Religion in Games

“Holy creatures, transform me into your servant, show me the path to enlightenment, as you alter my flesh and free my soul.” Upon first glance, this borderline creepy quote looks like something from an ancient religious artifact. This quote however comes from Dead Space 2, or more specifically the Church of Unitology as presented in Dead Space 2. This is only one of the many references to religion within this game. In fact, all throughout the story of Dead Space, the “church’s” history is revealed and presented in a very antagonistic way. At one point, Isaac Clark comes upon a museum-esque presentation of the church’s past and beliefs. This is a great and relatively recent example of religion as presented in video games, which happens far more often than people really think.

The beautiful church in Dead Space 2

So what’s the point of putting religion in a game? We all know that developers have been striving harder and harder to weave incredible stories throughout a game’s course, and one of the greatest ways to do that is to place relatable events and characters into a game. This is one of the ways religion is implemented in games. Whatever it may be, we all believe in something, and when writers and developers place these beliefs in a game it sparks something in the player that becomes familiar. In almost every city and town in the U.S. you can find a religious establishment of some sort, and we are therefore, all exposed to that aspect of culture. Not only this, but we all have our pre-suppositions about these establishments, be they good or bad. When games include these establishments (or their facsimiles), they provide an antagonistic or protagonistic class. In Dead Space, the Church of Unitology was considered evil and corrupt, to the point of being murderous, while many JRPG’s portray religious organizations as benevolent peaceful people. Even Assassin’s Creed used the Roman Catholic Church as part of the order of the Templars. One of the most despicable characters in the series comes from it! These religious appearances aren’t without controversy, but still manage to ignite enough in games to provide excellent narrative and story telling. So much that developers still place religious an religious undertones in their games. The way I see it, video games should hold excellent gameplay, well-done sound, and a solid story, an using religion is a great way to make a story personal without being biased or even too opinionated. This brings me to my next point: how far is too far? Some games we see in the industry operate in extremes; some things as plain and un-controversial as Pac-man, and some as insane and ultra-violent as Carmageddon. The same applies for video games with religion implemented into them. I can remember playing a flash game a long time ago simply called “;the game;”. It was an odd game that made fun of… well just about everything, including religion.

Assassin’s Creed portrays the templars as a highly religious group

This game held its own in the flash game world, but had this game been released by a major developer, it most likely would have caused anger in any gamer that was mildly religious. But Dead Space and Assassin’s Creed had little problem with this. I think it’s because of the way they presented the subject. They didn’t openly come out claiming a religion was right or wrong, but presented it in a way that pushed forward the story, not the writers vendetta against a religion. Religion is placed in just about every series somehow, and in every genre of gaming. Even as a Christian I have yet to be really offended a a game for going way too far (well maybe that flash game). So long as story writers keep making good stories that don’t cross the fine line between intriguing and offensive, people will still enjoy the stories as much as they are meant to be enjoyed. I know I do!