Greg Perreault, a doctoral student from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is getting some publicity for a recent presentation he made at the Center for Media Religion and Culture Conference on Digital Religion. (Yep. That’s a thing.)
His finding: “… Many newer-generation video games equate religion with violence in the game narratives.”
Perreault examined five recent video games that incorporate religion heavily into the storyline. The video games he studied were “Mass Effect 2,” “Final Fantasy 13,” “Assassin’s Creed,” “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” and “Elder Scrolls: Oblivion”. Perreault found that all of these video games problematize religion by closely tying it in with violence.
“In most of these games there was a heavy emphasis on a “Knights Templar” and crusader motifs,” Perreault said. “Not only was the violent side of religion emphasized, but in each of these games religion created a of problem that the main character must overcome, whether it is a direct confrontation with religious zealots or being haunted by religious guilt.”
I’m just gonna throw out some basic questions:
- You can play video games as part of your doctoral work?! Cool!
- There was a sample size of 5 video games. Are those representative of all newer video games that fit this genre?
- Are there any positive (or, at least, not negative) examples of religion appearing in video games?
- To the gamers out there, is his portrayal of religion in these particular games accurate? I have no idea.
- Is any of this a problem? Or is it just an something worth pointing out?
Perreault adds that he doesn’t believe the game developers are intentionally trying to portray religion as evil. But all good stories have conflict, religion is an obvious source of conflict, and violence is one way to settle conflicts (at least in video games):
“I believe they are only using religion to create stimulating plot points in their story lines. If you look at video games across the board, most of them involve violence in some fashion because violence is conflict and conflict is exciting. Religion appears to get tied in with violence because that makes for a compelling narrative.”
I also have a hunch that many of these game developers are probably not very religious to begin with and that may play into this result…
It’s also interesting to consider whether, if Perreault is correct, religion is just a cop-out way to advance a storyline or whether it really deserves to be depicted this way in these games.
There’s an interview with Perreault at GamePolitics where he elaborates on his findings:
“This is part of some ongoing research that I’d like to continue and maybe eventually make into a book — looking at religious depictions in different eras of video games. Yes, I found that there was this connection between religion and violence, but that’s a conversation that’s been happening in Western society for centuries. In early games like the Atari, it was hard to tell those stories. With the dominance of Nintendo and their licensing process, we didn’t see alot of those stories–religious elements were mostly censored out of the games. So it’s fascinating to see how video games have entered the conversation.:
(Thanks to Chris for the link!)