Doctoral Student Says Video Games Equate Religion with Violence

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!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Raffkillian

    I know assassins creed has the Templars as corrupt seeking world domination. And oblivion has some religious references to gods made up just for the games “the nine divine” and the deadric princes. But in assassins there is a message when you insert the game that it is made my a multicultural and multireligious team of developers.
    On a side note in assassins 3 I think it is you get to beat te shit out of the pope haha it’s quite fun

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      In Assassin’s Creed 2, the big bad of the game is the Pope. You get to murder him.

      • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andy Laa

        I gotta get me that game!

  • Richard Tingley

    I am surprised that Halo was not mentioned. Your enemy that is waging war against all life are doing so because of their faith. The scary thing is that if aliens actually existed and were to attack earth the most plausible reason I see would be religious in nature.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Why would religion be the most plausible reason for an alien attack?

      • Richard Tingley

        All of the logical reasons seem implausible and well, illogical. In movies like Independence Day, Battlefield Los Angeles, etc the aliens show up for our resources. Why go to all the trouble of attacking a planet inhabited by an intelligent species with an active military when there are countless other planets that could be harvested with impunity? Colonization might have some merit, but you are still left with the fact that there would be countless other worlds as suitable as earth that could be taken without a fight. But religious zealotry defies logic. I could see a group attacking and destroying earth because their faith demands it like the Covenant did in Halo or the Necromongers in Chronicles of Riddick.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with Weirdo, why would religion be the crux of alien invasion? Obviously it’s all conjecture at this point, but I would think that drawing a conclusion based on life that we know (life here on Earth,) my guess would be the most plausible reason for alien invasion would be survival of their species. Which would yield an attack to procure resources: food, slaves, raw materials, space (as in land and/or a planet to occupy and expand to.) My guess is that any sufficiently advanced species that is capable of  visiting our little corner of the universe has probably advanced out of bronze/iron age belief systems.

      Of course, we are totally speaking hypothetically here, but it’s fun to philosophize about.

      • Spaceman

         Right, but any race capable of reaching the Earth would also be capable of terraforming any one of millions of Earth-like planets in the galaxy. Sure, wiping humanity out might be easier, but it also seems like terraforming is a more sustainable and long term endeavor.

  • ombak

    Plenty of other video games have villains with religious qualities – World of Warcraft for example have nihilistic cults that worship the old gods (Lovecraftian figures), Starcraft has a group of religious fanatics you fight in some missons (not the major villain).

    Many of them also have woo-ish positive supernatural stuff, whether you want to label it religious or not – propheicies that characters fit into or follow of their own accord for example, spiritual beliefs that entire cultures subscribe to and are built around (the Holy Light!)

    Then of course there are games like Civilization, which make the real world the playing surface and let you build your own civilization. Religion always plays a part in that – to varying degrees with it being a significant mechanic in Civilization 4 but not in the current version (5) – but that’s because it’s trying to build a game on a snapshot of this planet and it’s kind of hard to ignore religion then.

  • mike

    art imitates life

  • http://vocaloidlist.com/ SystemsReady

    If he thinks those games are bad, just wait till he finds out about Shin Megami Tensei. God is EVIL in a few of those games!

  • fred

    This guy is making a terrible point, by his logic in Castlevania you are in conflict with dracula or his descendants.  So are the video games shining a negative light on him too?  It is ridiculous.  

    • drakvl

      Not only that, but Castlevania’s violence comes not from religion, but from vampire lore. Is this guy not familiar with depictions of religion in other media? Arthurian legend, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Beowulf as allegory for the Christianization of England?

      Besides, in the much-loved Zelda series, religion is on the side of the good guys. Slightly more ambivalent is Dragon Quest VIII (not so new), where the Pope–er, head priest–is a nice guy in charge of a corrupt organization, the politics of which one ambitious yet corrupt and angry youth plays brilliantly in his ploy to take over the world.

      Edit: Changed ‘ambiguous’ to ‘ambivalent.’

  • http://www.facebook.com/angus.bohanon Angus Bohanon

    I’ve spent upwards of 60 hours in Mass Effect 2 and the only religious connotations I’ve found are that the Geth worship the Reapers as a higher power, but that doesn’t really count in my head because they’re both artificially intelligent races and the Reapers by that standard ARE superior, and because there’s no appeals to supernaturalism anywhere that I can recall.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Religion doesn’t always imply the supernatural. Even dictionaries are beginning to catch on.

    • IrishWhiskey

      You’re forgetting the Hanar, the Jellyfish species who you generally try and insert their religious beliefs into conversations, including a decision where you can side with a Citadel officer trying to stop a proselytizer, or side with the preacher (by accusing the cop of religious persecution). Thane was basically a religious assassin for them, and his faith remains important to him.

      Of course, like the Geth, the Hanar are worshiping false Gods. “The Enkindlers” are actually Protheans, and without spoiling too much, it’s save to say the game shows them to be natural and flawed, built up as gods due to time and myth. Which really is common to science-fiction in general, not just games.

      The Asari commonly talk about “the goddess”, and the Ardat-Yakshi has religious associations, so they clearly find religion important. But in generally seems more cultural than literal. They meditate rather than pray. And Ashley in ME1 talked about her faith and prayer, to which your character could be supportive, neutral, or critical. It’ll be interesting to see if the character continues that trait in ME3 next week.

    • Michael

      This is likely their point. (Spoilers, obviously)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X1cYvMacvg

  • Artiofab

    in each of these games religion created a problem that the main character must overcomeSo video games are like real life?Speaking as a Mass Effect devotee, most of the alien species dealt with in the game series have a religious outlook on life. Sometimes individuals in these species used religious ideas to help them make decisions, the decisions led to bad consequences, and the player has to deal with the consequences of those decisions. …once again, this is like real life.For one example:  One party member from the second game is a scientist who helped produce a biological sterilization agent which is tough to describe in a blog comment. Let’s just say that he thinks that the ends justify the means, but didn’t feel ethically clean. He turned to religion to help find peace, even though, as a scientist, he doesn’t think it solves his problem. His religion is not a “problem to overcome”, its part of the guy’s life choices.I dunno. The entire thing sounds like Mr. Perreault is either not actually comfortable with religion being discussed, or hasn’t played (at least some of) the games and has no idea what he is talking about. Or someone at the University of Missouri’s press release office dumbed down what was an actually intelligent presentation.

    • IrishWhiskey

      Indeed. I don’t want to judge him too quickly, since I know journalists will often highlight the most salacious conclusion and not the nuance. But to say that religion is an “obstacle” in those games is simplistic and wrong. 

      In most of those games, the heroes, or at least some of them, also had religious beliefs they spoke positively about. Mordin’s talk about exploring religion as a search for answers to his moral turmoil was well-written and nuanced. In Mass Effect 2 several friendly species  and crew members are religious, while the main villains aren’t (the Geth Heretics are a secondary obstacle). Castlevania has you fighting Satanic creatures with Crucifixes and Holy Water. Oblivion has you fighting for the good gods against the evil ones. I haven’t played FF XIII, so can’t comment. And Assassin’s Creed…

      Okay Assassin’s Creed is pretty hardcore atheist, and its anti-religious twists shocked and impressed me. I suspect if Christian groups actually played the games and paid attention to the story, they’d protest it much harder that Grand Theft Auto. But overall, it’s wildly simplistic to suggest that any game which has some religious villains, is presenting religion itself as something to overcome.

  • Abram Larson

    Mike is right. Art imitates life. The simple fact is that I agree with the results of Mr.  Perreault’s “study.”
    However, I think he focuses too much on the what and not enough on the why. In life, religion (or some bastardization of religion) is THE factor that encourages violence on mass scales. These video games are first and foremost built on violence. Religion is brought in to give a reason for the violence. It is one reason, among many, for you as the player to go kill the baddies.

    Castlevania and Assassin’s creed are the only 2 of the 5 which directly reference the Christian religion. The other 3 have make-believe religions. The gods in the Elder Scroll series are more reminiscent of Roman or Greek gods and in Mass Effect each of the alien species has some form of a religion and they vary wildly. I’m not as familiar with Final Fantasy, so I’ll leave that to someone else.

  • The Captain

    “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.” 
    He could have shut up right after that. Most video games (and all the ones he’s comparing) are built around violence and conflict. All he did was cherry pick a few that use religion as the narrative for why your shooting pixels. For instance he left off the Call of Duty, and Battlefield franchisees which use nationalistic ideals as their drivers for conflict. The game I’m playing now, of the four main protagonist, religion plays a driver for one, but the other three are greed, political, and vengeance. 

    Video games use a rather diverse set of conflict reasons in their narratives (narratives that are mostly secondary to most users after game mechanics), to find a pattern and draw any sort of conclusion of how the “genre” treats that subject is highly suspicious. It would be like picking a couple of movies and declaring that “Hollywood” hates religion. And no one does that now do they?

  • Talynknight

    Both Final Fantasy 13 and Assassin’s Creed focus more on the power hungry psychopaths using religion to their own ends.  In Assassin’s Creed the Templars use  anything and everything to control the world, in the past they used religion , in the “present” they use corporations.  And as Raffkillian pointed out, the final mission in one of them is to sneak through the Vatican and kill the pope which was tons of fun.

    Final Fantasy had a giant evil robot that essentially created a religion to get all the humans to worship and sustain it.

    Frankly I’m surprised Bayonetta didn’t make the cut.  The whole premise is slaughtering the angels of Heaven to get to God, (female God by the way) and kill her because she decided to go all genocidal again.

  • Ryan Jung

    I wouldn’t call some of those games “recent”.  Oblivion was released in 2006, and its much-acclaimed sequel (the fifth major game in the franchise) came out late last year. It also has some religious themes, including a character in one of the major towns who preaches fire and brimstone.  Freedom of religion is a strong theme in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, emphasizing a story where an oppressive government force attempts to force people to worship a particular god instead of Talos.  The player can choose to side with either the oppressors or the Talos-worshippers.

    Assassin’s Creed – haven’t played it, but its sequel has also been out for quite some time.  The one mentioned in his dissertation was released in 2007.  The video game market moves too quickly to call that “recent”.

  • http://yiab.pip.verisignlabs.com/ Yiab

    I would say a major factor in how accurate his findings are is what he is and isn’t counting as “religion”. I’ve played  two of those five games, and they both incorporate a theme that is very common in much of modern media, namely that dogmatic fundamentalist organized religion is bad, but vague nebulous spirituality is good.

    In Oblivion the entire main plot is in effect a conflict between deities, so there can’t help but be a strong religious element. Since the “good” deity’s worship has been mainstream in the game’s fictional society for a long time and the emperor is literally his descendent, it’s often more difficult to see that side of the conflict as religious (especially since the “good” deity hasn’t directly intervened or spoken in a long time), whereas the “evil” deity’s followers are a marginalized cult bent on chaos and murder in order to bring their deity bodily into the world. It doesn’t help the perception that there is no foundational text for the “good” deity’s worship but the foundational text for the “evil” deity’s worship is a key plot item. Overall the plot presents the “good” and “evil” deities as two sides of the same coin and presents the player with basically pragmatic reasons for fighting on the side of the “good” one: that he won’t destroy the world.
    In the Knights of the Nine expansion, the player rebuilds a dead religious order so they can combat a supernatural evil – I don’t see how he can reach the conclusion that religion is negatively portrayed here.
    In the Shivering Isles expansion the player travels to the realm of the deity of madness, so I would not think that anything therein can really be called “religion” so much as “fealty”.
    Perhaps he wishes to deal with a facet of the Elder Scrolls series as a whole, namely that the “Daedra” (who are mostly evil) will actively reward their followers whereas the “Aedra” (who are rarely mentioned but basically good) take almost no part in the world anymore. If he did not notice the mentions of the Aedra, then it is easy to see religion as being portrayed negatively in the series, as he would only see Daedra worship as fitting the definition.

    In Mass Effect 2 the only major instance of organized religion I can recall is that one race of artificial intelligences deifies a much older and much more powerful race of artificial intelligences (who in turn find that worship to be beneath contempt but a useful tool). As both these AI species are the main enemies of the Mass Effect series so far it is easy to see this as a demonization of religion. Combine this with the fact that sometimes you are called on to fight one small cult or another as a side mission and that impression can come across. It is also easy to ignore the relatively peaceful but highly religious species called the Hanoi, as well as the fact that almost all the characters in the game who mention their own beliefs have some kind of unspecified belief in a “higher power” or some sense of spirituality.
    This might also be because Ashley does not appear much in Mass Effect 2, while she played a major role in Mass Effect 1. Ashley has a strong but mostly private traditional God-belief, which can come to light through some of her character conversations. While Ashley is xenophobic, this is not portrayed as being tied to her religious views (IIRC).
    I don’t see any “Knights Templar” or “Crusader” motifs in Mass Effect 2, but I may just have forgotten that part.

    More positively, Skyrim (Elder Scrolls V) presents the religion of the land (spiritualist ancestor worship together with polytheism) as a primarily unifying force, though a subtle one, not terribly peaceful, and easily abused for xenophobic purposes. In Skyrim the main enemies are racists and dragons (and undead), but there is no particular religion involved in their motives.

    Personally I think that part of this perception comes from the fact that a small cult centered around a charismatic leader is an easy way to generate a fanatical, violent enemy for the player with a very high degree of organization and no need to add any detail to the motives of anybody beyond the cult’s leader. Basically, the use of religious zealots as enemies can be a symptom of lazy writing, or catering to both the audience that cares about motive and the audience that doesn’t want to listen to the explanation. On the other hand most people these days will see vague, unorganized spirituality as a positive thing, and so this is present in many allies and protagonists.

    As far as I can tell, most games in a traditional fantasy setting portray polytheistic cultures with real, active, interventionist deities and usually portray them in a mixed light with the player pointed towards a neutral or noncommital position (or, alternately, an extreme position but which extremity is irrelevant). This is very much in keeping with fantasy novels, movies, and role-playing games.
    Darker fantasies usually portray religions as corrupt organizations exploiting the poor and run by cynical, greedy opportunists, but that describes pretty much everything in a dark fantasy world.

    A common theme I see in most futuristic games is that humanity (and many aliens) are far less religious than we are today (but often just as spiritual), and this seems to me a combination of extrapolating current trends in religious belief with the spiritualism of Star Wars’ Jedi and the secularity and humanism of Star Trek (two major factors in the shape of current science fiction). In this situation it’s only natural for the most visible religions to be those doing horrible things.

  • Greg Peterson

    Christian videogames also feature “religious violence.”   
    LEFT BEHIND 4: World at War
     
    I see this fourth release includes new “destructible building graphics” for Christian youngsters to enjoy.  Praise the Lord.

    • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

       “I see this fourth release includes new “destructible building graphics””

      So?

      “for Christian youngsters to enjoy.  Praise the Lord.”

      Yeah, better they enjoy the spurting blood and meaningless violence of the latest “Grand Theft Auto” game, right?

  • Adam Shelton

    I admit, there *are* a lot of games where the god of a religion ends up being secretly evil or wanting to destroy its creation because it’s less than perfect.

    The “Evil Pope” theme is another favourite of mine.

  • The Atheist Gnu

    One thing to notice is that he pulled games from the fantasy and science fiction genres. Religion in fantasy settings, regardless of medium, is very common, usually utilizing multiple gods that constantly make themselves known and have a real, tangible affect on the world. There’s almost always conflict, as, usually, clear demarcations of good and evil pit the followers of the good gods against those of the bad.

    I never read a ton of sci-fi, but the exploration of how religion fits into advanced civilization and how it might affect relations with alien cultures  seems to be a common one. Obviously, there’s going to be conflict in such cases, otherwise there just wouldn’t be much of a story. So what I think we see in the cases he’s presented isn’t so much the video game industries take on religion, but rather a reflection of long standing traditions in these particular genres.

  • Darric

    Is it religion when it is categorically true?

    Many video games include what we would call religion but their god/gods are actually real and exist  in the game (often influencing and interacting with the main character). That doesn’t seem like religion to me, it seems more like life in a fantasy universe.

    Faith can’t be a part of a system of belief if the thing you believe in is standing in front of you. No one has faith in the moon, though you would need it to believe in a moon goddess.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

       When, in the game world, the supernatural are really interacting with the world, the violence and conflict that ensues makes more sense. So it seems to less “equate violence with religion” as “portray violence as justifiable if your religion is true.” I think that’s more of an insult to cults in the real world.

    • Reginald Jooald

      That’s not so much the case in Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed, though, and those were of the two cited games.

      In Assassin’s Creed, the “Order of the Knights Templar” are an evil cabal who are try to pull the strings of society for some nefarious purpose. They weren’t created for a religious purpose, but adopted that name when they got the church to recognize them as a knightly order. They also used religion to further their goals in other ways; at least one pope was a Templar.

      There are also a few borrowed elements in the backstory that might irk a religious person.  Humanity was created “in the image” of an advanced race who evolved on Earth before us. Adam and Eve were… rebels or something, fighting their tyrannical overlords and freeing humanity from their control (which is also kind of how I like to read Genesis ;D)

      • Reginald Jooald

        And, SPOILERS AHEAD:

        You at one point invade the Vatican, battle Pope Alexander VI (a Templar, and pretty much the game’s Final Boss), and fight your way out using a powerful weapon — removed from the Papal Staff — called an “Apple of Eden”. So, yeah, violence and religion all in one.

  • Stephanie Jobe

    They are fairly representative, though  I think he over generalizes a bit.  For example in Assassin’s Creed the Templars are the enemy, and are sometimes portrayed as evil but the assassins are not without their gray areas.  In Skyrim the government is telling the people of the country they can no longer worship their primary deity and they understandably rebel (especially in a world where the gods are not always idle or invisible).  It’s much more representative of reality than simply religion is bad.  Dead Space is another example of a series with a very dangerous religious group.  The issue is there are a lot of games, like I would say the majority of fantasy and many others, where religion is just a normal part of things.  It is often helpful to the hero, actually it is interesting how gods in fiction and games are usually active unlike the passive gods people believe in today.  As far as your question about the game developers backgrounds the thing Raff said about the Assassin’s Creed team is true.  They intentionally make a statement.  Though I expect game developers are a lot like some other fields where the truly extreme can’t fit in that situation.  I don’t think it is a problem.  Video games are another media of fiction, like books or movies.  They’re not expressing an opinion, they are creating.

  • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

    If the religious don’t want religion to be portrayed as evil, then they should be less evil!  

    • Someonehere

      You talk bullshit my friend…

  • DeafAtheist

    Of the examples listed above I am most familiar with Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect. Religion IS indeed a strong presence in the Assassin’s Creed universe, but religion is mostly used in that game as a tool to control people by people who are in positions of power. In Assassin’s Creed 2 the final boss you fight at the end is the Catholic pope… Pope Alexander VI… Rodrigo Borgia. According to the game Rodrigo Borgia sought the papacy for one single reason… to obtain the papal staff which is supposed to be a Piece of Eden… A powerful artifact that was brought here by the 1st Civilization… Those Who Came Before. These artifacts were used by the 1st Civilization to enslave humanity. Adam and Eve were 2 humans who escaped with another Piece of Eden called the Apple. 

    So the game world of Assassin’s Creed uses religion more as a mask but it interprets things differently. Adam and Eve in Christian lore ate an apple from a forbidden tree of Knowledge but in the game they are simply 2 early humans who were enslaved by a powerful alien race with alien technology that was used to ensnare the minds of humanity. The apple wasn’t eaten… it was stolen and it wasn’t an actual piece of fruit but a powerful alien artifact. The similarities to Christianity and the world of Assassin’s Creed is minor and it doesn’t so much paint Christianity in a negative light as it does people who are using religion as a tool of control. It kind of reminds me of the Denzel Washington movie… Book of Eli. In that movie Gary Oldman wanted the bible to use it to control people. The point of the movie wasn’t that religion was bad, but rather bad people use religion to control people.  However, the protagonist of the original Assassin’s Creed, game Altair is likely an atheist. He was apparently born to parents who were a Christian and  Muslim, but according to the lore of the game he wrote a book known to the Assassin Order as The Codex which is 30 pages long. In Assassin’s Creed 2 the new protagonist Ezio was tasked with finding the 30 pages which were spread out in different locations throughout Italy.In Codex XX he wrote:

    I have studied the ancient pagan faiths that came before this more recent
    obsession with a single, divine creator. They seem to have focused more on the
    fundamental forces at play in the world around us and less on arbitrary moral
    rules . . .

    The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. The tides ebb and flow.
    Grass grows, withers, dies and then in time, emerges from the ground once
    more. The air turns warm then cools and back again. Some hidden energy keeps
    us fitted to the ground and pulls us back when we attempt to leave it.

    Each of these movements was represented before by a god or goddess. Each force
    given face, but recognized as something distinct and powerful. Which is not to
    say there were not connections between these forces – a pantheon of individual
    spirits – of rules. Invisible hands guiding to progress of the world around
    us.

    And so here there was an attempt to categorize, study, explain, and understand
    the way things work – even if it was flawed. But no more. Now we are asked to
    succumb to a far more simplified explanation. How naive to believe there might
    be a single answer to every question. Every mystery. That there exists a lone
    divine light which rules over all. They say it is a light that beings truth
    and love. I say it is a light that blinds us – and forces us to stumble about
    in ignorance.

    I long for the day when men will turn away from invisible monsters and once
    more embrace a more rational view of the world. But these new religions are so
    convenient – and promise such terrible punishment should one reject them – I
    worry that fear shall keep us stuck to what is surely the greatest lie ever
    told.

    In Codex XXX he wrote:Soon I shall pass from this world. It is my time. All the hours of the day are
    now colored by the thoughts and fears borne of this realization. I know that
    the elements of my body will return to the Earth. But what of my
    consciousness? My identity? That is to say, what of ME? I suspect it will end.
    That there is no next world. Nor a return to this one. It will simply be done.
    Forever.

    Our lives are so brief and unimportant. The cosmos cares nothing for us. For
    what we’ve done; Had we wrought evil instead of good. Had I chosen to abuse
    the Apple instead of seal it away. None of it would have mattered. There is no
    counting. No reckoning. No final judgement. There is simply silence. And
    darkness. Utter and absolute . . . And so I have begun to wonder – might there
    not be a way to stop – or at least delay – death’s embrace?

    Surely the ones who came before were not so frail and feeble as we. But I have
    sworn to be done with the artifact. To not gaze into its core. Still: faced as
    I am with the prospect of my end, what harm is there I one last look . . .
    As for Mass Effect the only real religious reference is with an alien character that was raised to be an assassin. He is polytheistic and prays to different gods for different situations. The gods are all fictional to the game world and not any “real” gods that worshiped by real people.

  • Anonymous

    The “Dragon Age” universe (from the same developer as “Mass Effect”) also portrays religion and its point of view is pretty neutral overall. At least as far as the dominant faith is concerned. Some of the faithful can come off as annoying, but not particularly bad. One way the religious order is cast in the bad guy role is that the severely oppress mages and you can be easily persuaded to side against them. But in DA, mages can be real threats, so the opposition to them isn’t really rooted in religious dogma. It’s just a real fear taken too far.

    Some of the characters question whether there are gods, but the purely theological aspect of the Chantry (as the religion in Thedas is called) isn’t shown in a negative way.

    But then there are the Qunari, who seem like an extreme version of Islam complete with religiously motivated conquests, enslavement of entire people and forced conversions in reeeducation camps

    • Anonymous

      I’m not sure I agree. Well I do about the Qunari, However I thought Dragon age painted the church/Chantry in a very negative light.

      They have their Templars addicted to drugs that only they can supply them, in order to have an unquestioning loyal zealot army hunt down and kill apostates.
      They’re worried about a few dangerous people so they strike down anyone who doesn’t buy into their religion fully and relinquish control over their own lives.  

      • Jeffrey

        I thought the Chantry’s portrayal was rather neutral relative to actual religions. They do charity work and help orphans, but on the other hand discriminate heavily against some minority groups and occasionally gather large armies to send against people who don’t follow their religion. Sounds a lot like religions we’ve got here to me.

        Also, unlike many fantasy religions, there’s really no evidence that the Chantry’s god actually exists. I suppose it’s rather realistic in that sense as well: its only miracles happened hundreds of years ago and have more reasonable alternate explanations (you can actually find a book in Orzammar which “explores the theory that Andraste was a powerful mage and not the Maker’s Chosen”). 

      • Anonymous

        I agree about the templar/mage thing. I really find it much easier to side with the mages and have nearly always done so (except for the more crazy blood mages). Yes, demon possession is a threat, but many of the Chantry’s actions are overreactions.

        However, what I meant is that none of those actions are based on their faith. Their holy texts don’t command that. Unlike the political machinations of some real-world religions, they don’t even claim some religious justification for it. It’s just part of the secular authority they have in the world.

        The Chantry/mage conflict is certainly dominant in their perception, especially as it’s such a large part of the DA2 story and the entire climax is about it. But if you take that into account, they aren’t portrayed as outright bad guys

  • Fentwin

    I seem to recall a video game based on the “Left Behind” series. Wasn’t it centered around converting people, and if you couldn’t convert them you got to kill them?

    Yea Doggies for Jebus!

    • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

       “Wasn’t it centered around converting people, and if you couldn’t convert them you got to kill them?”

      No, it wasn’t.

  • Scott Maddox, CPA

    Current Legend of Zelda games have their own fictional religion. There are deities(Nayru, Din, Farore) and lost of repeating destiny throughout the series. Link is like Jesus in that he’s the chosen one to defeat the King of Darkness, Ganon. Just about any fantasy videogame that plays light versus dark/good vs. evil has some sort of internal religion in place for its characters to observe.

    Earlier Zelda games even had Bibles and crosses, but Nintendos policies eventually decided to take any overt Christian items out of future games. 

    http://zelda.wikia.com/wiki/Christianity

    In Sid Meier’s Sim Island, you literally play God and you try and get the natives to worship you and you can send floods, etc.

    In Okami, you play a Shinto Sun God, named Amaterasu Okami who takes the earthly form of a white folf. You fight dark spirits with a paint brush and the whole game is beautiful and a tribute to Japanese culture.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%8Ckami

    In Prince of Persia(2008), “the Prince will have to stop the rise of the ancient destructive God, Ahriman. This new epic storyline is close to Persian Mythology (Zoroastrianism).has lots of Zoroastrian themes.”

    But I would say there’s plenty of examples where religion is a key part of the story time, but it’s not being demonized or linked directly with violence. The guy who did the research clearly did not do enough research. Plus, he’s ignoring all the smaller videogames developed by Christians for Christians(there were even a few that made it onto original NES).

    A game he did not mention was Halo 3, where an alien race(The Covenant) are motivated by their religious beliefs is taking over the universe. Sound familiar? It’s obviously similar to the Christian Crusades and Moors invading Europe. Any technology that is alien to them is heresy to them and they feel the need to destroy it.

    “1. The prophets are the leaders similar to the Old Testament in the Bible.

    2. Halo-Angels

    3. Great Journey-similat to the Jihad (Holy War) in Islam

    4. The Ark-In the Bible the Ark is what saves humanity from God’s wrath but in Halo the Ark saves all living beings from the flood.

    5.The covenant-The Biblical covenant is between God and his people, stating that if they choose Him as their God, he will make them prosper. In Halo, the covenant is an alliance of aliens who have pledged to activate the Halo rings.

    6. The flood-In the Bible the flood is used to judge humanity for their sins and only a few people survive. In Halo, the flood was an unstoppbale power that destroyed forerunners and is similar to the tribulation mentioned in Revelation.”

    Castlevania is simply put a vampire & demon slaying game. Christianity is bound to come into that mix. I think this game more so than any of the other Castlevania games over the last 25 years puts much more emphasis on the God vs. Satan aspect and it has a whole end of days theme to it. It’s definitely on my list of games to buy though.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlevania:_Lords_of_Shadow#Plot

     

  • Scott Maddox, CPA

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_War_(video_game)

    “God of War” links religion(Gods) with violence(war).

  • http://twitter.com/scarecroe scarecroe

    The villain in Infamous 2 is a religious extremist.

  • Scott Maddox, CPA

    In Katamari Damacy, the King of the Universe gets drunk one night and accidentally destroys the Universe, so it’s up to the Prince to roll everything back together like making a giant snowball.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNWAM4DYCN4MLBLHFGDHE2YKZM GloomCookie613

      *ROYAL RAINBOW!*

  • Wotan Anubis

    In videogames, gods and goddesses come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re evil. Sometimes they interfere, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re the final boss, sometimes they’re the player character.

    But organised religions, on the other hand, tend to be portrayed roughly similar everywhere. As soon as you’ve got some kind of Church with political power, you’ll have basically good people way at the bottom and rotten, corrupt, power-hungry people at the top ruining everything for everyone.

  • BlackHumor

    The idea that Oblivion is anti-religion boggles my mind. For one all the gods in it are fake, but for two, to the extent that they resemble real religion (quite  a lot, actually) they are uncontroversially the good guys. 

    Morrowind and Skyrim, previous and next games in the series respectively, treat religion as a bit more muddled. Still, they’re not really anti- it in any meaningful way.

    Oh, but: to say that a video game “associates religion with violence” is meaningless, because almost all video games contain violence because violence is fun to play. So video games, usually, associate EVERYTHING with violence if you see them with a wide enough lens; that’s no more to the point than saying that Gladiator or Saving Private Ryan associate religion with violence. 

    • Michael

      In the same way that Chuck Norris associates religion with roundhouse-kicks?

  • Jeanette

    Well, duh, the “priest” and “monk” archetypes in RPGs who heal other players with prayer and smite people and stuff. Interesting research about the violent side of religion in video games though!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNWAM4DYCN4MLBLHFGDHE2YKZM GloomCookie613

    “There was a sample size of 5 video games. Are those representative of all newer video games that fit this genre?”

    Hardly.

    “Are there any positive (or, at least, not negative) examples of religion appearing in video games?”

    Meh, it’s kind of a crap-shoot.  The gaming industry and what people are willing to pay for doesn’t generally lean toward the godly.  I’m sure there’s some fluffy wii title out there or something, but it’s just not what’s in demand/sells well.  Now I can say I’ve seen *one* instance in a game (by the same crew that did Oblivion), Fallout 3, where there was a fairly harmless little religious cult.  They were obsessed with the undetonated nuclear bomb in the middle of town.  Fairly harmless and they were only irradiating themselves to death.

    “To the gamers out there, is his portrayal of religion in these particular games accurate? I have no idea.”

    I won’t say that the guy is way off base, but he’s being a bit drama-queen about it.  Assassin’s Creed basically is set *in* the past for the most part.  What does he want?  To rewrite history?  Granted they paint the Templars in a VERY, VERY bad light in that game, but when it comes down to real world history it’s not all *that* far off from reality.  As for FFXIII, it’s not so much denouncing religion as it is denouncing those who use it for evil ends that harm others (as far as I know, I’m only halfway through the game and put it down months ago).  Couldn’t tell you about Mass Effect and Oblivion isn’t exactly hateful of religion, but it doesn’t paint it up as sunshine and unicorn farts either.

    • Jake

       Haha, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that in Fallout 3′s Broken Steel DLC, the Children of Atom do become dangerous, and start irradiating people to death and infecting the water supply.

      Also I think it’s kind of funny that you can kill all of them off with their own god.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNWAM4DYCN4MLBLHFGDHE2YKZM GloomCookie613

        Ah!  I didn’t do Broken Steel yet*, so I amend my statement:  The Church of Atom in MEGATON isn’t so bad during the main game.

        *My OCD requires that I steal everything that isn’t nailed down.  This leads to my gaming going *very* slowly.

  • Seladora

    The reason why they have religion as something for the protagonist of the game’s storyline to overcome is because it’s mirroring reality–religion DOES cause conflict, war, and oppression. 
    Maybe religions in general should start practicing what they preach, then the game companies may stop using the plot device of ‘religious tyranny’.

    • cleverguy

      Oh you say ‘religious tyranny’, don’t you? Let me clear this, PEOPLE cause war, and they always search to an excuse to cover it, religion is one of them, the game is said to be developed by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs, it’s not directly attacking religions or whatever, but it shows how templars obtained power and influence, and also shows a different perspective about historical origin. So stop talking no sense, people in general may be good or evil, just because someone don’t have any belief doesn’t mean they are pure, as you’re saying.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=804730646 Geralyn Mott

    no, video games do not equate violence with religion(s), REALITY does.

  • Austin

    The Mass Effect series are my favorite games. I have never once seem how the plot has to deal with any sort of religion. Now, Assassins Creed on the other hand is full of religious things. You battle the Templars with 2 of the games taking place in the middle east. No games are that bad though and AC was made by “A team of different ethnicites and religious beliefs” it does not say that the religions are bad, just that the organizations that run them are courpt.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    Final Fantasy 13 had some “religious” elements, but the gods in the game were real to the characters, because each god supplied them with something – There was a god that supplied water, another that supplied food, yet another that supplied energy, etc. These particular gods aren’t really worshipped, but appreciated.

    There are pretty much two areas in the game – Caccoon (where normal people live, literally a floating caccoon), and Pulse, the “evil” world below. It’s believed that anyone who goes near Pulse or anything that is from Pulse is “cursed” more or less. 
    The game more so centers around a religious hierarchy that uses fear of those that have been “cursed” to control people. It sounds oddly familiar….

  • Gunstargreen

    Religion is quite often the bad guy in video games. And a lot of popular video games are Japanese so we’re looking at it from their prospective usually.

  • Siobhan Duffey

    Since video games are quite commonly fantasy or science fantasy, most of the time gods and such are demonstrably real, so any comparison drawn to real-world religion is very hard to suss out. In my favorite game from childhood, Breath of Fire IV, some of the main characters were gods. There’s also the fact that a lot of the gaming canon comes from Japan. Not only does “religion” have a very different social impact and cultural weight in Japan, but it takes a significantly different form, so the anthropology here seems very challenging to me. And as yet another confounding factor, Japanese stories will often use the trappings of Christianity as a shorthand for evil/foreign/scary the same way a lot of Western media will use Asian or African motifs to suggest the same thing. That’s definitely a negative portrayal of religion, of course, but considering that gods aren’t necessarily good in Japan and… Oh, it’s kind of a mess in general. I’m glad it’s not my job to figure it out.

    It’s much rarer for religion in games to mirror religion in reality, where believers have no particular indication of whether they’re right or wrong. The world of Dragon Age takes a stab at it. For most people in the world, worshiping the maker through His prophet, Andraste (it’s most like Islam, I guess?) is just kind of what you do, and while the chantry has teachings about where demons and magic and such come from, they can’t really prove it. There’s a quest where you go find the prophet’s remains and they’re all kinds of magic and guarded by the ghosts of her followers, so she was clearly something neat, but there are other religions in the world and other theories. (And fantasy as a genre has the same wider trouble where magic confounds the whole question of religion considerably.) Humans and some elves are into the whole Maker/Andraste story in a big way, but other PCs can be downright hostile to it. My Dalish elf trolled priests as a hobby, actually.

    Games that are more firmly sci-fi in focus have more realistic religions, I find. Fallout is a good example. There’s the Church of Atom who cult it up around an undetonated atomic bomb and are a bunch of harmless kooks (but apparently have a radiation-proof high priest, so that’s kinda cool?), a handful of pleasant weirdos who’ve attached their rituals to a cheerful mutant who produces lush plants in a desert world, so at least they get something out of it. Another cult is being cynically manipulated by a preserved brain in a tank… Okay, yeah, it’s a pretty grim portrayal of religion all around. And in games like that, where there’s actually a potential for religion to be much like religion in the real world, that’s pretty standard.

    • Anonymous

      Andraste is a mix of Mohammed and Jesus. She conquered lands for her people like Mohamed, but then like Jesus was betrayed and executed. Though parallels to Joan of Arc are also obvious, with the Tevinter Imperium being the English conquerors from she liberated her people, right down to being burned

      The Chantry also mirrors the Catholic church relatively closely on the surface. What with how the chantries look and they even have the occasional crusade/Exalted March.

      I think DA handles it very realistically too. Despite all the magic and the known existence of other-dimensional realms like the Fade, people don’t know whether it’s true. In fact one book speculates that Andraste was just a mage

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    Has he even played Skyrim?

    Religion isn’t portrayed negatively. It isn’t really portrayed positively, either, but as with all of the Elder Scrolls games, it’s simply there. YOU choose what to do with it. (And honestly, I don’t mind running temple errands, or doing stuff for the Daedric Princes — I usually get some pretty cool stuff out of the deal.)

    In Skyrim, specifically, the religion issue pretty much comes down to the Thalmor (Elven Alliance) removing Talos from the Nine Divines because he was human. Fantastic Racism, anyone? (The Khajiit and Argonians are also subject to a bit of Fantastic Racism, as well. It’s even stated outright by the Khajiiti caravaners.)

  • Selfification

    Sigh…  there is a blazing oversight that those here arguing about “Oh here’s a game that shows religion in a non-violent light” are missing.

    “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.”

    Now consider this:

    “Not only was the sexual side of religion emphasized, but in each of these pornographic titles religion created a of problem(grammar?) that the main character must overcome, whether it is through cheese domineering dialogue with nyphomaniac nuns or pleading for mercy from carnal sin from the same.”

    Well FUCKING DUH!  It’s porn.  Anything it depicts is going to have sex.  “Oh but I saw this one porno that was classy and had this deep religious implication that …”  Who cares?  If you took the top 5 best selling pornos involving religion, they’d all portray religion as something to do with sex and power.

    If you take the top 5 best selling games involving religion, they’d all portray religion as something to do with violence, strategy, or ridiculous and unrealistic twitch reflexes.  One may talk about violence in video games in general and that’s a long multi-faceted discussion. But the hidden implication of religion being “singled out for violence” is stupid.  It commits a base-rate fallacy.  Religion is only being preferentially singled out for violence/violent tendencies if the rate of it’s occurrence (in the corresponding sub-population) is greater than the base rate at which all other comparable options are being singled out.

  • Jake

    The thing about Assassins Creed is that the entire backstory of the game (which you don’t really comprehend until the end second game) is replacing the explanations of god with a species that preceded humanity, and they were simply “more advanced in time,” not gods, they’re very clear on that.  They basically made a sci-fi premise that knocked out the existence of god altogether (several characters point this out, saying that what they learn has proved there is no god or afterlife).  They actually have a disclaimer on each game saying they’re historical fiction created by a “team of diverse cultures and faiths” or something along those lines.  Religion doesn’t seem to be resolved with violence in AC so much as used to incite it by the enemies, and even then it’s regarded as secondary to reality (as it should be), and the sci-fi backstory explains pretty much every religion so that they don’t have to necessarily contend with any of them unless they’re an important part of the time period (Templars under Richard the Lionheart, Rodrigo Borgia becomes Pope, the Bonfire of the Vanities, etc.)

    Haha the moment I read this article I thought of the moment in AC Brotherhood when Ezio is running out of the Vatican and yells at the monks that everything they know is a lie.

    In Oblivion there are many different gods, all of them have some violent purpose or another, they all just have different motivations.  You do services to most of them, and then you have to expel one of the evil gods.  They go so far into different types of gods in different categories etc. that it’s hard to really associate any of it with religion beyond mythology serving as an important plot device.  Also, these gods actually reward you when you do something, so they’re making it a clear-cut fantasy, haha.

    I don’t know where the hell Mass Effect games figure into this, I mean they mention the characters being religious (it’s a conversation point for Ash in the first game and Thane mentions his beliefs in ME2 and the Asari view their religion with a cultural respect, and the only ones who seem to push it are the Hanar, whose gods we find out were an older species), but the only time it’s ever really relevant to the core of the game is when they explain how one group of machines thinks another group of machines is god and you have to decide whether that “religion” is the machines’ free thought, or an error, and whether you should kill them or rewrite them.  It’s more of an A.I. moral quandary than a religious one.  I guess the idea is that with so many different species, they’re too busy killing each other for reasons to have even gotten to religion yet.

    Never played final fantasy, don’t know the mythology…

    • Anonymous

      This may help you. Specifically, “The Philosophy” section.
      In addition to the Cosmicism discussed in the article I linked, you could also take the Collectors in ME2 as a logical endgame for religious fanaticism, where all are become mindless drones for an uncaring deity. Or maybe it’s easier to relate to the dissension between the two Geth factions for the division between theists and non-theists?
      I can kind of see why this game *might* fit, but I agree, it’s very close to a square-peg, round-hole fit.

  • http://commablank.blogspot.com/ LS

    Congratulations on catching up with what gamers have known for years. =P

    The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Cliches, which I can’t find a publish date for, but which has been around for a decade or so, makes reference to this phenomena several times.

    Cliche #47:
    We Had To Destroy The Village In Order To, Well, You Know The Rest (Selene Rule)

    No matter what happens, never call on the government, the church, or any
    other massive controlling authority for help. They’ll just send a
    brigade of soldiers to burn your entire village to the ground.

    Cliche #118 In Your Face, Jesus!
    Even if you manage to deal with him that time, you’re not done — the
    villain will then transform into his final form, which is always an
    angelic winged figure with background music remixed for ecstatic chorus
    and pipe organ.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that video games are predisposed towards violence and treachery in general. They are, almost by necessity, experiences which pit an individual against a large group.

    With such a narrow field to play with, *every* large group is going to repeatedly show up as antagonistic.

  • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

    I’ve been playing the original Assassin’s Creed for the first time recently and I absolutely love the setting. I’ve been discussing with my girlfriend how tragically novel it is to play as a middle-eastern protagonist, and how I like the fact that the game is set during the crusades with the Assassins as the good guys (ish) and the Christian crusaders as the bad guys. When you first walk into Jerusalem, which has been taken over by the Christians, you see a steady stream of people walking out of the city.

    At first I didn’t understand what I was seeing. “Why are all these people walking out of the city? Why is no one going into it?” But then the penny dropped. Of course. They’ve been driven out. Men and women fleeing their homes. (There aren’t to my knowledge any children in the game.) Somehow their resigned and steady gait makes it all the more powerful. Other cities you visit during the course of the game have yet to be sacked. But even in those the fear is palpable. Part of the background-patter is a street-preacher ranting about King Richard “the infidel king” and his army of crusaders. “A crusade for what,” he demands to know “Ignorance? Violence? Madness!”

    One of the regular mini-objectives in the game is saving ordinary citizens from being harassed by the soldiers. (Although to be fair this goes for Christian and Muslim soldiers alike.) The soldiers usually accuse them of stealing, (presumably a false accusation, but considering the rampant poverty there might be something to it) threatening to cut off their hands. I shudder every time a saved woman thanks me for my timeliness since “one more minute” and they would have made off with her. Off to where? To what end? I don’t even want to know. There is a lot of sinister kidnapping going on in the game; plenty of slavery. However, there are also more even more appalling things going on than regular slavery. For instance a German doctor (with a big crucifix pendant and wearing a bloodied butcher’s apron) who sees the ready availability of Muslim prisoners/slaves as a great opportunity for torture and medical experimentation.

    Sure, Assassin’s Creed emphasises the violent side of religion. However, you can hardly accuse it of doing so by contrivance, exaggeration, or inaccuracy. It’s set in historical times, and historical facts were, if anything, even more grotesque than what the game could possibly depict. The game just allows the player a tiny amount of immersion into the madness that was the actual crusades, and even that tiny amount is stifling. Hemant asked whether, if Perrault is correct, religion is just a cop-out way to advance a storyline or whether it really deserves to be depicted this way in the games. I can’t comment on the other games, but I must say that in the case of the original Assassin’s Creed religion deserves everything dished out and more.

  • Neal Fournier

    Speaking of Final Fantasy, this guy should have reviewed Final Fantasy X for the Playstation 2. The whole point of that game was overthrowing a god and defying doctrine.

  • http://chronosynclasticinfundibulum.wordpress.com/ Salo

    Just throwing in my two cents from my own personal experience (sample size is reasonable, but not huge): seeing religion approached critically isn’t the norm, but not really uncommon, however seeing religion approached favorably is far less common. It seems to me that when religion is brought up at all, it is usually either neutral or negative.

    As others have mentioned, I’m really surprised they left Dragon Age out, as I find it the most interesting, and the most deep, exploration of religion in a AAA game. Mass Effect (which I’m actually replaying right now in anticipation of the 3rd one), really only touches on it briefly, and only as small asides. In Dragon Age, however, it’s a fairly predominant theme that plays a major role in shaping the world. I even wrote a few blog posts about religion in Dragon Age 1 and 2since they left such a strong impression on me. (http://chronosynclasticinfundibulum.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/religion-in-the-dragon-age-part-2-the-tragedy-of-oppression/)

  • John Brockman

    Let’s go through my library! Loooong post.

    Fable – Been a while, but I don’t really recall a religion, unless you count the demonic Jack of Blades… 

    The Grand Theft Auto series – Definitely doesn’t portray religion nicely, but then it doesn’t portray *anything* nicely. It’s a black and grey crapsack world! The best you can say is that, in a world awash with drugs and violence, religion doesn’t seem to make things *worse*.

    The Halo series – Years since I played it, but the bad guys are religious, and there’s some kind of psychic plant?

    Jade Empire – A fairly fleshed out cosmology, with spirits and deities and an actual heaven, but the bad guys are perverting and warping heaven’s plan, not fulfilling it.

    Prince of Persia – Sands of Time, Warrior Within, Two Thrones. There’s magic and whatnot, and the sands end up semi-deified, but religion doesn’t seem to play a role so as I recall.

    Spider-man/Spider-Man 2 – I’ll be honest, never made it more than 20 minutes into the first one; what a piece of crap. The second is fantastic, though, and doesn’t even have a hint of religion. Although, reproducing NYC as it does, it has St Peter’s in it.

    Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 – No.

    X-Men Legends = I wish my old XBox weren’t broken; I haven’t played this in too long. Unless you count Magneto’s Mutant Supremacy, then there’s no religion either way.

    Assassin’s Creed Series – Atheist all the way. Religion is used as an excuse by the bad guys rather than the driving force, but it’s certainly not portrayed in a good way, despite the addition of the convent/brothel in the second game.

    Batman: Arkham Asylum/City – Messianic and demonic archetypes may abound, but there’s no religion.

    Borderlands – Does the belief in the nigh-mythical treasure of Pandora count? No religion.

    Burnout Paradise – Lots of cars, no gods.

    Call of Duty: World At War – Meh.

    Fallout 3 – The only religion that shows up is the Church of Atom, so as I recall, and it’s fairly benign, though one cult does end up poisoning people. So it’s a little negative, but rather unimportant in the context of Super Mutants and Raven Rock.

    Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 – It’s a medical zombie apocalypse, not a religious one. 

    Mass Effect – As befits one of the greatest stories of the digital age, the ME universe touches on all aspects of religion. Remember Sgt Ashley, a religious xenophobe? She’s one of the good guys and is a complex and nuanced portrayal of a good and understandably flawed character. There’s a Hanar whose street preaching is treated as a nuisance, an assassin and a genocide both tormented by the past and finding comfort in religion, a cult worshipping eldritch others from beyond the bounds of known space, and finally the eldritch abominations themselves seeking to destroy all sentient life for purposes we don’t really understand, Evil Gods for all intents. Is religion the driving force? No, but it certainly forms a number of important threads in the fabric of an incredibly well-developed story.

    Mirror’s Edge – Nope. Lots of running, no jesus.

    Prince of Persia – You fight on behalf of a non-practicing good god in order to fight off the destructive and corruptive influence of an evil god. It’s certainly religious, but it’s the religion of Zoroastrianism.

    Rock Band – It is to laugh.

    Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – Space Taoism!

    X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Kill shit! Kill it to death with bone claws!  Because killing shit! Seriously, no religion here.

    Bully – It’s GTA lite.

    Final Fantasy X – There’s an evil god, Sin, and every decade or so, people compete to be the human sacrifice that appeases him and brings about a decade of peace. They worship Yu Yevon in Catholic style to protect them from Sin, only it turns out he actually IS Sin and it’s all sort of warped. Also, there’s a real afterlife. Religion doesn’t get a big round of applause here. I never finished the sequel. Barely started it.

    FFXII – It’s all politics. And a princess in a miniskirt.

    Gauntlet: Dark Legacy – You fight an evil wizard, and there might be a church in it, but just as a place. No gods here.

    Getaway – A collection of criminal and rogue cop stereotypes, not one of which has anything to do with religion.

    God of War – Kill shit! To death! With a blade on a chain! Because you’re ANGRY! And there are gods, but they all tend to be dicks. This is roughly on a par with how the ancient Greeks characterized their own gods, so I don’t think there’s much for anyone to complain about.

    Katamari Damacy – If you squint, tilt your head, and smoke a lot of something pungent, you might be able to characterize this as religious. 

    Need for Speet: Hot Pursuit 2 – I dunno. Cops and robbers and… it’s a car game.

    Shadow of the Colossus – There’s a big dark demon guy who wants to break free and MOVE SLUGGISHLY FOR THE EXIT! And a dead chick. Kinda religious, but not really, mostly just hauntingly beautiful.

    Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 – Bums and skateboarders, no jesus freaks.

    True Crime: Streets of LA – There’s some sort of Chinese dragon worship or something, and I think you fight a cypher for Kim Jong-Il?  Eh, let’s call it a religious thing; I’m getting bored.

    That’s it for my library of console video games. My PC games include some more classics which would expand the picture a bit, but probably not bias it any more in one direction or another.

    Video games exist to be sold, and if it blatantly plugs an anti-religion message, the fundies will get up in arms and mostly hurt sales, so, like the rest of Hollywood, religion gets quietly left to one side as mostly unimportant.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    I can think of a handful of games where religion was depicted as a crucial, necessary aid — Castlevania 2 requires you to make a stop at the church for healing, and I recall a few SNES RPGs (I want to say Breath of Fire and Lufia) which had you going to church to save your game. In Final Fantasy IV, before the godawful translation, as well as in Earthbound, prayer is the only way to win against the final boss. So… yeah.

  • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andy Laa

    So, he’s butthurt because religion causes violence (granted, not all violence, but the majority, historically speaking) and videogame developers have noticed it?

  • Murad-94

    I played final fantasy 13.. and definetaly… it feels as tho, they are trying to show religions such as christianity are evil… barthandulus for example is the antagonist and looks very similair to the pope… they keep referring to the Creator being called by their follows (who are also the antagonists).. this reminds me of muslims who worship Allah five times a day… then they have an atheistic notion which hints that there is no God.. then u have the notion of God being evil and feeding humanities needs, but only misguiding them for a painful punishment.. at least this is what i have concluded.


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