Monday, September 6, 2010

Religious Gaming Part 2

For those who suggested I was harsh in my comments about Priestville, I offer this thought-if they really wanted to tackle the abuse issue head on, they could have kids in the game and logic that those who try to abuse and/or cover up are demoted or booted from the priesthood and those who don't abuse and turn in abusers get rewarded-they could then sell the code to the vatican in the hopes that it would install the same features.

A new essay on Religion Dispatches Will God-Gaming Alter the Bible? also discusses the phenomenon of religious games from an interesting perspective: the limitations that must be placed on them to please believers.

Discussing the game The Bible Online: Heroes, Rachel Wagner points out that like fanfic, Bible games need to be games of the gaps that limit themselves to the pockets of time and events that aren't mentioned and that don't impact the canonical events. After all, we can't have a purple emu named Zeke tearing down the walls of Jericho before Joshua gets there.

Likewise Moses can't open a strip club in Midian and tell the Israelites to bugger off. In either case it's no longer a game about the Bible, because the story is then contradictory to the original. Not mentioned by Wagner, but likely nonetheless, is the fact that believers would in no way want to encourage imagining "alternate" stories that might give the weak in faith the idea that god didn't write all of these events in stone with his pinky.

There is also the problem of conforming to believer's expectations-the wicked shouldn't win by being wicked. Unlike D&D, where multiple alignments and approaches to ethics are possible, each of which fares better or worse depending on the campaign and DM in question. Or in the case of Priestville, what happens if the most holy character at the time of the next papal election is being controlled by a woman-how will catholics deal with that? Trying to implement woo in an online game only highlights just how woo-ish it is.

Finally, Wagner could have also pointed out how these game limitations also speak to the limitations in the religious ideas of "free will" and "intelligent design" two real world example of religious thought stifling and less than thorough reasoning, but lets hope lots of the faithful end up pondering them as they try to pray and play at the same time.

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