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I'm not sure is really productive. Even if there are interesting ideas in here, I couldn't get past your tone. People would take you more seriously if you presented your thoughts with a better attitude.

2 years ago on Romancing the silicon wafer


Just remembered, one game which I think really does religion very well is Locomalito's 'L'Abbeye des Morts'. Apart from having a game design which reflects the ideas of half-forgotten sect that is its subject, I think its treatment of the protagonist's religion is quite beautiful and sensitive, in a bizarre kind of way.I wrote a reading of the game as expressing certain religious principles here FULL DISCLOSURE: That's me. I wrote that. That's my blog. Your click is worth £0.34 to me if you are from the southern hemisphere and £1.74 if you are from the USA or EU. (Man, anyone would KILL for those rates...)

2 years ago on The depiction of religion in games is awful for non-religious and religious alike


By the way, just as a matter of completeness, let me add to the list of emotions involved in political beliefs: horror. I am stricken every day with horror. If anything will ever drive me to do anything good for the people who get fucked over in this society it is this holy horror.

2 years, 1 month ago on The depiction of religion in games is awful for non-religious and religious alike


To be fair - as you sort of touch on saying towards the end - religion in western countries is often the source and the primary champion of the kitsch aesthetic. We're talking about the tradition which spawned Thomas Kinkade here*. And for many people their heartfelt belief is totally kitsch. Without meaning to be patronising, my girlfriend's mother takes a comfort too genuine to dismiss in the most banal, generic cliches of vaguely Biblical-flavoured "spirituality". I think sometimes all she wants is to feel safe, and she does that through a hodgepodge of beliefs she doesn't really seem to engage with.


On the other hand, George Bush reportedly tried to get the French to join the war on Iraq by telling Jacques Chirac that he saw "Gog and Magog rising" in the region. Gog and Magog get mentioned like literally once in the Bible. If that's not unique, specific and fervent I don't know what is.

But by and large I agree with you - the treatment of religion as an actual sincere thing leaves a lot to be lacking in videogames. Actually, by and large, they are ludicrously scared of treating beliefs as having substance. The medium is replete with villains or other characters whose agenda is revealed (as a plot point) to spring from some secret private grief or grudge? Let's not even mention the plot of World of Warcraft, in which literally every villain must eventually turn out to be "insane" (it's the law). Nobody does anything because they have beliefs or politics or have analysed the world because they came to a decision. As a hard atheist and occasional misotheist I would really like to see games explore religion in its full specificity and substance.


It's odd to think of it this way, but of course, Bioshock and Bioshock 2 are both sustained explorations and interrogations of a belief system. While neither of the ideologies explored are actually religious, they ARE very dogmatic and coherent, they DO sometimes display characteristics of 'faith' and 'dogma' in the real world, and they ARE presented by the games as potentially fanatical. Objectivism is 'religious' in the sense that it often appears faith-based and totalising, but, lest we forget, it also fulfils every single one of the more subtle criteria of Ninian Smart's Seven Dimensions of Religion** (believe me, I actually bothered to read and even semi enjoyed the whole of Atlas Shrugged). So do certain forms of communism - which is not necessarily a criticism."Dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, liberation, ecstasy, inner peace, bliss" are nine emotions that I would like (as an avowed leftist/anarchist) my politics to provoke.


This raises an interesting question - why is Bioshock 'allowed' to interrogate objectivism but everyone is reluctant to interrogate religion? It may be a question of power. While objectivism is an ideology with high-profile adherents among the political elite and in some sense the secret soul of the global capitalist orthodoxy, you can at least get elected in America without claiming you believe in it. It may also be a question of the cultural importance we attach to each: heartfelt political or ethical beliefs are 'just beliefs', but RELIGIOUS beliefs have special protection and must be treated with a certain amount more 'respect'. Obviously these questions are not inseparable. So maybe games' failure to deal with religion has more to do with religion than games. Whether you accept that depends on how much more effectively you think the gaming mainstream deals with politics - whether it does any better, or whether, actually, it's just as bad.


*In a recent WoW roleplay event I had my guild captured and tortured by the Scarlet Crusade (canon religious fanatics modeled partially on the Spanish Inquisition). In my events I often give everyone links to pieces of music to play in the background to enhance or change the mood. In this case, I had people play an incredibly awful kitsch elevator music cover of 'The Lord is My Shepherd', and described it as actually coming from a crude phonograph type device set up in the torture chamber. As the terrified players were strapped down to racks and chairs by goons, I had the chief torturer close her eyes and mouth along to the words of the song in seemingly heartfelt emotion until it ended. I believe this summarises my opinion on kitsch.



2 years, 1 month ago on The depiction of religion in games is awful for non-religious and religious alike


If impossible spaces piss you off you might not like the roleplay campaigns I organise in World of Warcraft! That game's great strength is its beautiful environments, its mountains and waterfalls, all the things you can find and explore at will. The first Guild Wars was never plausible as the WoW-killer it was touted as because it consisted of tunnels with invisible walls, FF10 style. By contrast, WoW is a world the player can explore at leisure - and, what's more, in the company of her friends. I used to stay up until 5am exploring with my friend. We were both capable of stealth (druid and rogue) and would probe areas far beyond our levels, including the capital cities of the enemy faction.


Unfortunately, this also means the world has to be navigable for players on foot in reasonable times (i.e. minutes to hours). Someone did the math. Azeroth is tiny. Its major continents are about 20km long, which means that, in order to have normal gravity, it must have a super dense core of some kind. ( If you're trying to roleplay a long and arduous Fellowship style journey (actually more like the ice crossing in The Left Hand of Darkness, or the Chinese Long March), the world as presented simply does not sustain it. 


The WoW lore 'solves' this problem by saying that the world as shown in the game is a kind of metaphorical scaled representation of the 'real' world, for which actual statistics, distances and population sizes are given in the RPG books. Problem is, that means the 'real' space is an imaginary arbitrary space, while the actual space to be explored is supposedly a fake space. This leads to some bizarre situations. For instance, in one event, we all gathered in a barren, empty zone that takes maybe 1-2 minutes to run across...and stood still while pretending to walk along it. Every half hour we moved forward a little bit, simulating a journey that took two and a half weeks. In order to make our storylines work we have to deliberately operate in the realm of completely imaginary space, and use the actual, explorable space which is WoW's raison d'etre as little more than a creative prompt - stage dressing.It's almost sad. On the other hand, it means every location we visit regains the wonder it had when each player saw it for the first time, years and years ago (7 or 8 in my case). Because by the time we get to (say) the Undercity, it took us one event a week for many months to actually reach it. It sort of becomes a way of exploring the game anew, making new things out of every place we visit. And when we get to a stand-out location, we can suddenly revert into 'real' space, and have this vast set-piece as our playground.  


2 years, 1 month ago on How our perception of space in games changes depending on our maps