mass Effect 2.

I think generally speaking, as videogames move towards more complex fictions, finding religion near violence is a given. Until we have a big wide array of non-violent but still compelling videogames, basically any game with religion in it is going to be presented alongside violence, right?

MARK: That's precisely what I think -- as a rule the verbs we use in game mechanics are pretty limited and most of them involve violence. In video games we're mostly running, shooting, punching or stabbing. Until game mechanics become more deft and refined that's pretty much what we're stuck with.

So from that we can deduce that most games using religious themes will most likely be placed in the context of violence.

Super Mario Brothers places plumbing in the context of violence, Pac-Man actually eats Ghosts (placing the spectral realm in the context of violence) even Tetris has some sort of violence -- as line by line those poor blocky bastards are eliminated from existence.

My point is -- video games feature a lot of violence so it stands to reason that any theme used in video games will be linked to some sort of violence.

But here's a point you might find interesting: my wife goes to Church. I'm an atheist, but I'll often come along regardless. In a recent sermon the Pastor makes this point: in the media most people of religion are represented as being either violent, hypocritical, mentally weak, suspicious, deviant, or as bare faced liars.

Despite being an atheist I actually believe that the representation of religion and religious people in the media is, in general, pretty one-sided and negative. I think video games as a medium is simply following in those same footsteps.

ADAM: Is this pastor implying causation there? I mean, is he suggesting that the religious dirtbags in the media are dirtbags because they are religious? I'd argue that most people, religious or not, in fiction are dirtbags! The whole modern and post-modern movement is preoccupied with destroying the notion of a happy ending for everyone, or clear notions of right and wrong. We have protagonists like Dexter Morgan, we have shows like the Sopranos, these anti-heroes are all about bastards. I guess it doesn't surprise me that bastards can also be religious, but I'm not sure that one always is supposed to have caused the other.

Whatever the case may be, writing a religious character as a bad guy is an immediate source of dramatic tension as well. It is ironic (even in this day and age) for a religious person to be revealed as evil, or a liar, or whatever.

It also works the other way around. Thane is much more compelling as a deeply spiritual assassin than he would have been as a straight-up, one-dimensional bad-ass killer. It adds depth to the character that you might not suspect is there. That's "problematising" the assassin, by the way.

MARK: That's true -- I think Thane is a good example of a video game character who is empowered by his religious beliefs. He is made stronger, both physically and mentally, through his creed -- but he really is an exception.

I think for the most part, particularly in fantasy games, spiritual or religious people are shown to be physically weak. Typically they are wizards, with mage powers. People without religion are typically endowed with more brute strength. Would you agree with that?

ADAM: Sure, that's true in many regards: the typical "cleric" or "priest" in RPG games are defined by their cloth armor and weak melee abilities, generally. But those same clerics gain a great deal of power, magical power, from their religious-ness. To me that really significantly changes what religion even is in fantasy/fiction, as compared to the real world. Whether its videogames or film or novels, religion isn't really "faith" since, usually, the gods are characters who exist in the fictional world. The religious people in fantasy are given great power through their alignment -- real, palpable power with which they can cast spells and such. They might not be big physically strong types (though the Templars in Assassin's Creed certainly are), but they do directly gain power from spirituality.

I think that's one of the reasons I actually like the example of Thane so much. He doesn't become a better assassin by praying to a deity, and gain +2 to stealth. He prays for absolution, because he believes it's the right thing to do. That's a pretty sensitive treatment of religion, as compared to "if I pray I get stronger." It's interesting that you say Thane is "empowered" by his religion, since you're using "empower" to mean he is made a more powerful character, not a more powerful game piece. He isn't any more or less effective, in game mechanical terms, because he prays. He's more interesting as a character—something that's worth experimenting more with in videogames, I think.

What do you think about the portrayal of religion in video games? Is it positive? Negative? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

    "What do you think about the portrayal of religion in video games? Is it positive? Negative? Let us know in the comments below."

    It's definitely negative, and for those who say that this is a misrepresentation - stop cherry picking segments from your holy books. Each religion has it's own condemnable aspect and games are merely showing the two-faced nature of religion.

    Religion and belief without reasonable evidence or hypothesis can go screw itself

      Its this kind of attitude on the opposite side that doesn't help either. Intolerance and ignorance breed violence. Religion is just belief and text. At its core, its still man being violent to man. Atheism is the new modern religion as such, an organised belief if you will. Myself, I'm agnostic. Have zero problems with anyones beliefs but zealots both religeous and atheist do more harm than good.

        Atheism isn't a belief, it's a lack of belief. The religion-bashing attitude you get from people like myself is anti-theism if anything.

        Whenever someone says they're an agnostic I generally assume they're a placid atheist who doesn't like to group themselves in with the anti-theists. To me, "I don't know if there's a God" is a statement which can be made by many atheists, myself included. I don't KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt there's no God, but I have no belief in one and no reason to think one exists.

        Unless your sure theres a god, but not sure what for he takes. Your actually an agnostic atheist.

        Also, every time someone refers to atheism being a religion, I cringe. By definition it can't be. Perhaps people might be over zealous about it, and that what I assume you mean, but it can't be a religion because its literal definition is the exact opposite.

        That's like saying bald is a hair colour :)

    Sure, clerics or priests of weak- but what about the other iconic religious class, the Paladin?

      Except in D&D 3.5 where clerics and druids were simply insanely overpowered.

        Really good points to both of you. I should have thought paladin when I said templar, sort of similar.

        Druids are another good example of spirituality rather than "religion" that I associate with an organisation. Though I guess, in WoW anyway you have the Cenarion Circle. Is that a church? Its still so hard for me to call anything a religion when faith doesn't exist, because the deity isn't a mystery, when its right there walking amongst the people.

    Religion, like anything, suffers from poor, cliched writing.

    Need a big, all power and somewhat shadowy, organisation for your hero to go up against? Don't wanna use a Corporation or some sort of generic Bond-esque super villian setup? Why not use Religion!

    I personally like the Religion back drop better then the former two because, unlike the former two, Religion has a lot more of a 'human' element to it. People look for answers and purpose in a multitude of different ways, and the general umbrella interperate-how-you-will nature of a Religious setup opens a wide area for exploration both of the character's who follow it and the universe it exists in.

    Don't hate the game, hate the writer, I guess.

    Good article, Mark.

    I was thinking about how the Zelda games use religion pretty strongly, with Link and Zelda being agents of their religion for a deity that they usually never see in the flesh (I don't know if the spirits you encounter in TP count).

    I don't know if this would fall into Adam's description of the faith being an ability like 'use pray, gain health' though, as their 'gifts' do provide an extra gameplay ability, but not usually until the final battle.

    Religon in many ways are the cause of wars. Which makes a easy videogame story to create because are by an large have core mechanics to combat violence.

      Or was Religion just the cover for the greed of men?

        A large percentage of wars were motivated by their interpretation of religion which in turn created violent conflict. I'm sure there are exceptions to some sick people who just wanted to use religion to cover their greed.

        Nonetheless my point still stands.

          It actually becomes pretty tangled and ultimately depends on who you ask.
          While most modern wars are greed-based, the "War on Terror" was considered an oil grab by some and revenge for 9/1 by others.
          Back in the days of the crusades and inquisition, the church was almost as powerful as the governments of the day and had far greater influence.
          When people marched off to war they were often encouraged to tithe their possessions to the church.
          Whatever the true motivations, religion is often closely involved with wars, either encouraging, discouraging, benefitting from deaths (crusades, not now) or assisting the survivors.

            I agree for the most part. Yet I'm still not sure it balances itself out but that isn't my point. The bottom line is that there are still many conflicts (indeed less so than in the past) fought over religion. Even the War on Terror has an arguably core basis of instigation because of a skewed interpretation of Islam.

            Fueling many FPS war game narratives today.

            I would say that it isn't the majority of the case that it is used for this reason but certainly many developers choose to base their stories around it.

              While some wars may be fueled purely by religious beliefs and/or disagreements, I think you'll find that for the most part, religion is just a convenient excuse. I'm not saying that religious beliefs aren't involved at all, but they're less of a cause than greed, revenge, etc. I'm curious to see what an increasing secular world blame their conflicts on when religion becomes less entrenched in society...

    I want to talk about something that happens in AC2 regarding this topic, but talking about it at all would spoil the game. So Rot13 it is.

    Gur ynfg svtug jvgu Obetvn orsber bcravat gur inhyg va NP2 jnf cerggl zhpu whfg qrfvtarq gb xrrc lbh bpphcvrq juvyr ur qryviref uvf fcrrpu ba ubj ur bayl orpnzr gur cbcr sbe gur cbjre naq ubj ur qbrfa'g oryvrir va urnira be uryy be nal bs gur fghss va gur ovoyr. Naq gung'f nyy jryy naq tbbq. Ohg bar yvar gung jnf ernyyl bhg bs cynpr naq sryg vapyhqrq whfg sbe gur fnxr bs bssraqvat rirelbar rdhnyyl jnf jura Obetvn unq pbapyhqrq uvf qvnybthr ol onfvpnyyl fnlvat gung abg whfg uvf, ohg NYY eryvtvbaf ner yvrf. Jung jnf gur cbvag bs gung? Vg jnf guvf frcnengr yvar gung lbh whfg xabj gurl tbg gur ibvpr npgbe gb qb yngre. Vg whfg frrzrq yvxr arrqyrff eryvtvba onfuvat va n fprar gung qvqa'g pnyy sbe vg. Vg'f pbagrkghny gung Obetvn jbhyq qrabhapr uvf bja eryvtvba va gur svany svtug, ohg nyy bs gurz? V qba'g trg jung Hovfbsg jrer tbvat sbe gurer? Znlor gurl jrer gelvat gb pbc n yvggyr yrff ol trggvat va n dhvpx wno ng nyy eryvtvbaf va gur raq.

    Thoughts?

    In a lot of media, perhaps not as much as in video games, atheist or agnostic characters are portrayed as cynical, cold, ignorant, depressed, hateful, bitter and selfish. Or they don't believe in god because they hate him (yeah, how you hate something you don't believe in is weird). I really don't want to see that type of trend in games because a)it's false and b) a boring cliché .

    Anyway, when you need a big, secretive organizations with weird rituals and fanatical followers and leaders, religion fits the bill perfectly.

      Translation: I don't want atheists to be subject to a dull boring cliche, but I'm totally happy for religious people to suffer the same stereotypes.

        Except I never said I was happy for it to be applied to religion. I said it's an easy fit. Religious organizations are big and in many ways secretive. They do have strange rituals and fanatical leaders and followers. (I feel obliged to say "not all religious people are crazy or fanatical or secretive") In the same way private many corporations in games are held up as corrupt and selfish. It isn't a false stereotype, it's true in reality and easily put into a game narrative.

        You didn't translate what I said, you (deliberately?) misinterpreted it.

          Fair call -- the corporation point was a good one, and totally applicable. :)

          Okay, but equally fair to point out is the reality that many aetheists are angry and bitter (with religion, not with God) and/or evangelical with their lack of faith.

          I personally know a great many of these, and recognise them in faithless game characters.

            Hmm... I consider myself passionately anti-religious. I find the claims made by all religions to be false. And frustrated with how much suffering religion can, and does, bring down upon people. You might consider me angry and bitter. I'd consider myself someone who honestly offers my view on a subject that has a significant effect on so many lives.

            I've never bought into the whole "you have to respect religion because so many people think it's important". That unwillingness to kowtow to religious influence is what gets so many atheists this "angry and bitter" label.

            To bring my comment back to gaming: there is a problem with all of this. When I play a game (or watch a movie or read a book) that has a religion in it, I, for the purpose of entertainment, pretend that religion is true. It is suspension of disbelief. I can't apply my scepticism to something which I know I am believing for the express purpose of being entertained. I'm unable to do this in reality with religion.

              It's a subject I'm quite passionate about myself. I'm an Atheist, but I'm married to a practicing Christian. What irritates me is the assumptions made on both sides -- which is why I jumped down your throat so quickly!

              I actually used to write a fairly frequent blog about my situation. Haven't updated in ages though...

                I used to date a Christian, back when I was less of an anti-theist. She took me to church and youth group and whatnot. The youth leader basically told her she shouldn't be with me because I'm not Christian. Which was awesome.

                Without sounding like a nosy bastard, I'm interested to know whether you and your wife end up in conflict over it Mark. I can't imagine being with someone who sees the world in such a different way.

                  I don't think there are assumptions on the atheist side because we rely on evidence and reason.

          Secretive? I think you've been reading too much Dan Brown. Many churches, such as the Anglican, Baptist, etc. aren't secretive at all - if you want to know something, go and ask!

          "frustrated with how much suffering religion can, and does, bring down upon people..."

          While that's true to a certain extent, you're ignoring the joy, happiness and relief it can bring. Whether you believe it's true or not, you can't deny that it makes people happy, and gives them hope.

            I wouldn't read Dan Brown if I had a gun barrel jammed against my temple. As for the secretive part, you can do your own research about how churches still tot his day limit information and engage in secretive practices.

            And, indeed, you are correct, religion does offer some people comfort, but at the end of the day I consider comfort in a fantasy rather lacking. Considering the comfort you are finding is probably more to do with the people around you and the support, compassion and empathy they offer, not hollow words about a benevolent creator or a great plan you're a part of but unable to understand.

        Jump the gun on that one, Mark.

    RAAAAGE!!!

    Paladins and Clerics are traditionally the toughest characters in western RPGs. It's the modern 'Healer' archetype of MMOS that has created the 'Priest' weakling character.

    When gods exist religion almost always has a place along side the heroes in almost all computer games. When gods don't exist religious characters are rightfully portrayed as either frauds or crazy people.

    Btw, Gods don't exist in out world. I'll let you work the rest out...

    It is also worth pointing out that people in positions of authority or power are the bad guys in games, almost always. That means historically you're going to have a bunch of bad guys being either part of the church or part of the aristocracy. I mean, it's a lot less compelling from a story telling perspective to be the representative of those in power keeping the rest of the world in their place.

    One game describes religion in games to a tee.. You know the one,
    "The You Testament" Most awe inspiring game you can ever get your hands on, This is a must if you love the religion aspect of any game.. I mean what could be more religious than prancing around a world just constantly belting down on Jesus like its WWF..

    I like the religion in the first Alundra game and the Breath of Fire games. Becomes really scary spooky at times.

    I object to religion in general, in principal and with logic and common sense.

      wow good for you

      Logic and common sense all also human fabrications.

      Ok then...
      So I guess the only thing you read from this article is

      Mark Serrels: blah blah blah RELIGION blah blah blah
      Adam: blah blah RELIGION blah blah blah blah RELIGION

      I hate ignorant people like you. It's fine not to accept religion or follow it. (I'm undecided.)

      But you can;t outright object to something you don't understand and claim your objections are based on logic and common sense. The underlying ideas and principles in religion follow most of our social and political values today. To outright object to religion is to object to many of today's values.

        I call complete bs that to reject christianity is to reject a broad set of values. Just a lot of them because I find most of the values in the bible fairly objectionable.

          He didn't say "rejecting christianity" he said "rejecting religion" Religion is nothing but a set of collected relationships and understandings that make up our actions. Values etc. are associated with these concepts.

          Many people here would argue that game prices are too high. We would say this because of our financial VALUES, which we have built up over time through our BELIEF of what something would be worth in opposition of another. You don't have to be allied with a particular set of these beliefs to have one of them, nor spend time with others who share them. But many people do, and they come together to follow the same patterns of belief to be a part of a community.

          For crying out loud, I would call myself and many other I know here to be:

          RELIGIOUSLY GAMERS

    I suspect there's a nuance that is being missed here, and that's the difference between "religion" and "religious organisations". Religion tends to not touched on too much, as a whole. That's probably because the nature of it means you can't give it too much development in 20 hours of game when you're trying to tell a story as well.

    Regligious organisations are easy, because - particularly in the form they exist today - they're organisations first. They manage large finances, deliver services, are involved in community activities, etc. Sure, they have "strange" rituals related to particular days of the year, but so do other commercial entities (EOFYS and stocktaking "rituals" are an obvious parallel).

    Most games have you as the protaganist coming into conflict with an organisation, and the plot is your struggle to overcome. If you take Mass Effect, you've got struggles against government (the Citadel), large corporations (Cerberus) and religious organisations (Geth heretics). To varying degrees, you can work with or against each group. If you look at the portrayal of the concepts - rather than the organisations - it's superficial and silly. They're all childishly under-developed, because the story is the focus.

    On a sidenote, I don't think Thane is a good example of the portrayal of religion. What we see is his spirituality, his individual relationship with ... well again, we don't know enough about his religion to know exactly what he's praying to.

    Games don't portray religion often enough or in sufficient depth to be able to draw a conclusion of any sort. Butl, if you look at the conduct of religious organisations lately, games are probably portraying them slighlty positively.

    I find this whole argument a little absurd. Take two manmade fantasy constructs then ask how one is represented in the other.

      Whether you believe in it or not, there is more to religion than myth or fantasy. In many ways religion is culture, it contributes to culture which is a real thing. Religion influences the way people live, what they value etc, and those are real things. Whether their reasons for it stack up with scientific logic isn't relevant to asking whether or not religion is real in this sense. People are real, and how they behave is also real.

      I'm not neurologist but the capacity to believe is, to me, strikingly similar to other difficult concepts like compassion, love, hate, and fear. Its a deeply human trait. I'm not making a value judgement, just observing that such a thing exists.

        There is more to religion, but almost every one has that 'more' built upon a fundamental foundation of myth and fantasy.

    Oh, I think I may have disagreed quite strongly with Mr. Ruch in one of yesterday’s posts concerning portable gaming & disposable entertainment.
    I saw direct and immediate folly in the comparison of The Great Gatsby with video-game media. Gatsby of course published sometime around the 1920s or the like.
    Video-game fiction is an open door to an unprecedented interactivity with regard to storytelling, but that storytelling is disjointed, experimental, disposable and most certainly in its infancy.
    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, it’s to soon to start looking for a Gatsby or a Kane inside this interactive media; a foolhardy endeavor, too speculative, and perhaps the domain of those who problematise with too much imagination and not enough evidence. Only time will tell what does in fact stand the test of time, this our only litmus test.

    And one of the central arguments here appears most improper in scope and assessment; a wild generalisation that Mr. Ruch could never defend in retrospect or after careful consideration.

    Let’s take a look:

    1:
    “I’d argue that most people, religious or not, in fiction are dirtbags!”

    I don’t even know where to begin with this. I really don’t know what this is. “Most people in fiction are dirtbags.” That’s just categorically wrong from every angle. Most generalisations don’t hold water or bear close examination, Mr. Ruch, and this is a most glaring example. Quite astounding.

    2:
    “We have protagonists like Dexter Morgan, we have shows like the Sopranos, these anti-heroes are all about bastards.”

    No they're not, nothing of the sort, nothing could be further from the truth in fact. They're about conflicted central characters, inner turmoil, the human condition, morality, complex relationships, psychology and consequence.

    We empathise with Tony Soprano, we want him to win because deep down he’s a decent human being and a good man - this is the complexity of his character. He’s good because he does the best with the hand he was dealt; a man bound by inescapable duty. Your description is as impossible and unfounded as yesterday’s comparisons.

    3.
    It is ironic (even in this day and age) for a religious person to be revealed as evil, or a liar, or whatever.”

    I’ve got history books, cinema screenplays and fiction that might change your mind on this particular humdinger.

    It could just be the case of Adam being taken out of his depth here for the sake of conversation. No harm done. But the inaccuracies are as glaring as they are misleading.

    Generalisations and stereotypes are a miscommunication of ideas, and the truth is never as simple as to allow for them to survive closer examination. There charm is their simplicity - and we applaud that - but there is a complexity to life that denies their viability and application.

      Ah! My worth adversary Fordsworth... I am the same Adam from yesterday :P

      On points 1 & 2 since they are basically the same issue: anti-heroes might be sympathetic characters, they are often quite deep and complex (especially in comparison to idealised pure goodly heroes), this is their appeal. But as compared to the ideal hero in old fiction, myths, legends and religious texts, they are not purely "good" characters. They have some terrible vice, commit acts of violence, or have some other stain on their character that gives them the "anti" bit. Niko Bellic is another pretty decent example. Now, I obviously haven't counted them up, so I can't genuinely defend my "most" claim, but I still believe that many, many, many fictional characters-especially those we find interesting today-would not be good by many definitions or ethics. What human societies have always struggled with is living life in the unpredictable and malleable universe according to inflexible and impartial rules. Fiction of anti heroes shows us that its ok to not live up to those rules all the time, or that the rules themselves just don't always make sense--because as you say, people do the best with what they're given.

      3. Irony is tension between two opposite statements or conditions. A character who is a priest, a man of God, abiding by the commandments, etc. who is also a liar or adulterer is an irony. Its real, and common of course, but that doesn't change the way they function in fiction. Dexter is similarly ironic, he's a good man, tries to be a good father, but is severely damaged and as a result, a serial killer. That is also irony. That's why the stories work.

      I'm sort of struggling to come up with more refutation because I feel like, in the end, we'd actually agree on a lot of fundamental stuff, and what your beef is really, is my approach to the argument. But just remember that this is Kotaku and not an academic journal...

      But even if we do disagree, its cool that you put so much thought into your comments. I appreciate it :)

        This is a better explanation of your ideas, and maybe for brevity they were not included in the original dialogue.
        Yep, agree to disagree. Hey, I even disagree with your definition of irony in the above example. Disagreement isn’t such a bad thing.
        Never to mind, it’s all just grist for the mill. I appreciate the measured response.
        Good “Objection!”,
        Fordsworth.

          But is not there irony in Adams definition of irony? It is ironically squared!

    Religious men are zealouts. Religious women are just waiting for the hero to make her tingle and release her wild side. Also the Catholic Church really needs to find new outfits for nuns. I see a nun and I think of German porn.

      You have tremendous issues.

    I am always interested in the portrayal of religion and would love to see some really well developed theological story lines as there is a lot of depth to draw on.
    People often talk about religion causing wars but I would argue that wars are always about resources rather than belief and given humans are biological driven by fear of outsiders, religion becomes a fantastic excuse for those in power to use to justify whatever grab for resources that are attempting.
    I tend to agree that from any given group of humans you wish to look at there will be a percentage of "bad" people be it PETA, Greenpeace, atheism, Islam, Christianity or Apple. It is also impossible to judge the merits of an individual belief system(excluding those whose sole purpose is in causing harm) so judgement can only come from looking at the logical consistency within the belief system itself.

    I have seen many who will assume that "God" is being mocked by any use of theology in a story and /i find it absurd as in most cases it is only an individuals perception that is being looked at and in most cases nearly 7 billion people have a different perception of any given belief to you.

    I say let the story stand on its own merits and lets focus on the internal logic used within any given storyline to determine its validity. we cant pretend things like the inquisition didn't occur just as we can assume that religion will inevitably cause another one.

    Adam is dead on with the fact/fiction stuff blurring everything. In a game universe it can be stated with complete certainty that something exists (or doesn't exist). You've got religious content which we can be compared to actual religion, like the Thane example, but we've also got stuff that can't.
    A group of Dungeons & Dragons characters that worship a deity know that deity exists without the need for faith. It's in the rulebook. Even the people who don't worship that particular deity can know it exists. You could argue that in that case they become political factions not religions groups.
    It's very hard to seperate the two because they both use the exact same language. You've got the priests, the gods, the church, the cultists, etc.

    From there it's difficult to say whether religion is presented positively or negatively within games because it's so rare to find a character who can't prove (even if only to the player) that what they're worshipping actually exists.
    I think when actual religion is represented it's depected fairly, accurately but in a really incomplete way. It's fair and reasonably accurate to have extremists and corruption within the church, and in games it's the most likely aspect of religion to fit within the greater story, but it's missing large and important parts of the whole experience. The rest only really works as fluff and filler for populating the game world.
    A lot of the time it's a bit of a waste. Having a religious leader as a bad guy doesn't mean anywhere near as much when you only see the evil parts. Without the good people at the bottom, giving him his power, he's not corrupt he's just evil.

    I've noticed that most fantasy style games which include religions also make out like their religions are true. Sometimes they'll actually show the god, sometimes it's just god-infused magic. Surely that counts for something?

    Whether or not games show god (and his minions) in a negative light, they seem to show them as a real thing. And to be honest, portraying religion as true is more of a stretch than portraying it as bad.

    It's still not a real word no matter how much you use it.

      You'll note this is on the Oxford Dictionary website as I cannot paste a page from a book...

      http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/problematize?q=problematize

        My head just esploded.

    I find it silly to point out that games look at the violent side of religion. Games in general look at the violent side of EVERYTHING (well most games not all eg Nintendogs etc). Its what sells games, so what did you expect. Why bother stating the obvious. What type of game that would actually sell would show Religion in a good way (WiiReligion?lol) This article and the one before is like - Duh no $#!t Sherlock.

    Even though im religious i have no problems what others choose to believe in (i have atheist friends and my brother doesnt believe in his religion anymore). I do however object to people insulting or belittling religion or people that are religious (and i also dont like people of non religion being treated similarly or when religion is forced upon people). I think people should respect peoples beliefs no matter what they are.

    Comparisons like this will always ignore clear and positive depictions of fictional religions in favor of the more fleshed-out depictions of existing religions. If anyone were to ask whether or not the 9 Divines in The Elder Scrolls were actually depicted as being helpful in the game, the answer is a resounding "yes." However, their followers create conflict.

    It is childish to group the actions of individual characters or people with all others of those affected by a creed. Understanding is personal. People are prone to error, and in fact are constantly improving their ability to understand that they do not fully grasp all meanings and intimations.

    The wisest of men are those who acknowledge that their wisdom is incomplete.

    Mark, Adam, have you read the original paper? Frankly its rather sloppy as far as academia goes, maybe worth a pass mark at most. To the author's credit, he wasn't looking for something to spin into a persecution rant but there was some evidence of confirmation bias, some indication he may have read more about the games in question than he actually played and worst of all the thing was in desperate need of proofreading

      I have read the complete paper. The thing is, the paper is not yet published. Its a conference presentation paper which is totally a different thing to a published, reviewed and polished journal paper. They are generally not meant to be read, but listened to in a presentation format. Then you have a discussion with other conference delegates and improve the paper based on that. Afterwards, you polish it up and submit to a journal for proper publication (or as a book chapter or something).

      I actually feel sorry for this guy, its possibly one of his first post-graduate works ever, and its being scrutinized unlike 99.9% of any other academic work will be, by the public!

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