Comparitive Mythology is a funny thing.
It’s come to the point in popular culture that there’s certain popular culture that’s safe to appropriate for whatever you’re doing, be it games, comics, movies, etc. No one bats at eyelid when the fine details of Greek Mythology is glossed over in Clash of the Titans or Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Yet, like Dr Oberts says, at some point, these were as true to the people that belief them as the religion we practice today are. It gives me some thought into my own Christian beliefs and practices. But that’s more personal than for a blog that supposed to be a dedication towards my thoughts on story and games.
Mythology, as far as I understand it, is a way to contextualize and understand the world around us. That’s how religion sprung up, as stories about abstract ideas that people can gather around. Morality, nationalism, the afterlife, these give people a community, a form of tribal identity that they aren’t so alone and that they can believe something that connects them with other people, and make sense of the world around them. I still think that the the fundamental principle that governs social behaviour is that people are tribal, and they’re willing to belief anything that supports their tribal identification and bolsters their position in a chosen community.
What this means for games and mythology is that, some are off limits, and some aren’t. Yet games are a useful measure of testing somehow real concept of faith and ideas. Since at the heart of it, games are interactive, and can tell a story in multiple different ways. Few games do though, since few games have mature writing enough to tackle the ideas of religion, let alone the more abstract concepts of faith and the heart of humanity’s belief.
Take this list for example, aside from Silent Hill, which I have little familiarity with; the rest of the games listed don’t actually deal with religion in a meaningful way. More likely, they appropriate religious terminology and present a shallow representation of religion, or enough flavor to populate a world. Xenosaga and Xenogears are the worst examples of this lot. Even Fallout and Oblivion which presents certain religion at the center of stories tend to use cultish aspects of religion rather than a more comprehensive based religion in the world. It’s taking all the bad parts of religious ideology and few of the good. Then again, a lot of designers, programmers and general athiests would argue that there is no good in religion.
I’m still wondering about how religion can be tackled in a game, particularly the concepts of faith and some of the more positive aspects of people’s belief system. I’m unconvinced that the absence of a central belief system is generally good for the progress of large communities. It may be all well and good for the individuals atheists who’s already enjoying the fruits of society, or at the very least, can survive the turmoil of modern living, but the lack of religion might not be beneficial on a larger scale with regards to the idea of a country, or a group of people moving forward with a goal in mind. Humanism, despite it’s claims to be progressive, hasn’t really taken off because there are far too many disparate arguments about which way forward is the best way forward. All this to say that religion is necessary as a belief system for people to gather in communities. Atheism is unorganized and anarchic and that doesn’t make for good governance.
Or maybe I should just play Mask of the Betrayer again and see how Kaelyn deals with the faithless.