Religious characters in Video Games.

EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
Hey guys, with all this talk about diverse characters in video games recently I've been thinking, how come we haven't had that many religious characters in video games? I'm not talking about fictional or mythological religions like like what one might find in Zelda or GoW. But an actual, honest-to-goodness Christian, Jew, Muslim, or any other religion. Not even one who brings attention to the fact that they're devout in their religion, but just a well-rounded character who just so happens to be a devout Christian or Jew or any other form of religion. With so many other well made video game characters that are diverse and inclusive in many different ways, why not religious characters as well?

Please discuss, but do so civilly. Have fun!  ;)
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  • PyrianPyrian Posts: 267Member
    edited December 2016
    I've thought this was weird for a very long time. I'm a little kid playing 1st edition D&D and it's openly advertising that the cleric class is based on militant Christian orders like the knights Templar, there's angels and demons running around with specific stats, and the setting is heavily based on the very Christian western medieval Europe. Yet, it's pagan. Indeed, you get a dozen pagan pantheons to choose from, most of them based on historical religions.

    I mean, I get it - you don't eff with practiced religion if you can help it. You can't simultaneously please the practitioners and detractors of any given religion. Nobody wants the next suicide bomber showing up at their office. Still, Catholic saint mythology, for instance, is pretty awesome sometimes. But it's very easy to just throw a thin veneer of fiction and save yourself a lot of controversy. Yet again, if you're indie, maybe controversy would be good. And heaven knows modern religion-centric media is mostly awful.
    Post edited by Pyrian on
  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    Yeah, good points. A devout Catholic would be pretty cool and you bring up some very good concerns as well.

    Also, another interesting thing I've noticed is that there are a surprising amount of Buddhist characters in video games as well. Probably due to Japan's heavy influence on the market, but there are a lot of western examples outside of Japanese games. A good example of the prevalence of Buddhist characters independent of the Japanese gaming market is Zenyatta and Genji of Overwatch fame. In fact, I got the idea ford this topic because of Overwatch and all the news surrounding everyone's favorite time-hopping orang waifu. Within the flood of people talking about Tracer on the forum, some made a topic saying that the game needs an orthodox jewish character in the game and I thought to myself, "Yeah, a game this inclusive would do good with some religious diversity as well. Probably wouldn't be very hard to implement either." I mean, we could probably have Reinhardt be a devout Christian and that would make some pretty decent sense due to his origins and design (a crusader knight) Same with Ana and Pharah, they could both be either Christian, Jewish, or Muslim pretty easily considered their nationality and the religious history surrounding Egypt. In fact, it could even lead to some  very interesting character moments if Ana and Pharah were different opposing religions (Christian and Muslim), that could actually be a great message about unity and inclusivity between religions if we could see two family members of very different and clashing religions still love each other very much despite their religious disagreements. Also, Sombra could also be Catholic considering Catholicism's influence in South America.

    But that's my two cents on the subject, curious to hear yours.
  • nujumkeynujumkey Posts: 284Member
    so like dragon age inquisition?
    lmao faith is a weird thing to mess with in writing. It's an easy way to make people uncomfortable, but also a good tool to help define a character's image of the world and of society and stuff. Not that i'm a writer, but i feel like the reason religion isn't used all that often is just that there are other, equally useful tools we have to define characters and worldviews and such.
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  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    edited December 2016
    Well, see.... The thing is... There's tons of religious (either deeply devout or just generally religious) characters adhering to both real world and fictional religions in video games.  There's so many Christians, Jews and Muslims, in fact, that you don't even notice it any more, but you do notice it when a game (like Overwatch) doesn't have any characters who are overtly Christian for a change.

    In fact, it could even lead to some  very interesting character moments if Ana and Pharah were different opposing religions (Christian and Muslim), that could actually be a great message about unity and inclusivity between religions if we could see two family members of very different and clashing religions still love each other very much despite their religious disagreements.

    It says a lot about you that you think Christianity and Islam are 'opposing/clashing religions' and that they're 'very different', when in reality they both worship the same Jewish god and follow pretty much the same Jewish book and teachings with some addons.

    Post edited by Robrecht on
  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    What I mean by clashing, is that the two religions haven't had the best relationship in the past. (Like the Crusades.) Also, care to give any examples of characters in video games who adhere to real world religions? (Other than Buddhism) Because I can't think of any, except for the fictional religions.
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    Let's see.... Nearly every Assassin's Creed character, including most of the protagonists, in every game in the series, ever. Christians, Muslims, Jews, even followers of still extant Native American religions

    Ashley Williams from Mass Effect is a relatively devout Christian (in spaaaace!).

    In Dead Island, the second 'hub' you go to is a Roman Catholic church, complete with people praying and a nun.

    Hitman 2 practically revolves around saving a Catholic Priest.

    The Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis games speak for themselves as do Total War: Medieval and it's sequel.

    In Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption, you start off as a devoutly Roman Catholic Crusader and the story starts essentially because the main character and the nun he's (mutually) in love with can never be together because of their dedication respective vows, so he decides to commit suicide by unholy abomination (in the sense that he descends, wounded, into its lair intending to take it with him). He ends up becoming a vampire instead... And teams up with, among others, an equally devoted German Lutheran vampire and a devoutly Eastern Orthodox lady vampire in order to save said nun, who's been abducted. He also encounters and helps a Rabbi defeat the legendary golem of Prague.

    In any game that involves the Mafia during it golden age, the majority of the characters are guaranteed to be either Italian or Irish Catholics or Jewish.

    The people of New Canaan in Fallout: New Vegas are Mormons (and pretty much the only people in Fallout to have retained their religion unchanged by the war).

    I'mma just list off a bunch of characters and the games they're from now, because otherwise this post will take ages.

    Father Raul - The Longest Journey
    Cardinal Lucius - Anno 1404
    Pastor Richards - GTA Vice City
    Father Simon Wales - Bioshock 2
    Reverend Ray - Call of Juarez
    Father Denis - The Saboteur
    Father Guerra - Prototype 2

    And those are just the Christian priests. If I had to list every character in video games who's ever mentioned the Abrahamic god, made a reference to keeping Kosher, prayed openly in a moment of crisis, worn a crucifix, crossed themselves etc... I'd be here all day and I have better things to do on Christmas (like sit in my underwear, eat icecream and shout at the internet about how few shits I give that it's Christmas).

    'Gee, Rob, I noticed you haven't mentioned a single Muslim since Assassin's Creed (or actually Crusader Kings et al).'
    Pick any modern shooter. They're the brownish people you're shooting by the literal truckload.
  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    Nice list, I honestly didn't know that there were that many religious characters in video games. Neato. Also, I still think a religious character in Overwatch would be pretty neat.
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    edited December 2016
    I disagree. Vehemently.

    If you're wondering why I'm about to be very aggressive... It's because (and I'm not... explicitly... saying you're part of this) the newest trend amongst status quo supporting religious conservatives who want to stealth complain about inclusivity of 'people who are not us(tm)' is to claim that there should be more representation of religious people (their own religion specifically) or else there's no real diversity.
    Which ignores that overtly (though not always devoutly) religious characters, especially Christians are actually overrepresented in modern works, particularly those from the US.

    Zenyatta is a Buddhist(...ish), there's your devoutly religious character. Don't whine that he's not a worshipper of the Abrahamic god, those are overrepresented anyway. Plus those japanese 'buddhists' you think are common? A. They're not that common, you just notice them more because they're not Christian and B. They're not all Buddhist. Most of them are Shintoists and some of them are Taoists, you just can't tell the difference.
    Post edited by Robrecht on
  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    edited December 2016
    I'm actually not really complaining about, I was just wondering about it.

    Although, one interesting thing I've noticed is that there are also a lot of religious references to Abrahamic religions in video games without devoutly religious characters, especially from Japan interestingly enough. (Seriously, go see for yourself.)

    #HiFivesForBuildABuddha  ;)
    Post edited by EdibleGreenTea on
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    edited December 2016
    Well yeah, the way that western games pillage roman, greek, celtic, norse, zoroastrian, native american, etc... mythologies for critters and concepts and then project them through a Christianized lens, so too do the Japanese pilfer from mythologies that feel the same way to them (i.e. 'blatantly fantasy, but interesting stories') and project them through a Shinto lens.
    Post edited by Robrecht on
  • nujumkeynujumkey Posts: 284Member
    I suppose the real question @Robrecht is when is it appropriate to use religion or religious characters, and what do you think they're best at?

    I already gave my best answer: defining a character's outlook on life.
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  • Andy_GAndy_G Posts: 287Member
    If I can answer @nujumkey when it adds story or mechanics of a game, you can add pretty much anything.
    For religion I could suggest a characters world view or driving force, or perhaps the beliefs are worked into the xp system. Many religions have tomes of teachings, parables, historical figures and events, all of which can be harnessed into gameplay. You just got to make it feel that it fits into the game.

    Otherwise it's a pretty open bag in my opinion.
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  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    Oh, I think it's far a more interesting question to ask when they're not appropriate. And the answer to that is:
    When the religion and/or religiousness of the character don't fit into the setting or story. 
    For example when an author makes everyone vaguely Christian, because the author themselves is Christian, even though the setting of the work isn't our world.

    When the work uses real religions and portray some or only one of them as more right than the others.
    And for that I include religions that were real, but are now practically extinct. For instance Stargate portraying all the gods (including some Asian deities that are still worshipped today) as the aliases mindcontrolling alien slug-snake things... But never having the balls to including the Abrahamic god in there. (Especially when they try to goddamn handwave it by claiming no goa'uld has the necessary compassion to be the Christian god...)

    In all other cases religion and religious characters aren't really inappropriate, but I personally feel they're also not really required.
  • UntaxableUntaxable Posts: 234Member
    "Well yeah, the way that western games pillage roman, greek, celtic, norse, zoroastrian, native american, etc... mythologies for critters and concepts and then project them through a Christianized lens"
    Tis the season, after all.
    Post will probably be edited by Untaxable soon
  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    I still like the idea of Pharah and Ana being of two different relines (like Muslim and Christian) yet still loving each other very much. I fell it would really help with the game's overall theme of unity and getting over personal differences for the greater good.
  • CSJCSJ Posts: 22Member
    I would put it to you that in most of the world, being a 'hard atheist' is far more confronting and controversial than a theist. some people can accept someone else having a God they believe in, as long as it's similar to their own beliefs. But - the moment you start talking about 'The God Delusion' or the like? Bam; everyone flips their shit. Even though the USA is more tolerant of atheism than some countries, openly saying that you believe that no gods exist or can exist is still Serious Business for a lot of people.

    I'd also posit that the more devout you are in any particular religious denomination, the less likely you are to be a well-rounded, attractive individual, because of the demands and strictures that a lot of religious traditions impose. And that's before we even think about sects or cults...

    Having been brought up in a religious family and having engaged with very religious people, I definitely felt a light correlation between religious zeal and being psychologically unsound on one level or another. Not sure if it's correlation or causation, though.
  • PyrianPyrian Posts: 267Member
    @CSJ : "...being a 'hard atheist' is far more confronting and controversial than a theist. ... I'd also posit that the more devout you are in any particular religious denomination, the less likely you are to be a well-rounded, attractive individual... ...correlation between religious zeal and being psychologically unsound..."

    I'm pretty sure anybody with the attitude that not sharing their beliefs makes people unbalanced, unattractive, and insane, is going to find themselves viewed as confrontational and controversial. XD

  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    @Pyrian Yup, that's the trouble with (mostly American and British) 'born again' Atheists who were raised to be deeply religious and then realized they didn't actually believe all that. Most of them let go of their religious beliefs, but not the corresponding mindset. (Richard Dawkins once said 'Most of the people in the world are atheist about 99% of the gods in the world, we just take it one god further'... And my addendum to that is that most religious people who become atheists, then carry on in their newfound atheism towards all gods in the same way they went about their atheism against all gods except theirs when they were religious.)

    @untaxable It being the season may well be the reason for my strong reaction, religious folks being casually religious in public all over the place whilst a section of them bitch and moan about how religion (specifically theirs) is supposedly being 'forced out' of public view every time someone tries to be a bit more inclusive and anti-sectarian about the whole thing.

    @EdibleGreenTea And what sect of Christianity do you imagine whichever one of them it would be belonging to?
  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    @Robrecht Whatever sect of Christianity is the biggest in Egypt, I guess...
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    @EdibleGreenTea So the Coptic Orthodox Church then. Are you familiar with how their beliefs differ from those of the mainstream Christian sects? (For reference, despite similar sounding names, the Coptic Orthodox Church isn't in communion with any of the Eastern Orthodox Churches.)
  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    @Robrecht I've never heard of that sect.
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    @EdibleGreenTea See, that's why I'm asking. I'm not saying this to be mean, but if either Ana or Pharah (or both) were revealed as being Copts and that were treated accurately, rather than as 'generic Christianity', my guess is it might well look like some kind of fictionalized fantasy version of Christianity to you. When in reality, Coptic Christianity is quite literally one of the oldest forms of Christianity around (it was already around in the same form it has now before the Schism that caused the Great Church to split into Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy).
  • lightlight Posts: 270Member
    @Robrecht I'm wondering if that description ever applied to me. I was raised to be friendly with people of conflicting beliefs (insidiously, for the purpose of proselytizing), I never got the message that people of other religions were unbalanced, unattractive, and insane, and I'm willing to guess that most Christians in the US don't feel this way either. After I converged on abandoning Christianity (actually called myself a deist for a while) I transitioned into more like minded social spheres and that had some emotional baggage. And yeah, my friends and I might sometimes talk bad about Christian universities or like Ben Carson or whatever, but never peers. There was a time when I didn't want to mingle with religious people but that ran its course, and especially recently there are people I know and love for whom Christianity is an essential part of their identity, and I wouldn't change it (conversion is for the brave of heart). I dunno, it might be that the atheists who are like that are simply the most visible, not accounting for "most" of us.
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  • CSJCSJ Posts: 22Member
    edited December 2016
    @Pyrian I don't quite understand what you're saying/suggesting. I - like any reasonable person, don't go around telling people that, nor is it an absolute correlation or proven thing - just an observation and one I try not to let influence my first impression of someone. What you describe is more along the lines of a strawman atheist.
    @light The most common form of atheist is probably an 'agonistic atheist' - lacking belief in a deity and believing that any alleged existence of the divine is unproven and unknowable. Just like not all religious people are the ones going door-to-door, or protesting, or otherwise projecting their beliefs on others, atheism, humanism, and agnosticism are as (if not less) likely to have that tendency. The number of agnostics tends to be under-counted, due to a sense of embarrassment or shame in admitting such a position.
    @Robrecht There is a known phenomenon - incorporating but also extending beyond religion - that for some people it is easier to transition from one 'radical' stance on an issue or belief, to the opposite extreme than to shift to a 'moderate' stance. That's not necessarily a bad thing; just because something is perceived as 'moderate', does not necessarily make it better. However, in the context of Religion, bouncing between extremes does tend to be negative more often than not.
    As for Pharah and Ana, it would be cool for one of them (probably Ana) to be Sufi - a tradition within Sunni Islam with a rather interesting approach to worship and faith, but that's it. I wouldn't want to stick religion on as a label for the player to feel constrained by, nor have it completely glossed-over so leaving it out - of having such details fleshed-out in side material (like Tracer's reveal) can sometimes be the best option.
    Post edited by CSJ on
  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    @Robrecht Interesting, that's actually a very good point about that. I still think that would be interesting to see that dynamic between Ana and Pharah regardless of Christian sect either way. Also, I think it would be interesting to see a Talon operative like Sombra be revealed to be Catholic and having to justify her very immoral actions with her very moralistic religion, that could also be a very interesting dynamic.
  • Andy_GAndy_G Posts: 287Member
    edited December 2016
    @EdibleGreenTea Considering what Sombra does, she probably doesn't care about religion and is more self-reliant in that respect. Of coarse that doesn't mean she wouldn't have relationships people who are devoutly religious, such as her family (if she has one). It doesn't take much to imagine Sombra making an effort to make her mum happy by going to church every now or then (or attending christenings and the like).
    Post edited by Andy_G on
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  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    @Andy_G Good points, I was just thinking of her being Catholic due to Catholicism's heavy influence in South America. (Come to think of it, Lucio could also work as a catholic using the same logic as Sombra, doubly so considering he's from Rio.)
  • vlademir1vlademir1 Posts: 401Member
    @EdibleGreenTea While Catholicism is fairly prevalent in Latin America*, it's far from alone there and I can just as easily imagine any character from those regions following same variety of African diaspora or native religion (be that in a pre-Christian or post-Christian influence form).  For that matter with the fairly substantial expat European and Asian populations in Latin American countries (Chinese, Japanese, German and Italian are the ones I'm most aware of but are not alone) it's also easy enough to picture other appropriate religious and cultural traditions, whether alone or mixed with others that are common in these regions, applying that don't match most people's expectations. 


    *my use of this term here is intended to be inclusive of all nations south of the mainland US and north of Antarctica in the Western Hemisphere but outside the Polynesian diaspora, since US and international depictions commonly treat this entire area like it's some sort of historically and culturally homogeneous whole
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  • EdibleGreenTeaEdibleGreenTea Posts: 34Member
    @vlademir1 Good point, I was just referring to the fact that Rio has the Christ the Redeemer statue and how much influence Catholicism has had on the country as a whole.
  • RobrechtRobrecht Posts: 292Member
    Latin Americans all being devoutly Roman Catholic is, like, a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge stereotype in the US.

    And Lucio being from Rio is not actually a good reason to make him Roman Catholic, since Rio is the only region of Brazil where Roman Catholics aren't the majority.
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