Religious Impulse in Video Games: Implications for World-Building
In Mark J.P. Wolf (ed.) Revisiting Imaginary Worlds: A Subcreation Studies Anthology, Routledge 2017, pp. 116-126; ISBN: 9781138942059
11 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2017
Date Written: 2017
“Why God?” is a question often asked about the real world. Why do we think about such a thing, why has God-thinking been so prevalent in history, why does it persist now science and reason show paths to understanding everything? To many contemporary writers, god-thinking is a nuisance, a hangover from our goat-herding days. How odd, then, when given the ability to make any kind of world that we wish, we seem to insist on putting God in it. Gods are everywhere in fantasy worlds. In this essay I will focus on video games, but the argument could be extended to many arenas where imaginary worlds appear, such as film, novels, and toys. God-thinking seems more popular in these places than in the real world. It is a puzzle, not unlike the puzzle of markets in virtual worlds: Everyone says they hate economics, yet no one makes a fantasy world without shops and money. We can only conclude that there’s something deeply attractive about shops and money. Perhaps there’s something deeply, if ineffably, attractive about God as well. What might it be? It’s not escape from mortality; death in fantasy worlds is never permanent. It may be related to the search for meaning but, on the other hand, few people derive truly substantial and long-lasting personal significance from their game play. In this essay I will explore two less-obvious explanations for the persistent attraction we have for the Divine. It may be entertaining, for one. God’s existence makes a world more fun to live in. And the gods of our fantasy may not after all be a projection, but rather a memory; this is an idea traceable to Plato. The more we talk about worlds we like to create, the more we need to think about metaphysics, as it is possible that these worlds represent an ongoing project to make the Forms concrete.
Keywords: religion, games, god
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