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Religion and theology in gaming and fantasy worlds

Religion and theology in gaming and fantasy worlds

In a thirty minute talk on VideoBrains, theologian Jenni Goodchild talks about religion in video game, and convincingly argues that games need to do a better job of creating religions and faith systems in their narratives.

Goodchild explores some sloppy religion in various games, and explains that it can be done better by making consistent faiths that have real world applications to the people and cultures in your game.

Her argument for religion in games could apply to writers of any fantasy or creative works; it’s important for writers and creators to remember that religion isn’t an absurd belief, but something that makes sense and is confirmed for the believer in the world around them. The tenets of a personal faith are often seen in the world around a believer, and if the creator of a fictional world merely treats religion like a checkbox, it will show.

Unless you live in the Shire, you know that Peter Jackson’s third and final installment in The Hobbit, The Battle of Five Armies, has been released. Like the other movies, it’s a 3 hour long homage to the fantasy world of Middle Earth. Writing for Crux, a Catholic website, Steven Greydanus argues that the Hobbit fails at showing Tolkien’s Christian influences, leaving the world a little barer, sparser, and shallower.

Tolkien had little faith that any cinematic treatment would work for his books. Greydanus agrees, but notes that The Lord of the Rings trilogy was more faithful to Tolkien’s religion and the religious elements in his work; there are poetic, very Christian, discussions of providence and life after death in The Lord of the Rings movie, but the same narrative material was excised for the Hobbit finale.

From the Crux article:

Changes like these are sadly typical of the “Hobbit” prequel trilogy, which is far cruder and less sensitive to the charm and beauty of its source material than the “Lord of the Rings” films were. As bad as Christopher Tolkien’s fears in 2012 about “The Hobbit” films might have been, the reality is worse.

Do you notice the Christian influence in contemporary fantasy works? Was it heartening to you to see the heroes of Lord of the Rings being Christ-like–forsaking material power and focusing on the spirit and the heart? Do you have a favorite fantasy writer or creator who puts in the work required to make believable faiths and religions in their work?

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