Playing with Religion in Digital Games

Playing with Religion in Digital Games

Playing with Religion in Digital Games

Playing with Religion in Digital Games


Shaman, paragon, God-mode: modern video games are heavily coded with religious undertones. From the Shinto-inspired Japanese video game Okami to the internationally popular The Legend of Zelda and Halo, many video games rely on religious themes and symbols to drive the narrative and frame the storyline. Playing with Religion in Digital Games explores the increasingly complex relationship between gaming and global religious practices. For example, how does religion help organize the communities in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft? What role has censorship played in localizing games like Actraiser in the western world? How do evangelical Christians react to violence, gore, and sexuality in some of the most popular games such as Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto? With contributions by scholars and gamers from all over the world, this collection offers a unique perspective to the intersections of religion and the virtual world.


Heidi A. Campbell and Gregory Price Grieve

THE PERPENDICULAR GOTHIC SPIRES OF A THIRTEENTH-CENTURY medieval cathedral tower over the strangely empty English countryside. Inside, the richly decorated choir stalls are empty; the sun filters through the stained-glass windows, streaking the dust-filled air and illuminating the gilded nave and the hallowed halls, which are covered with a veneer of centuries of prayer. Suddenly, there is a blood-curdling screech, and the cathedral is filled with the scurry of hundreds of spider-like creatures that fill the shadows. A blast shatters the silence, and multiple flashes of gunfire light the darkness. An archway begins to crumble; tracer bullets fill the air, leaving behind red puffs of blood. For a moment there is near-silence, with only strange growling whispers to be heard. Then, the click of reloading, and the shooting begins again.

Of course, this is not happening in the actual world, but in a digital game. The violent shootout is under way between the alien race called the Chimaera and the last vestiges of humankind in Sony’s first-person shooter game Resistance: Fall of Man (Insomniac Games, 2006). Set in an alternative history where Europe has been invaded by aliens, a virtual copy of Manchester Cathedral in England is utterly destroyed at the hands of warring soldiers and, of course, the gamer.

Soon after the release of the game in the United Kingdom, the Church of England claimed that the digital depiction desecrated the actual physical cathedral and violated copyright. As the digital recreation of Manchester Cathedral and the controversy its virtual destruction caused illustrate, religion has a significant presence in the digital context. Indeed, since the 1990s everyday religious practices have become . . .

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