What do you think of games with a spiritual figure/deity as the antagonist?

aliensalmon

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It seems to be a common theme in Japanese RPGs to have a spiritual figure or deity as an antagonist. I dunno, I think there is some guilty pleasure in defeating a deity in a video game (maybe its the sense you defeated a powerful figure that people have worshipped.) I'm toying with putting the idea in my own fantasy/sci-fi hybrid game. (After all, there are some deities as default battlers.)
 

terrorchan

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Hm I think it can be a pretty cool way to create a vague satire of real life; people worship the deity yet the deity is a power hungry, controlling, oppressor that needs to be stopped. I always thought it was a criticism of religion itself, not necessarily a guilty pleasure. Well when it comes from the west, that is.


Eastern places like Japan wouldn't necessarily know much about western religion (and it's dominance in society) and therefore would have no reason to create such a satire. I heard somewhere that they think the religious symbolism found in Christianity and such (in particular, Catholicism) just looks cool/elegant and work well in ancient/medieval settings even if they aren't that well versed in said religion and it's place in western society (Notice how 9/10 times these deities and spiritual figures are usually very Christianity inspired, or, at the very least, other western religions like Greek mythology). Note, I say most of the time this is true. Some games are legit criticisms.


There was a really neat video on this somewhere but I cannot find it :(


Anyway, be sure it's clear that you're either mocking/creating a satire or simply 'it's kewl to defeat god!!!' so people don't read into your game and call out things as deep when it's really not, since this happens quite a bit with the before mentioned Japanese RPGs. 
 
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Wavelength

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I don't know, maybe some people feel the same way you do?  I certainly don't get any kind of pleasure (guilty or otherwise) from being told to go kill a god.  Most of the time I think they feel like cop-outs as antagonists, too.  Main antagonists in an RPG should be often-present movers and shakers in your plot, rather than just some random megaboss that's really powerful; like protagonists, they should be creating the plot not just experiencing it.  And deities generally don't make good characters to have constantly showing themselves in the world.
 

Alexander Amnell

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   I normally don't enjoy it to be honest. There are exceptions but for the most part what Wavelength said above is completely correct, and since the games 'god' can't just be popping up every other scene it usually gets relegated to a 'in the shadow of a shadow' role where the player kills/defeats the person that they've been thinking was the antagonist only to have the god character jump up at the last minute and say 'behold! I've just been controlling this mere mortal and he's been useful, but you've defeated him so now it's time to defeat me, the real antagonist!' and that's just annoying to me.


   I don't really understand what you mean by 'guilty pleasures' but to each their own. To me it's mostly an overused plot-device and a lazy stab at organized religion at best. Easy to create a false idol and condemn it's followers as chattel, might even be enjoyed by certain people with anathema for religion in general but I've rarely seen it amount to much more than what terrorchan describes (mainly that it just 'looks cool' to use ) and then certain people add their own anti-religious-zealotry slant to it and end up thinking the work is much more clever than it actually is. (Look at the souls series, it's been touted all over the internet as 'a serious criticism of the catholic faith' and had multiple detailed articles written to prove the fact merely because it uses medieval/gothic Catholic architecture and the fact that in each game you're basically hunting the 'god' of the game world. People saw so much into it, drew all these connections to the game's interpretive lore and catholic tradition (or criticism at least) only to have Hidetaka Miyazaki come out and admit that he knows very little about western religions and was just inspired by the architecture, and that that's where the intentional similarities end.)


   I would say if you are going to include killing gods and such it needs a purpose beyond just "to defeat a deity that people worship" just because it seems a lazy choice. That and people will unfortunately draw the wrong conclusions like described above, I think because it's a bit of a fad to attack religious belief these days, but whatever the reason it can screw up the message you are actually trying to get across.
 

Pine Towers

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Defeating a western-like god tells much of the hidden grief some Japaneses held because of the western control of them (and let's not forget some Japanese religions are even atheist religions, so the idea of defeating a "god" reassures such dogma), and you can still feel how it impacts even modern Japanese culture, going from references to atomic-bomb-like explosions (EVA, Akira) to the Ganguro style.


I like my plot more close to reality. Sure, you may defeat a thousand ancient dragon (lol much reality! real verisimilitude!), but not a god, as such beings, if real gods, could wipe you out of existence with a mere thought.
 

Makio-Kuta

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Hey now, @Cristovao, sometimes the thousand year old ancient dragon IS the god.


Anyway, I think Wavelength sums up my feelings best. When it's a cop-out final boss who just shows up at the very end out of nowhere and is just like "now fight me!" superboss style god battle? Lame. and also, strangely anti-climatic. Whohoo, I'm fighting a god! A god who up until now had zero impact on the story? As a narrative conclusion it never feels very powerful; I'd rather be fighting the thing that was my antagonist all along.


Now, there's some games that don't play it that way. If your narrative supports fighting the gods or a god of your world - then run with it. If the antagonist through the entire game's one true goal was to become a god, then fighting that antagonist as a god WOULD be a suiting climax. If you find out the main antagonist was opposing the gods because of some legit reason (idk the gods of that world determined humanity a poison and were going to exterminate them) then joining forces with antagonist and fighting the gods at the end would again be a fitting climax.


It's all going to depend on your story. Remember that staying true to your story and the narrative you want to tell matters more than "doing something cool."


And as others have mentioned, make sure it's clear to the player whether or not this is satire on real world religion or just your narrative. Use fictional gods, don't follow any existing religion too closely, build your own and distance yourself from real life if you don't want to be accused of anything.
 

UNphiltered_khaos

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I, also, feel Wavelength's summation is pretty much the best practices. There are exceptions, and my favorite being Xenogears, but that is such a long, winding, weaving plot that you don't really know what you're going to be fighting until the end.
 

Chrispy

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Defeating a western-like god tells much of the hidden grief some Japaneses held because of the western control of them (and let's not forget some Japanese religions are even atheist religions, so the idea of defeating a "god" reassures such dogma), and you can still feel how it impacts even modern Japanese culture, going from references to atomic-bomb-like explosions (EVA, Akira) to the Ganguro style.


I like my plot more close to reality. Sure, you may defeat a thousand ancient dragon (lol much reality! real verisimilitude!), but not a god, as such beings, if real gods, could wipe you out of existence with a mere thought.
So...do the opposite then and have a game with a self-proclaimed god-emperor as the antagonist who rules over a population of people with superiority complexes over either the nation the protagonist belongs to or the whole world. Sure that really does nothing but show the hidden grief some Americans have towards kings, dictators, and actual self-proclaimed god-emperors of countries we've fought over the centuries, but its a heck of a lot closer to reality.
 

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