Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Preaching to the Perverted

Video games have covered a lot of ground over the years in terms of their narrative and their themes. A large proportion of it has been centred around violence and warfare but there have also been themes of family, friendship, science, the economy and more. Like I said, they've covered a lot of ground. One of the areas that they don't seem to have covered very much is religion.

Games span virtually every era of time and occasionally touch very lightly on religion, for example the Assassins' Creed or Total War series, but it is only ever a small part of the narrative in these games. I can understand why there may be little romance in games, statistically it is mainly men who play games and, somewhat stereotypically, we are not as inclined to romance as women are and, likewise, I can understand why women are often portrayed in a certain way, but why the lack of religion?

Sure it can potentially be an offensive or controversial theme but surely no more so than the gratuitous violence, bad language, sex and drugs that are often prevalent among the narrative of video games? Wouldn't it add a whole new dimension to the stories within games? It could really help freshen things up. Aside from adding a new theme to the stories within games it could really help deepen the morality systems that seem to be becoming increasingly popular within games thanks to the likes of Fallout and Mass Effect.

Within most games there is no real motivation for choosing to be good or evil, of course, it often has a visible impact upon the world or the structure/events of a particular mission may be effected but it never seems to have much of an impact upon your character. If they were to be religious however then you would expect them to have a strong sense of morality, therefore choosing to be evil would be far harder for your character than it is in many games that currently feature morality systems. In other words, morality systems would have a far deeper emotional impact on the player than they currently do.

Aside from morality systems it would impact on the wider gameplay mechanics. Would a religious character happily gun down a room full of people and then joke with his friend afterwards as they do so often in the Uncharted series? I'm not saying developers should use it to turn all of their heroes into pacifists, I'm just saying that it would add depth and meaning to the violence that can very often be fun but utterly meaningless in terms of story and emotion. Perhaps this would also rid games of some of the criticism aimed at them from the people who believe violence in games should be heavily censored.

The possibilities for deepening the story and the relationship between religious and non-religious characters is near limitless. If you couple it with many of the dark themes or actions present within games then this potential only grows. I know that many gamers are unconcerned with stories but the vast majority of us are and the cinematic nature of games has grown massively over the years so it could only benefit from having new themes to cover in its narrative.

Ultimately of course it comes down to the people who write the stories behind the games. If they aren't interested in featuring religious themes then we won't see them enter games. Hopefully though we will see it become more prevalent in games because it seems as if both the story and the mechanics could only benefit from having something fresh and new injected into it.


  1. I do not believe religion would make somebody less inclined to resort to violence than somebody else. I do think there should be more consequences for your actions and in bigger ways, but I do not think religion would drive people not to do something. I believe in choice of the gamer and do not believe in trying to tie them down to one path. This is why I do not like the current polarizing morality system. Very rarely is any choice we make truly "Black or White" or "Good or Evil". Most things are "Gray". For instance, take murder. Murdering just for the fun of it is quite morbid and looked down upon by most people in real life, however, if one must murder to protect someone it is often looked at as justified, although there would still be people who would still be against it. I think actions should be viewed just within the action itself, i.e. no real moral slider like in Mass Effect, Fable, or Fallout. I did like it when it first came out, but now it has gotten to be somewhat childish to me and it also attributes to most players playing a certain way because they don't want to get "bad" or "good" points. This is not very realistic in my opinion. I do like games to keep track of my "moral decision" though, but I recommend them changing it to a Radial system instead of a polar system. The latter has really only 2 possibilities while the former is only limited by design of the developer. A game that does well to bypass these traditions is The Witcher 2. I just think we need another step forward in the ways of how we view morality and truly make the moral decisions weigh on the player, of course this only works if the player wants to be moved.

  2. Really liked this article, thought provoking, I'm still thinking!

    Great comment from 'Anonymous'

    You're certainly keeping us busy reading

    Game on


  3. I like the way you've written this. Religion in itself is a bit of a mine field with everyone having their point of view, some of which can be pretty strong and seem over the top.I personally don't see anything wrong if you include it in some games, it will be down to the individual, like it is now to choose whether they want to buy that particular game or not.

    I am not a particularly religious person more like 'a believer' in knowing what is right and what is wrong.I just hope that there are more out there that know what is good. I think there is.

    From the other Rob