I recognize that religious belief is a highly personal matter, however it's impossible to play videogames without considering the subject. After all, what could be more evocative of "intelligent design" (hallelujah, I see that wince!) than a game designer cooking up a living, breathing world from scratch. Even the way players and developers interact bears an uncanny similarity to a biblical model of God interacting with humankind. Internet forums become a kind of candle-lighting prayer ritual, in which players make their petitions known to developers.
The game world is either open and full of player choice (free will) or it's linear/on-rails (predestination) leading to an authored climax (apocalypse, redemption). Speaking of apocalypse, contemporary videogames can't seem to get enough. Instead of 'amen,' the developer's refrain is, quite simply, 'mayhem." And the flood of sequels continues well after the release of Ubisoft's Army of Two: The 40th Day. Incidentally, Noah's flood described in Exodus ended on Day 41.
"We rant about games that fail to offer their characters a meaningful purpose or reason to exist (read: story). We demand a certain kind of absolute truth (read: internal consistency) from the games we play. We crave structure and order, ejecting the game and hawking it on half.com when we decide its gameplay mechanics are too chaotically assembled. The fundamental difference between videogame critics and your average gamer is that critics are constantly and forever mindful of a game’s creator(s). Your average player doesn’t give two shits who created a game’s world, as long as they enjoy playing in it."These are just a few of the topics I turned over in my head while writing this week's installment of Start Press. I hope you'll forgive the digressions about my own personal grappling with religious faith. It felt appropriate given the context. Plus, if we want to create a stronger community as gamers and critics, we really should let our thoughts on games intersect with our life journeys more often than we currently do.
[Update: I just stumbled across Richard Clark's interesting article "Not Beyond Belief - How Religion And Gaming Interact" on Gamasutra. Glad to know I'm not the only gamer thinking about this stuff.]