Religion in Video Games

So, I was just looking at the Archbishop Benedictus thread regarding World of Warcraft and a thought came to me. For those of us who do play video games I ask: is it just me or is the portrayal religion in the video game world generally horrible. I can’t remember the last time I’ve played a video game with a plot that was neutral towards religion let alone one with a positive bent. If they do deal with religion it will inevitably be a corrupt, often suspiciously Catholic-like sham. Anyone who you would consider devout is portrayed as a self-righteous nutjob unless that particular person is rebelling against the organized religion of the setting.

This really isn’t intended to be a rant, I’m just curious if any fellow gamer has noticed how terribly organized religion is portrayed.

I think it depends on the game. Many Japanese RPGs I’ve played do tend to view religion and/or deities in a negative light (Final Fantasy X, Shin Megami Tensei) of Western RPGs, I think The Elder Scrolls is a mixed bag: the Nine Divines are generally portrayed in a positive light (and the Knights of the Nine are particularly devout), whereas Daedric cults could be seen as “evil” (many are seen as more negative forces, but some are not). I’d say that the Nine Divines are the Crystal Dragon Jesus in the Elder Scrolls universe, and the Daedra cults represent Pagan religions.

I actually think that Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2 do a good job of presenting both good and bad religious people. The dominant religion in Thedas is Andrastian religion (known as the Chantry) which honours the Maker through his bride, Andraste. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Andraste is basically Joan of Arc + Jesus. Chantry clerics are all female, but men can also join the Chantry (many of them become chanters or templars, templars are basically the militant arm of the Chantry). The Chantry’s goal is to spread the Chant of Light to all corners of Thedas, because once that happens, it’s believed the Maker will start paying attention to their world again. [Note: Here be spoilers for DA 2, so don’t read if you don’t want to know what happens.]

I personally found Sebastian’s religiosity to be very annoying, so I only took him along when I absolutely had to. Grand Cleric Elthina is one example of a religious person who is portrayed positively. She actually admonishes Sebastian for wanting to seek vengeance on the people who killed his family. (“This is murder!”) On the other side of the equation, there’s Sister/Mother Petrice is an example of a fanatic who uses faith to further her own agenda. There are also characters who have reasons to dislike the Chantry and its policies. In both Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2 there are other religions that are portrayed more negatively, but the Chantry is really a mixed bag.

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[quote="Mungling, post:1, topic:259054"]
So, I was just looking at the Archbishop Benedictus thread regarding World of Warcraft and a thought came to me. For those of us who do play video games I ask: is it just me or is the portrayal religion in the video game world generally horrible. I can't remember the last time I've played a video game with a plot that was neutral towards religion let alone one with a positive bent. If they do deal with religion it will inevitably be a corrupt, often suspiciously Catholic-like sham. Anyone who you would consider devout is portrayed as a self-righteous nutjob unless that particular person is rebelling against the organized religion of the setting.

This really isn't intended to be a rant, I'm just curious if any fellow gamer has noticed how terribly organized religion is portrayed.

[/quote]

Dear Mungling,

Cordial greetings!

Being a teenager, I play video games when I can. I totaly agree with your assesment. In games like Assassins Creed,Christians are portrayed as corrupt, bad individuals who are usualy the bad guys.

However in the world of video games, there is one game that I have played that portrays religion very well. Its called Medieval 2 Total War (M2TW). It is an RTT/RTS, thus you have can chose to have control over different factions present in Medieval Europe. If you chose a Catholic Faction (such as Kingdom of France, Kingdom of England, Holy Roman Empire, ect), you can create priests (who can become bishops and cardinals and get elected to the Collage of Cardinals) who convert the population to Catholicism as they move around the world map. In order to recrute a priest, though, you muct build a church, which you can upgrade into an Abby, Cathedrial, ect. Also in the game is the Pope, who gives you missions, and who you have the option to elect once the current one dies, and you have a Cardinal in the Collage of Cardinals. Another twist is that if you anger the pope by wageing war against fellow Catholic factions, the pope can excomunicate you! The Orthodox factions (like the Byzantine Empire, or the Rebuplic of Novgorod) have a similar structure, however the pope, naturaly, is not present in their factions.

In addition, because the game is millitary orented, you can request the Pope to declare a Crusade on either Muslim, pagan, or rebel cities. When this happens, you can recrute Crusader units (Crusader Knights, Crusader Sergeant Spearmen, ect). In fact, there is even a faction called the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which you can play as in the mod Stainless Steel. The Teutonic Knights are also present in the game as they wage Holy War against the pagans of Lithuania. As a Muslim Faction (like the Seljuc Sultanate, or the Fatimid Caliphate), you can declare Jihads in a similar way.

All in all, its a very fun RTT/RTS game and I would highly recomend it. It is the only game that I have ever played the portrays religion well and even makes it an important part of the game. However, before playing it, download the Stainless Steel mod, which improves the game very much.

God Bless & Salve Regina!

-Pope Pius X :signofcross:

Medieval Total War Series is awesome.

Having said that the game Dante's INferno lets you decide whether to damn or save a soul while you navigate your way through hell.

Without being specefic, I believe video games are pretty in the middle about religion. While it is true that religious characters in games are more often portrayed as eithier corrupt or fanatic, very few games vew religion itself as evil. In fact the "good" guys are usually at least somewhat religious.

Most games eithier try to use religion as just one part of the game, like the aforementioned Total War games (quite amazing) or desire to ignore it all toghether. I do know that its overall very rare to see games actually use real life religions such as Christianity, because its just easier to make up your own religion and depict it how you want and not have to worry about how its perceived.

Assassins' creed is a great game in terms of being fun to play. But it paints the Catholic church as an evil entity bent on helping the Templars take over the world. I returned the game just for that.

[quote="Birdpreacher, post:4, topic:259054"]
Having said that the game Dante's INferno lets you decide whether to damn or save a soul while you navigate your way through hell.

[/quote]

That's a pretty interesting concept in itself, don't you think? As in, you would think their fates would be sealed already.

I actually just finished a review of Dante's Inferno. It was a labor a love. ;) Check it out: anytimeevangelize.com/2011/10/17/review-of-dantes-inferno/


Anytime Evangelize

"We cannot keep to ourselves the words of eternal life given to us in our encounter with Jesus Christ: they are meant for everyone, for every man and woman. ... It is our responsibility to pass on what, by God's grace, we ourselves have received."
- Pope Benedict XVI

[quote="Birdpreacher, post:4, topic:259054"]
Medieval Total War Series is awesome.

[/quote]

Yes, Indeed.

[quote="Birdpreacher, post:4, topic:259054"]
Medieval Total War Series is awesome.

Having said that the game Dante's INferno lets you decide whether to damn or save a soul while you navigate your way through hell.

[/quote]

I loved that series but I didn't like the way it was necessitated by the game to send heretics to the stake (mouse cursor taking the shape of the stake or some other such imagery), then there would be a cinematic close-up of a crucifix. I didn't like the portrayal of the papacy and the popes either.

Ultimately, regardless of historical accuracy of this, I just couldn't bring myself to take the gigantic, moving Holy Cross reliquary, represented as an army unit, into battles while on a war that was more or less like other wars: territorial expansion, questionable moves on both sides etc.

dragon age i found a great RPG, and loved the use of the Maker everywhere :)

shogun 2 total war has Christianity but shows up when its brought to japan historical and you can covert your population ;)

Clive baker Jericho is themed...kinda
Assassins Creed at least shows great landscape of the time of the crusades.
a old favourite was LIONHEART RPG, people who made baldars gate is also themed that way.

What I don't like about Shogun 2's portrayal of religion is the missionary skill tree. In order to reach Doctor of the Church, the missionary must go through the Heterodoxy skill, described as, "there are more ways to God than there are to Rome," which is ridiculous.

In some games the developers are just insensitive. For example in Tropico 1 and 3, they actually didn't care to prevent priests (works at a church) and bishops (workers at a cathedral) from being married. Radio broadcasts presumably made fun of the caster's ignorance when, while announcing the papal visit, he said the Holy Father would come here but the Son and Spirit couldn't make it and would come some other time. Still, I don't think that was appropriate. Last straw was in Tropico 3 where during a mission, a religious statue was essentially intended to be turned into a combat robot to dominate the region. I'm seriously wondering if I really should even buy Tropico 4. I'm inclined to apply collective responsibility (someone could have vetoed that stupid idea) and avoid association by buying the game.

ya tropico 4 mocks the church more, if you play the demo you will see what i mean...sigh bios view for sure.

Thanks for the information. I actually searched for this topic via a keyword hoping there'd be some. Guess there are better things to do than playing Tropico, as much as I loved these games. :(

I think this is a very interesting topic. it seems to me that a lot of the Japanese Rpgs have some concept of mother earth power like goddess worship like final fantasy 7 has the lifestream or althena in lunar. I've played a lot of RPGs before but i don't really remember anything that had anything doctrinally similar to catholicism but i could find similarities in terms of art or iconography. then again i feel like the world likes to bash the church so i don't really know. I still love japanese rpgs and none of this really bothers me. Cecil becoming a paladin in FFIV helped inspire me to revert back to the Catholic faith after a stint in the goth scene for ten years. I'm now a fourth degree knight of columbus. I suppose some people frown on the religion portrayed in videogames but i don't think its all bad. i suppose its how you interpret it. I'd like to see what others have to say

In the Japanese and now English, XBOX360 and iPhone/iPad Gothic Lolita shooter game DEATHSMILES the last stage is in St Peter's Basilica. Of course it's not depicted as such, the background imagery is of St Peter's and you're actually killing demons. The world is an imaginary world and the city itself is not Rome nor the Vatican. Just a head's up. The game is very good otherwise. I did notify the Japanese publishers by email that the use of St Peter's as backdrop is offensive. Imagine the uproar if a Western studio used the Japanese Emperor this way.

In Japan, less that 1% of the population is Christian. Christianity is an exotic faith to them the way Buddhism and Shinto are to us. Besides, the PUBLISHERS have no control over the content of a game, the developers are responsible for controlling what does and does not go into it. Maybe if you’re lucky the publishers passed your comments on to the devs, but I honestly doubt anyone really cared.

[quote="Birdpreacher, post:4, topic:259054"]
Medieval Total War Series is awesome..

[/quote]

:thumbsup: I love that series.

Unfortunately, can't play the last 2 instalments, Napoleon, and the new Chogun Total War, because my computer is too old and slow.:(

Another game that has a sort of religion in it was Dead Space, that being the 'Unitologists,' though that more resembled a pseudoscientific cult than a traditional religion. The practitioners believed that humans had become obsolete and need to be replaced by the biologically superior alien necromorphs, and thus begin breeding them in order to allow them to eradicate humanity, or something like that.

Another series I'm familiar with is Grand Theft Auto. Usually there are only a few references to religion in those games, such as with fictitious talk show hosts or guests on the radio stations, like a caricature of Christian fundamentalist in GTA Vice City and another in GTA4. There was, however, a possibly Catholic priest in GTA Liberty City Stories that gives the protagonist missions (i.e., murder contracts) in the game. You have to asssassinate various 'evil' people, and you recieve the assignments from the confessional booth at the church. It is certainly a negative portrayal to have a priest ordering a mafioso to murder people, but as far as GTA goes, portrayals can get far less flattering than a mere vigilante.

First of all the publishers in this case are the people who programmed the game, i.e. the Japanese company Cave. Secondly, the Japanese are very civilised, knowledgeable people and traditionally have a sense of respect for other cultures. Catholicism is prominent in Japan in that most top politicians have been Catholic and Catholic schools are regarded very highly by the Japanese.

In all fairness I don’t think the people concerned had an idea they were insulting. They used the image as a backdrop and the game has nothing to do with Catholicism or Christianity and no cross depictions or bad priests appear.

The problem with Dragon Age is that they portrayed the Maker as having nearly nothing to do with the world. I don’t know if its a plot device or an agenda by the game developers. I thought Grand Cleric Elthina was one of the most positive religious people protrayed. I especially loved the fact that she stayed with her people despite the brewing trouble. Still, I doubt the game, its a bipolar relationship.
There is at best a lightly positive but vague portrayal of religion in games. I take it as an attempt to appeal to all gamers. In some RPG games they allow your character to be religious ( or at least profess to be religious), but it doesnt get too heavy.

Most of the top politicians in Japan have been Catholic?

Um…what? :confused:

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