For the first time in the series, Civilization IV also added named religions. Johnson "decided to make religion a big part of Civ IV simply because it was the biggest aspect of human history that the series had so far left untouched, especially in terms of 'naming names' by calling specific game elements Christianity or Buddhism or Islam." With the inclusion of named religions, their corresponding value systems also made an appearance in the technology tree. Polytheism was coupled with the Hindu religion, Monotheism with Judaism. Of course, the addition of real religions was a loaded topic. "We did encounter some initial skepticism about religion, especially since we were going to have real religions in the game. People were concerned that we might offend believers or trivialize faith. In fact, we lost one key beta tester...because he just didn't like the idea of 'playing' with Christianity," says Johnson. The tension between historical expectation and player choice was still a challenge, and the choice of which named religions to include was a difficult one. "We chose the seven religions in the game based off of their fame, with an emphasis on ones still influencing us today. Thus, important movements like Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism as well as various dead pagan religions didn't make the cut. I wanted players to feel a personal connection to the religious choices being offered in the game - whether they are believers or not - which was only possible with living religions."


Simply discovering the corresponding technology was not enough to grant you the social benefits of a religion. First, the player had to spread it across the map. "By adding missionaries, which let players actively proselytize specific religions to specific cities, the players finally felt engaged in the process. Even though religion could still spread naturally, a determined player now played an active role in how a favored religion spread around the world. This change meant that the secondary effects of religion - happiness, civics, diplomacy - were now tools which the player could use to help strengthen his or her civilization." Caudill relates a similar experience. "I think we finally got something that was fun and interesting when we added the missionaries to the game. That meant you were able to actively push your influence rather than waiting for the passive systems to kick in. It also kept us from violating one of Sid's design rules by having the computer have more fun than the player, since all of the percentages and checkmarks were things that the computer was doing for you."

Civilization IV changed everything when it added named religions to the game, and yet it managed to maintain that precarious balance between historical expectations and giving players the unprecedented choice to shape a society's philosophical values. After all, the role of religion and spirituality in society goes far beyond temples and cathedrals, and no game about human civilization would be complete without it.

Alan Au is a freelance writer, academic, and games industry advocate. When he isn't busy building an empire to stand the test of time, he spends his time exploring the connection between games, education, and health.

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