Religion in AAA Releases: Some Thoughts on Real and Fictitious Faith
Major digital game titles are not exactly known for straying from the dominant perspective. One only has to look at how these AAA titles cater to white, male, and heterosexual norms. The question (or at least one of them) becomes why does that change when religion becomes the focus? I am certainly not saying that portrayals of religion should shamelessly adopt a dominant perspective also, but that religion occupies a small space in the narrative of digital games. In the United States, Christianity is the dominant religion, yet games, like other entertainment media, tend to shy away from portraying that faith in ways that reflect diversity of faith while avoiding preaching and cliché religion portrayals. Of course faith is a touchy topic and just as explosive as race, yet at the same time is core to the human experience.
However religion, at least in the United States, is complex in part because of the diverse nature of our many faiths. After all, to claim Christ does not reveal is one is orthodox, Catholic, mainline protestant, evangelical, and so on. Moreover, those mixtures change depending on what part of the country you reside. For example, in One Nation, Divisible, Mark Silk and Andrew Walsh report that in New England, 68% of those who claim religious affiliation are catholic and mainland protestants are outnumbered by evangelicals by 3 to 1. When you compare that to the Southern Crossroads (Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri), you find that the percentage of Roman Catholics drops to 18.6 %. Moreover, half the Catholics in the region are Latino. Lastly, one will find very few minority religions (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and so on) in this area, less than 0.5%. The other areas of the country, the South, the Pacific, the Pacific Northwest, etc, are all equally diverse. How do developers address the many aspects of Christianity in their narratives? For the most part, they don’t.
Instead some titles address fictional religions. For example, religion plays a central role in Dragon Age Origins (DAO). While it is apparent from the start of the game that this religion is modeled closely after Christianity, there are obvious differences. Still the similarities are such that one can point out multiple examples of Christian faith playing out in the game world. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who plays role-playing games, the genre to which DOA belongs. Other games in this genre, such as The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion and Mass Effect, also have religious elements.
Mass Effect 1 takes a different approach in that it creates a new religion around the antagonists of the game, the mechanical Reapers. These ancient machines are worshipped by other machines known as the Geth. During the game, the player, kills two Geth as they worship the Reapers in a temple. The player gets very little information because he/she is still trying to figure out the relationship between the two races, so we are left to wonder what other aspects of this fictional religion exists. The in-game encyclopedia, the Codex offers some slight clues, but little information is forthcoming about Reaper worship in the first two Mass Effect games.
Of course creating a whole new faith is far safer than attempting to navigate religious waters. Yet if digital game producers dare to call their craft a full-fledged medium then this bridge will have to be crossed eventually. Hopefully games will be more bold than television has been in this regard. To be honest, I have no idea how such an endeavor will work out. Any honest attempt to explore religion without being preachy (like many of those awful PC Christian games on the market today) can still draw the ire of different groups. However this intersection of faith and adventure does not have to provide any answers, nor does it always have to be direct. I recall a conversation between Mass Effect characters Commander Shepard and Chief Ashley Williams where they briefly discuss her faith. That is certainly more tangible than the heavy religious symbolism we see in Bioshock or Assassin’s Creed, but it is a reminder that there are multiple ways to explore the faith of individuals and communities.
- Indoctrination, Assimilation, and Elimination: The Reaper Methodology in Mass Effect
- Return to Mass Effect: The Compassionate Shepard
- The Walking Dead Game: A Case Study of a New Hegemony
- Airport Massacre Revisited: How “No Russian” Might Have Influenced a Killer
- Mass Effect 3, Marketing, and a Magic Bullet: Emily Wong Reporting
Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Most Popular GTL Posts
- 63,548 views