God and Games

My recent playing of “Crusader of Centy” for the Sega Genesis got me to do some thinking regarding games that have been pretty openly in-your-face when it comes to religious and moral teachings.  In Centy, it is pretty obvious that the game is ultimately about acceptance of others.  In fact, when the main character reaches Paradise and talks to God, God tells him that the reason he (presumably, based on the beginning, in the form of the fortune teller) took away his ability to speak with humans was so that he would be able to form connections with and understand both animals and monsters.  However, even with this ability, the main character seems more prone to kill the monsters than to listen to them, and this ultimately comes to a head as the game approaches its conclusion because he ends up having to slay all sorts of monsters throughout his world’s past, rather than talking it out and understanding why things are the way they are.  Thus, the game’s ending turns out to be rather ironic because he ends up traveling into the very distant past to speak with the then-young Mother Monster and finds out that they came from the underworld, but the passage back was blocked by some kind of evil spirit that he must slay.  Perhaps God could have sent him back to that point in time in the first place, rather than constantly watching him fail to understand the world around him.

Regardless, though, that game is representative of a period when religion in one form or another seemed to be heavily on the minds of many game developers.  ”Final Fantasy Legend” dealt with the party traveling to the top of a massive tower that transcended many worlds in order to save various societies and slay an evil being named Asura, only to find out later that it was all a challenge by the Creator, whom they promptly go to destroy.  And the whole concept of “killing God” seems to be another theme that crops up in one form or another.

The whole Act Raiser/Soul Blazer series deals a lot with God, angels, and world-creation in various forms, and then there is the Lufia series of games that directly deals with super-beings (or gods, depending on the translation) as well as their leader (that universe’s God figure), Arek.  The Act Raiser games deal with you saving or creating the world and the idea that people will no longer need you once the world is safe again, whereas in Lufia there is a lot of philosophical debate regarding good vs. evil and whether the gods of their world are actually good or not, especially considering that Arek sends the Sinistrals (essentially lesser demi-gods) to challenge humanity.  We never really know why Arek wanted to do this – was he trying to test the resolve of the people of the world, hoping they would band together against a common enemy and thus make the world more united, or was this merely some kind of entertainment for him?  Or something else entirely?  All we really know is that he sends the Dual Blade to the world and has the Sinistrals go to wreak havoc, but in the end people always seem to band together to defeat them.  However, whether this actually helps the world learn some kind of lesson or not is very debatable because every nation you go to or city you visit in various games still has some kind of internal threat, or possibly even a strong bias against another race or nation.

There are countless other examples of these types of themes being present in other games (for example, the multiverse theories brought up in the Myst games and how they relate to the nature of reality), but my point with this musing today was to show that there particularly seemed to be a lot of games from about 1989 throughout the 1990s that dealt specifically, and more in-your-face, with these concepts.  I wonder why this was?  Were developers going through some kind of introspective crisis and wanted to get their thoughts out there?  Were they dealing with inner demons of some kind and these games created an outlet for that?  Or was it somehow just the “in” thing to talk about at the time, and, if so, I wonder why that was?

The point of this article wasn’t for me to discuss my own views on religion at all, but just to discuss this theme that seemed to creep up in “Crusader of Centy” and countless other contemporary titles.  I know that many of you who read this will have your own thoughts to contribute (or musings to ponder), so your feedback is certainly encouraged and welcomed!

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