205: Designing Religion

Designing Religion

One of the most venerable series in gaming, Civilization, has dealt with religion in every installment. However, the way the game has incorporated it into the gameplay has varied greatly with each game. Alan Au spoke with several key people involved with the series to illuminate the role of religion in Civilization.

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hmm i find the trivialization of religion kind of appropriate in game about world domination

murphy7801:
hmm i find the trivialization of religion kind of appropriate in game about world domination

Agreed....religion and world domination are the skip through the forest hand in hand type of duo. After reading this I believe that religion and spirituality do exist in other games but its more on a base of your gamer morale. Basically how good or bad you'll be in games and Fable 2 is a perfect example of a game that can show spirituality in games and reflect moral choices on the player. I'm sure some design of spirituality if not religion was a part of Fable 2 as well as other games like Mass Effect and even The Suffering and its sequel where moral choices made gave you a certain ending in the first and specific characteristics in its sequel.

What I love most about religion in Civilization IV is:
1) It's effective. Whether you use it to gain money, tactical advantages, political friends or to wage war (or even to, I dunno, let me pick an example at random, win the game), religion is incredibly useful. Even if it's not part of your strategy overall, you should still have some form of religion, and it's even better if you can found one.
2) They're balanced. Sure, Hinduism and Buddhism are the first religions you get, so they get that little advantage, but later religions come associated with more advanced techs, and the really late-game religions like Islam get free Missionaries. That keeps it from feeling like Christianity Pwns Joo

This article touches on a lot touchy questions about religions in video games. The first question is, why? Short of making a game particularly about religion, when and why should you include religion? Several games (such as Assassin's Creed) include it as part of the story line, which is common to much of literature, but turning it into a game mechanic is something entirely different. For a game like Civilization, it makes sense to use religion as a tool, because religion has been instrumental in managing entire empires.

A hard question is how to make religion into a mechanic. Religions are more than simply a practise; there is a deep philosophical underpinning to them that permeates into all facets of life. How much of that can you use without ruining the mechanic? How little can you use without trivializing the religion? How do you do either without bias and without implying statements about the purpose and effectiveness of various religions?

Lastly, how do you make a game with religion, without making the game about religion? Can religion co-exist with other material without being trivialized? Even just the suggestion that there is more to life than religion could offend some people.

It's not surprising that few games really touch on religion, even though it's ripe for the exploration that gaming allows. Kudos to the Civilization for trying to tackle it and making it fun.

The Europa Universalis III deals with religion in a way much like the Civilization series, with each faith having different bonuses associated with it. Since it covers the entire globe, it has an entire plathora of religions, from Chritianity (originally Catholic and Orthodox, but later Protestant and Reformed), Islam (Sunni and Shiite), Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Shintoism, and "Native" religions. Each different denomination has its own unique bonuses. This was a good way of doing it, especially since the game starts in 1399 and goes until 1820, with the major turning point of the game being the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism and Reformed offers its own bonuses different from Catholicism, but state religious conversion has major ramifications on both the national and international stages. Diplomacy with former brothers in faith becomes strained and your country become more suseptible to internal rebellions until you manage to convert your people to the new religion.

Each nation has its own "official" religion, but each province has its own religion as well. When the religion of a province differs from the state religion, there is the potential for unrest. However, the state can dispatch missionaries to the province to try and convert the people to the state religion.

This makes for an excellent platform for religious wars. Still, it's a little arbitrary. Why does being Catholic gives you an increased chance at colonization while being Reformed increases your trade efficiency?

I think the effects of the different religions in EUIII are rationalised in the manual.

I know it makes me somewhat ignorant or something (someone will be bound to say it) but everytime I discover Christianity in Civilization IV I rush around demanding people convert or I destroy their civilization with poison (spys) and war.

For some reason I always figure that when I finish the game I'll get extra points or something.

Though that aside if you control all the religions you really control the game.

 

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