In response to "Designing Religion" from The Escapist Forum: What I love most about religion in Civilization IV is:
1) It's effective. Whether you use it to gain money, tactical advantages, political friends or to wage war (or even to, I dunno, let me pick an example at random, win the game), religion is incredibly useful. Even if it's not part of your strategy overall, you should still have some form of religion, and it's even better if you can found one.
2) They're balanced. Sure, Hinduism and Buddhism are the first religions you get, so they get that little advantage, but later religions come associated with more advanced techs, and the really late-game religions like Islam get free Missionaries. That keeps it from feeling like Christianity Pwns Joo.
This article touches on a lot of touchy questions about religions in video games. The first question is, why? Short of making a game particularly about religion, when and why should you include religion? Several games (such as Assassin's Creed) include it as part of the story line, which is common to much of literature, but turning it into a game mechanic is something entirely different. For a game like Civilization, it makes sense to use religion as a tool, because religion has been instrumental in managing entire empires.
A hard question is how to make religion into a mechanic. Religions are more than simply a practise; there is a deep philosophical underpinning to them that permeates into all facets of life. How much of that can you use without ruining the mechanic? How little can you use without trivializing the religion? How do you do either without bias and without implying statements about the purpose and effectiveness of various religions?
Lastly, how do you make a game with religion, without making the game about religion? Can religion co-exist with other material without being trivialized? Even just the suggestion that there is more to life than religion could offend some people.
It's not surprising that few games really touch on religion, even though it's ripe for the exploration that gaming allows. Kudos to the Civilization for trying to tackle it and making it fun.
In response to "Pastor Blaster" from The Escapist Forum: Interesting article, although for some reason I'm mildly disturbed by the idea of a pastor directly participating in a murder simulator (despite the conflict with a percieved, or in the case of Doom, obvious evil, violence is the main point of the game). Perhaps, as a lapsed Catholic, I have entirely unrealistic expectations of the clergy that doesn't even translate appropriately to the topic of the article. But would the simulation of violence be analogous to sexual fantasies on the part of a Catholic priest? Sinful in regards to the fact that they stimulate feelings that go against their respective doctrines? An unbidden fantasy may be regarded as a spiritual attack, certainly something the priest attempts to overcome, but in the case of violent video-games, the person in question has actively sought out the sensation and could be analogous to a Catholic priest browsing through a copy of a gentleman's magazine.
By no means do I support the view I just explained, as I dislike the repression in more puritan religions. I'm just curious as to how playing violent video-games can be justified on faith grounds, as it has some effect on the purity of thought or something. Probably. I could easily be confusing doctrinal issues between different religions, or imagining a problem that does not exist, but if anyone better informed has an answer (or more wild speculation to add to my own) then it would be very welcome.
I know a few pastors like this myself, and it's always encouraging to me. I also know a few pastors who don't play, but don't condemn either. In fact they'll use games on a 'youth night' at the church, playing Halo or Call of Duty on the big screen projector in the sanctuary!
I just have to wonder why people are surprised by this, though. The dogmatic of the church used to stand against Rock and Roll and Hip-Hop music, and now we've got Christian rock bands and Christian Hip-Hop artists!
As the youth of the church grow to become it's leaders, they grow with an understanding of what is and is not important to stand for or against. The leaders of today know that Rock and Roll is just music, and any music can be used for bad, or for good. Likewise, the Church leaders of tomorrow will say the same about video games, and it'll happen sooner then later.
Again, great article.
- Baby Tea