What do you feel about religious undertones in games?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MrZalgo, Jan 26, 2018.

  1. MrZalgo

    MrZalgo I am not Edgy, I am Fabulous Veteran

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    I'll get this out of the way quickly. I'm an agnostic, which would mean that I'm just not religious but at the same time not an atheist.

    It's just that after looking through games like Xenogears or Final Fantasy 7, I have been fascinated by the story potential you can create through religious references. It also helps in making a more intriguing yet dark storyline. At the same time though, I'm aware that too many religious references can easily break a game and could feel rather... preachy.

    So I want to hear it from you guys. What's the right balance in the amount of religious undertones in a game? Is it fine to add in these themes in the first place, or should they just never exist in the first place?

    This thread is just for recreational purposes, I don't intend to offend anyone who is religious after all. I just want your opinion on the idea.
     
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  2. Shaz

    Shaz Veteran Veteran

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    If it is a completely made-up religion, or your game is set in a specific real-life era and uses the religion from that period, that's fine imo. It's when you add aspects of a real religion just for the sake of adding it, when the game doesn't need it or it doesn't really belong, that I feel it could become uncomfortable for people to play, and, as you say, preachy.
     
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  3. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    I'm with Shaz. I don't feel comfortable playing a game that looks or feel preachy. But a completely made-up religion is alright.
     
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  4. Poryg

    Poryg Pixie of the Emvee kingdom, Ham of a Hamster Veteran

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    I'm ok with it as long as it's not too heavy. I don't play religion based games, but a plot can always be interesting when there's a religious context or something.

    For example Sword & Glory on Android has some beautiful religion base. There are Christians and Pagans, but the more you bestow the power of one religion, the more satirical it gets, making it clear that it isn't supposed to be the context of the game.
     
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  5. Nightblade50

    Nightblade50 Developer of "Delta Origins" Veteran

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    Yeah, I completely agree.

    EDIT: haha - me, @Poryg, and @TheoAllen all posted our comments at the same time
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
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  6. Canini

    Canini Veteran Veteran

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    @MrZalgo
    I think your examples of Xenogears or Final Fantasy 7 are pretty good examples of when religious themes and references are done right. I think it helps in those cases that that the religion in question (christianity) is interpretated by a nation (japan) with comparably few christians, giving the developers free to take these themes in a new direction.
     
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  7. overlordmikey

    overlordmikey BroCo. Gaming Veteran

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    Atheist here, Breath of Fire 2 and Final Fantasy Tactics both had blatant Christian/Religious commentary and are considered classic games. A thinly veiled Jesus allegory being the main villain in both.
    That doesn't mean I advocate inserting religion into a game willy-nilly - it doesn't make yer game good or deep by default. It needs to be handled with a deft hand - both examples may have been pretty straight forward in what they were talking about but they didn't use a real world religion directly - not that some good games have used real world religions directly, but I won't get into that here - I think I made my point.
     
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  8. OnslaughtSupply

    OnslaughtSupply Ssshhh... Veteran

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    Undertones, to me, are fine but if its the main focal point, it just isn't my thing. I think a made up religion that mirrors or parodies (not necessarily in a bad way) a real religion would be easier for most people to digest. Religion in real life has motivated people to do really astounding things both wonderful and horrible and can be used for some pretty intresting plot devices and character motivation. For this reason though, you may want to use a made up one as people can get extremely offended when you're poking fun at or mocking something they've built their entire lives around.

    And to repeat what others have said, don't be preachy. Subtlety is key.
     
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  9. sura_tc

    sura_tc Loner Veteran

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    Religion should always be pro-choice, meaning don't try to force it upon players.
     
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  10. SOC

    SOC "God is my Judge" Veteran

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    I think they're great and can add a lot of depth to the world and immersion. I'm just really sick of corrupt religions/leaders in games. I want to see something that's actually awesome and something that makes you, as a player, feel proud to be a part of all the way through the game.
     
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  11. Nightblade50

    Nightblade50 Developer of "Delta Origins" Veteran

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    Bingo! :thumbsup-left::D:thumbsup-right:
     
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  12. lianderson

    lianderson Veteran Veteran

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    It's fine, just don't be obnoxious with it.
     
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  13. Sleepy Kitten Games

    Sleepy Kitten Games Veteran Veteran

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    I think it's absolutely fine to have a game that takes inspiration from real-life religions - sometimes it makes the lore that much more interesting to figure out, because then you can say "aha, this thing is an allusion to this story from this religion" or "aha, this character is inspired by this religious figure".
    I also think that, while satire poking fun at religion can be funny when done right, it should be done carefully. Not a case of "don't EVER do this!", more a case of "don't have a protagonist point at a member of a religion and go 'hahaha, aren't they so stupid for being part of that religion??'" Satire versus blatant mockery and whatnot. (Though there's always the risk of someone misinterpreting satire as mockery. Unfortunately.)
    As for the "corrupt religions/religious leaders" thing, I think it's so prevalent because people look at history and at some of the terrible things people did in the name of their religions. While yes, people did (and unfortunately still do) terrible things in the name of their religions, there are also plenty of people who do a lot of good in the name of those same religions. It could also be a nod/reference to corrupt political leaders who used religion to manipulate their people, because unfortunately that's a thing that happens.
    All in all, I say it's fine to have religious undertones. Just don't be preachy about it.
    Side note, I'm an agnostic atheist myself. Basically, I don't believe in any deities, but I'm not going to try and say that there are no deities for absolute 100% certainty.
     
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  14. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    My take on it is thus:

    If your game is about a real life religion in some way, it's unacceptable. This is because it is difficult to do something like this properly and you are either going to offend some people, turn off other people, or appear preachy.

    Personally, I love learning about religions. I find it interesting. However, it is too easy for anyone and everyone to "take it too seriously" and you end up with serious problems. While I have no problem discussion relationships, religion, politics, and parenting (all very controversial subjects), I feel like you should probably engage in the same rules as it comes to "basic common sense" and that you don't really openly discuss such things with people you barely know. Namely, you wouldn't really put these things into games.

    I don't know, it's a fine line. On the one hand, I don't believe in any censorship of any kind for anyone. I think information, thoughts, ideas, and opinions should flow as freely as water and be as easily obtained as a breath of oxygen. But, on the other hand, I know that if you talk about certain subjects, then the discussion becomes about those subjects instead of... well... any kind of intelligent analysis or debate (people have a tendency to get emotional with certain subjects instead of remaining rational).

    Basically, if you put things like that into your game, you need to be prepared for everyone to be talking about those things and arguing about those things instead of about your game. Namely, you're relegating your game and its content to the backseat while everyone discusses, rants, argues, and everything else, about a subject in your game.

    That being said...

    Yeah, I think it's okay to borrow themes, imagery, concepts, and other stuff from real life religions. I do it, after all. At worst, when you do that, it ends up being, "You don't know anything about that religion!" at which point you can say, "yeah, I did a quick google search, liked what I found, and made it my own. Consider it an homage instead of strict interpretation".

    I use themes of heaven, hell, purgatory, reincarnation, nature Gods, bettering oneself instead of adhering to a strict principle of "good" and "evil", and I think a few other things. But, it's an amalgamation of several existing religions as well as adding in made-up details to create my own religion... As well as create the Lore for the world the game takes place in.

    Why can't you just use the cool stuff?

    Though, to be honest, any game that "pushes an agenda" or "pushes a point of view" is going to be preachy regardless of what it's subject matter is. Most people who consume media as a form of entertainment want to walk away entertained. They want to make up their own minds. They don't want to be told that what they personally think or believe is potentially wrong or incorrect, because then they start a debate with your media.

    When someone starts internally arguing with your media... It ceases to be fun.
     
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  15. overlordmikey

    overlordmikey BroCo. Gaming Veteran

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    I think we all are mostly in agreement that religion is a sensitive topic, but one that is quite welcome in games when handled well and with the proper tact. ^_^

    [jokingly] So who wants to come and kill God with me... what? Shin Megami Tensei AND Dragon Quest can do it and Mikey can't,.. jerks.[/jokingly]
     
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  16. Failivrin

    Failivrin Final Frontiersman Veteran

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    I'm a little unclear on the religious implications of FF7. Do you mean the church that Aerith lived in? It is Christian in appearance, although oddly the game doesn't have a church that isn't abandoned, nor does it have any priestly figures that I recall. Personally I always thought that church felt out of place in the FF7 world. I think the game's spiritual impetus is thrown behind the Lifestream, which to me is more like a Buddhist concept.

    EDIT: I guess you could compare Aerith to Christ owing to her merciful disposition and sacrificial death, but you could also compare her to Kannon, or interpret her story without any religious connotations--and maybe the developers intended it that way. I have a theory that if a story lacks an overt connection to a specific religion, audiences will read their own religion into the story. Sort of like the way anime characters look Japanese to a Japanese person, but they look white to a white person. Your brain defaults to whatever you're most familiar with. Just a theory.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
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  17. Frogboy

    Frogboy I'm not weak to fire Veteran

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    I obviously don't have any issues with using religion in games. Like many have said, it's the delivery that will matter to most people. No one likes when someone else pushes their beliefs or agenda on you unless you already share that in common.

    Even though my game is entirely set in a Hebrew/early Christian universe, uses "real" angels and demons as characters (sometimes gender-swapped for story reasons) and talks about Heaven, Hell the Abyss, I think I did it the right way. No one appeared to have an issue the religious aspects therein and I received very positive feedback in this area. It also probably didn't hurt that the main storyline and the moral of the story, if you want to call it that, is centered around a more universally human concept that anyone can get something out of even if they have no interest in religion.
     
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  18. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    Community opinion tends to be pretty split about this in my experience.

    My personal opinion is that I really like when religious themes are present in a game and I can make my own decisions, as a player, about what I think of them. I dislike when the answers to those themes are forced down my throat. I don't need the religion to be made up - you can call God "God" and Buddhism "Buddhism" if you feel it's appropriate. But I don't want to be lectured, and I don't want my hand forced in the actions I take.

    I once played a friend's really creative and well-made puzzle game, whose religious themes were implicit in the solutions to puzzles. Some aspect of the game didn't sit right with me - and it took me a few days to figure out why. I finally concluded that the bad vibes were coming from the fact that the game presented the main character as me and that the solutions to puzzles often involved something like a religious rite that I don't believe in. At points, if you don't follow the puzzle's instructions (inspired by scriptures), you can die. Game Over. Go back and do it the "right" way. This made me feel very uncomfortable and partially sapped my enjoyment, despite the fact that nearly everything about the game was well-designed and polished.

    I think that was pretty enlightening for me as a designer, the fact that losing my agency over things I deeply care about can completely shatter my experience with a game.
     
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  19. trouble time

    trouble time Bearer of the Word Veteran

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    I know this is a joke but for some reason I like bringing this up...except persona 5 which I've never played so I don't know, no SMT protagonist has ever actually beaten god, they've convinced it to go away or beaten an avatar of the setting's actual god the Great Will (YHVH fight in SMT II is actually this, and which is actually pretty accurate to the Gnostic demiurge.)

    As for religion, I really don't mind religion in games. Its interesting that its almost always portrayed in the negative. Personally I'm religious, and have a scholarly interest in religion as well. I also find it interesting Gnosticism is used a lot more than traditional Christianity in japanese media (though I think this is from Eva's influence, which I'd actually further trace back to Megami Tensei (note the lack of Shin)). I do like religious themes in games, I don't even mind if they're real religions. It really depends on the implementation, basically how well its done.

    Heck, my profile picture is Lorgar, my favorite Primarch, besides maybe Vulkan, and being hyper religious was his whole deal.
     
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  20. watermark

    watermark Veteran Veteran

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    I think you either have to go with a made up religion or just be really upfront about it. Like this is a Christian game about Jesus, or about Moses and the Ten Commandments, or a game about the life of Buddha etc. And that you are teaching about religion explicitly. I think as long as the players know what they're getting into beforehand and your preachiness is not sneaked into the game, it should be fine. However, you really should know what you're talking about as I'm sure there are religious zealots who might be offended if you portray something incorrectly.

    An interesting thing is that fictional versions of angels such as Michael or Gabriel get put into games all the time. They can even do evil things and nobody ever gets offended. Let's not forget nobody gets more screen time than Satan and the demonic gang. They show up everywhere in all forms. Logically people should be the most offended, but few are. However, if you put Jesus into a game you get into murky water. A thing to think about.
     
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