Study Says Videogames “Problematize” Religion as Violent


A University of Missouri doctoral student says many modern videogames “problematize” organized religion by equating it with violence in their stories.

As improving technology has allowed videogames to evolve over the years, their narratives have become more detailed and nuanced as well, according to Greg Perreault, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. That increased sophistication has led to a growing incorporation of religion into various storylines, and that in turn has led religion to be “problematized” in videogames by way of strong narrative connections with violence.

Perreault looked at Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy 13, Assassin’s Creed, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in his research and found that all of them tied religion to violence. “In most of these games there was a heavy emphasis on a ‘Knights Templar’ and crusader motifs,” he said. “Not only was the violent side of religion emphasized, but in each of these games religion created a problem that the main character must overcome, whether it is a direct confrontation with religious zealots or being haunted by religious guilt.”

But he also stated that despite the common presence of those themes, he doesn’t believe game makers are trying to “purposefully bash” religion. “I believe they are only using religion to create stimulating plot points in their story lines. If you look at videogames across the board, most of them involve violence in some fashion because violence is conflict and conflict is exciting,” he continued. “Religion appears to get tied in with violence because that makes for a compelling narrative.”

This is where I’d normally make a crack about being thankful that organized religion has never been responsible for any real-world violence, but I don’t want to offend any sensibilities so I’ll simply note that Perreault presented the results of his research at the Center for Media Religion and Culture Conference on Digital Religion and leave it at that.

Source: University of Missouri

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