Editorial: Can Videogames Create a New Religion?

My home of Brighton reported the largest percent of Jedi's in the UK.

The alternative religions in 2011. Jediism is the seventh largest religion in the UK.

Let me start by saying that I am not a religions man myself, but it seems to me that there are many games today that use themes of religion to tell a story to the player. This will either take the form of a real religion like Christianity in Dante’s Inferno or something based on the lore of the world in which the game is set, such as the Church of the Children of Atom in Fallout 3. While conversing with Confessor Crowley in this game, he is more than happy to share details of his faith with a player. When a game creates a new religion in this way, it is entirely possible for it to move someone enough to adopt it in the real world.

There is precedent for this happening in cinema before. A census is taken every ten years in the United Kingdom. There is a fine for putting false information in this document, except in the section about religion as many people do not feel comfortable revealing their faith. This section was added in for the 2001 census, and because many did not feel it belonged in a government document a grassroots movement began to get people to mark ‘Jedi’ as their religion. In this census 0.8% of England and Wales claimed to be of the Jedi religion. In the next census in 2011 no actions were taken to convince people to place a ‘joke’ religion, and while the number of Jedi fell by half, they still outnumbered the Atheists six to one.

So it is entirely possible for a religion to make the move from a game to the real world, but there are few that could do so. People are unlikely to worship an atomic bomb and would equally avoid many of the devil-worshiping cults that appear in many horror games. While it would be interesting to find oneself raised into godhood such as in Black & White, it would be quite difficult to try and convince anyone to worship a deity that could command them to have sex for a living. If a religion cannot be transposed into the real world, then maybe a new religion could be formed around a personality already in our industry?

People say I have the body of a god. Buddah.

People flock to Gabe each summer as he turns money that could buy one game into enough to buy many.

Gabe Newell is already practically worshiped by some people. Many a silent prayer has been said in the hopes that a certain game will appear on a Steam daily deal. If each Steam account represented a follower of Gabe, he would have a flock of 50million worldwide. This would place his worshipers as the seventh or eighth largest religion in the world. For a very recent group, Newellism has already had its second coming and people eagerly await a much talked about third coming. Some have such devotion that they will spend hours trying to prove that such a thing exists. The best religions have conspiracy theorists and this one would not disappoint.

To carry on the analogy into the realm of console manufacturers, there are already a number of people whose devotion to a system defies all logic. Despite the failings of the Xbox One, people were ready to pre-order it as soon as it was announced despite it being inferior to what the PlayStation 4 offered. These people may have been indoctrinated at early age after being told that the 360 was the best for first-person shooters. Years later they convince themselves that this is still the way to go as Sony had not shown them the games they are passionate about.

If people did go about worshiping manufacturers, would games shops become the equivalent of a church? A holy ground where one would say a prayer before sitting down in front of a screen to watch game trailers? Maybe they would hand out demos or some free DLC as everyone leaves. Of course, this would mean that there would have to be shops dedicated to only one system lest a fight break out over which system is superior. If this was the case, Sony and Microsoft would have the seventh and eighth largest religions, with Steam as ninth. The Ouya would still be outnumbered by Jediism.

If you could bring a religion from a game to the real world, which would it be? Do you believe people can be as passionate about games as others are of religion? Let me know in the comments!

4 comments on “Editorial: Can Videogames Create a New Religion?”

  1. Reading this article made me think of the “sign of the ‘T'” in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It probably is not too far of a leap; what you are describing is displayed every time a gamer puts blind faith into a developer the way a devout follows a deity. “Shut up and take my money!” is an “Amen.” Kickstarter is the collection basket.

  2. You seem to have forgotten about Arceism, Scott. Everybody knows that Arceus is our true savior.

  3. I like that topic, Imitanis. Very creative.

    If you could bring a religion from a game to the real world, which would it be?

    Hmm. All the religions I’ve seen in games were usually quite negative. If it were the FFX religion, we’d be sacrificing people every so often. On the plus side of that, however, is Blitzball! We definitely don’t want the Ethos religion. I mean the Xenogears one, not Ethan Pipher’s religion. Yeah, I can’t think of any. I’m not religious either so I’m not interested in joining any game religion no matter how cool it may seem.

    Do you believe people can be as passionate about games and other are of religion?

    Considering that there are many levels of passion for one’s faith among all the religious people in the world, I would say yes. I don’t think anyone could be as passionate about games as the most passionate religious people are, though. That would have to involve actual worship or concern for how games are going to affect your afterlife.

    By the way, I read the linked article and heard something totally new to me. American buildings often do not have a 13th floor? Don’t tell me it’s because the number symbolizes death.

  4. There are absolutely very few religions seen in games that are presented in a good light, aren’t corrupt, or don’t end up being a cover for something insidious. It’s a trope, and one I personally have little interest in worrying about.

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