91: A Lack of Faith

"Eternal Forces tried to capitalize on 10,000 years of imagery and failed, because the game didn't commit fully to those ideas. I mean, the Biblical Tribulation - that's violent, juicy stuff. That should have worked. Instead, the developers held back, sanitizing the situation, wiping it clean of blood and gore, yes, but also of pain. As a result, death in Eternal Forces has no cost; it's just a winking out, a tally mark on a scorecard rather than an intimate, terrifying event.

"I'm not surprised, however. Pain is uncomfortable, unreliable and tremendous. It consumes you, casting doubt and shadows on everything you believe. Just ask Job."

A Lack of Faith

Congrats on the article. Easily the best of the lot this week.

Very well written. I didn't expect you to take the article where you did by the time the end came around, and that was provocative.

If you're interested, I'd like to point you back to my contribution. You might find it interesting. (www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/29/19)

I do have a few questions for you, but since you've shared your email address, I'd prefer to share them there.

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. You make some really great points in your article (especially your interpretation of Katamari Damacy) and if you'd like to discuss further, feel free to email me. :)

Thanks for the great article. It's very refreshing to read gaming and religion in the same article without some pompous tyrade against one or the other.

The usual quality job, Lara. I've seen a variation on this argument before, I think, in CGM but can't remember if you're the one who wrote it. It may have been a reader contribution. I should look for that.

Re Left Behind, the book itself is largely devoid of pain or serious contemplation of what it would mean to lose all the Earth's children in the twinkling of an eye. The fact that the game is so vapid (and terrible) is not shocking considering the thoughtless plot-focused literalism of the novel.

Disconnected random decaffeinated thoughts follow:

RPGs, of course, offer the best route for ethical/spiritual investigation but they are hamstrung by gamers themselves. But Job himself complains that rain falls on good and evil alike; that ethical behavior is no guarantee of reward and RPGs as currently constructed are about a string of rewards (usually for pathological behavior). Designing a religious game as an effort at witnessing, therefore, runs into the fact that gamers will optimize their solution to get the reward, if that means mindlessly following the "Good Path" then they will do that. Planescape was deeply philosophical and strongly written - for a game. But for me it had all the take away of a good Babylon 5 episode.

I often think about doing a design doc for a pseudo-historical strategy game based on the biblical histories of Israel and Judaea, but you run into the problem of how to work the prophets, Yahweh and the Assyrians into the same game. How do you respect the Biblical idea that lack of faith condemned those nations without making "Tear Down Asherah Poles" the magic bullet train to success?


I found your article very insightful. Your points about doubt elegantly expose a bit of the base problems of religious games. I am hard pressed to find anything in your text I don`t agree.

Still, I wonder what could be done to solve this problem.I believe some improvements could be done in order to bring theologic games`s stories to the level of other games, like the planescape one mentioned in your article. Still, if a player`s choice of whether to doubt is meaningful for the game`s story, then it faces the problem: how to dynamically make the player`s choice affect the game?

I personally think that Chris Crawford`s Storytron might be an appropriate medium to represent doubt and faith, but it is more geared for interactive stories, not games. So, I wonder what suggestions anyone might have for this.

Another question I would be concerned is how this factors into gameplay. Is evil simply the best short term solution but worst long term one? Are you rewarded when you successfully face of your doubt?

So, thank you Ms. Lara for the wonderful article. I hope it can, some day, fuel the creation of a theological game that actually deals with religion.

I enjoyed this article more than I expected to - It was a different look at the medium for me.
Thanks for writing it Lara :)

Another question I would be concerned is how this factors into gameplay. Is evil simply the best short term solution but worst long term one? Are you rewarded when you successfully face of your doubt?

I would love to see a game where evil choices could have the "best" long term solution, where good and evil choices abound but the end results of those choices isn't apparent up front. In normal dialogue trees we can tell the good answer from the bad answer. In the real world knowing what to say is always troublesome.

I too found the article to be a good analysis of why Christian-themed games don't work. I'm guessing that the same pitfalls exist in any medium where the author is focussed on evangelism or propaganda. The propaganda takes precidence over making the best work possible.

I still don't really know how and if trackbacks work with wordpress and other sites, so I'll just post here and mention that I wrote a bit of feedback to this article at my website, faithgames.


(Skip to the end if you want to see the part that isn't just summary.)

I'm in a bit of a rush, so I hope it comes across as positive overall. While bashing LB:EF is, well, a bit too easy, the real message of the article was fantastic.

I really enjoyed this article. For a class of mine, I've been required to post about The Escapist, and this is by far the best article I've read on here. I did a little write up about it here [http://imamp.colum.edu/blogs/?p=1706] if you're interested. Great job.


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