The enemy-god narrative is the latter of only two scenarios where God can exist within the game world while still allowing the player some control. Whether the god in question is literal, as in God of War II, or figurative, like in Portal or BioShock, the god-as-villain plot has become notably popular over the last three years. If players can't be a true god, why not knock him off his heavenly throne with a rocket? As Frank Fontaine's control over Rapture and the player is so absolute by BioShock's final act, and as GLaDOS's omniscient presence manifests itself in every puzzle of Portal's first 18 rooms, both antagonists might as well be gods of their respective universes. These god figures initially manipulate, abuse and/or disrespect the player, until he or she finally utilizes his newfound freedom and kills his captor in a violent, protracted boss battle.


Because of the way they deal with seemingly omnipotent beings, anti-god games represent the purest form of antitheism in gaming. Mario's world may inadvertently suggest that it's more fun to rescue the Princess when no one's watching over you, but Portal and BioShock damn near scream it. These games encourage resentment on the player's part for being manipulated by a figure who kills supporting characters (and companion cubes) at will; players are meant to directly feel, understand and hate the slavery imposed on them by their behind-the-scenes despots. These games teach the player that life under the thumb of a god, figurative or otherwise, is no life at all. They inexorably guide players to the conclusion that in order to complete the game, they must use their free will (and a few well directed missiles) to escape their spiritual bondage.

Regardless of how one feels about the existence of a supreme being in real life, it must be said that the anti-god games thus far have the most honest, complete and thoughtful view of his possible existence within the medium. Super Mario Bros. and Metal Gear Solid ignore the question of God altogether, but unintentionally celebrate his nonexistence. Spore and Black & White claim to explore the idea of God, but restrict the player's powers, thus preventing them from exploring truly interesting religious questions like the problem of evil; only the anti-god games simultaneously address the question of a divine intelligence and posit their own answer. That answer's validity is open to debate, but it is definite and fearless in a way the other de facto atheist games are not.

Leaving their individual, philosophical flaws aside, the point remains: All games are antitheist. Whether an intentional effort to keep control in the hands of the player, a sacrifice of true godliness for conventional gameplay challenges or an overt rejection of being controlled by a higher power, all games subscribe to the idea that a videogame world without a god is far more entertaining, suspenseful and meaningful than a world with one. Mario wouldn't have it any other way.

Anthony Burch is a filmmaker and the features editor for

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