272: The Devil and the Game Designer

Matthew Gault

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The Devil and the Game Designer

Many videogames use images and themes from the Christian mythology of heaven and hell. Matthew Gault goes to the source to find out exactly why game designers gravitate towards angels and demons.

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Ze_Reaper_Of_Zeath

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Intresting Read, welcome to the Escapist BTW.

Suffice to say, I agree, that games use "Right or Wrong" compass, as a way of telling what is good or not.

I agree, that the further games progress, there will always be one or two, who utilize themes from Heaven or Hell.

My personal opinion? That it's just a bunch of pixels, and it's meant for fun. I'm atheist, I'm not offended by "Heaven or Hell"
 

Gralian

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So... that was basically a page worth of 'in games we have generic 'good' guys and generic 'bad' guys'?

I didn't really see the point to all that at all. Obviously it feels more wrong to shoot a cop than a demon, aside from the "you're killing a human not a monster character" we associate the police force as something inherently good or positive in the real world, whilst monsters are not.

You're also treading light ground with Halo. You seem to forget that it's less about killing demons and more about a religious war. It's more akin to the catholic crusade against the muslims and saracens(?). The Covenant believe humanity for whatever reason is evil and must be purged as dictated by their prophets. They believe they are the holy and righteous ones. We are the demons to them. In fact, in Halo 1 and 2, i believe the grunts and elites even refer to you, the Master Chief, as a 'Demon'.

Aside from Bowser, the Doom games and a few other key 'lookit this game focuses on the big bad being Satan and you are a 100% good character with no character development!' there is no real representation of 'God, angel, mortal, Satan' because we've moved past that now. We have character development, plot exposition and the ability to make a choice between right or wrong. Are the Krogans 'demons'? If you disagree and support the removal of the genophage, are you a demon for siding with what can be inherently perceived as 'demons', or are you more an 'angel' for your tolerance and kindness towards an otherwise stereotyped and possibly misunderstood race of aggressors?
 

More Fun To Compute

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Very superficial analysis of Halo considering how much it deals with Christian themes in a not so straightforward manner.
 

lomylithruldor

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Gralian said:
So... that was basically a page worth of 'in games we have generic 'good' guys and generic 'bad' guys'?

I didn't really see the point to all that at all. Obviously it feels more wrong to shoot a cop than a demon, aside from the "you're killing a human not a monster character" we associate the police force as something inherently good or positive in the real world, whilst monsters are not.

You're also treading light ground with Halo. You seem to forget that it's less about killing demons and more about a religious war. It's more akin to the catholic crusade against the muslims and saracens(?). The Covenant believe humanity for whatever reason is evil and must be purged as dictated by their prophets. They believe they are the holy and righteous ones. We are the demons to them.

Aside from Bowser, the Doom games and a few other key 'lookit this game focuses on the big bad being Satan and you are a 100% good character with no character development!' there is no real representation of 'God, angel, mortal, Satan' because we've moved past that now. We have character development, plot exposition and the ability to make a choice between right or wrong. Are the Krogans 'demons'? If you disagree and support the removal of the genophage, are you a demon for siding with what can be inherently perceived as 'demons', or are you more an 'angel' for your tolerance and kindness towards an otherwise stereotyped and possibly misunderstood race of aggressors?
I guess you never saw those Shin Megami Tensei games.

SMT 1 & 2: Demons invade the world. Do you side with demons, angels or humanity.

SMT3: Nocturne: You're a half-demon in a world being reborn. The few humans left can formulate new philosophy for the new world and you side with one of them, or none at all and the world is destroyed, or undo the destruction of the world or side with satan to destroy the world then go to other worlds to destroy them as well.

Digital Devil Saga: You're the leader of a gang that got their inner demons woken up. You escape "purgatory" and go back in the world to climb your way up to a crazed God that is transforming everyone into stone statues.

SMT: Devil Survivor: Demons loose in Tokyo. The character is the anti-christ or the savior. Do you control the demons to take over the world? Give the control of demons to mortals? Seal them away? Banish them and embrace angels to bring order to the world?

SMT: Strange journey: The world is trying to get rid of the humans polluting it and lets demons loose in the world. Angels come to earth to try to give a last chance to humanity. You can side with demons to build a new world of freedom, side with angels to build a happy but really strict world or with humans to continue as it is now.

in the SMT games, demons are chaos vs the angels that are order. Still, it's pretty known concepts used with a lot more depth than what you seem to say.
 

BloodSquirrel

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Matthew Gault said:
"Halo actually is the concepts of angels and demons in a futuristic society. The angel would be Cortana. She represents a celestial being that's invincible and manifests only to the main character. The Covenant represents the demons, trying to conquer, trying to destroy, with evil plans of consuming all of humanity. They basically have all the traits we ascribe to demons without the red horns and pitchforks."
Actually, a stronger case would be that the flood are the demons, with the forerunnners possibly being the angels. Cortana is also not invincible; she suffers greatly while in gravemind's clutches.
 

Meggiepants

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If I paid any attention to the Halo storyline - I don't, I still think of Cortana as that hologram chick - I might understand what you are trying to say a little better. But I do pay attention to the story in other games I'm sure you also find your angel/demon overtones in. But I really don't think that's what the writers were envisioning when they wrote Bioshock.

That's because I've already had a storytelling instructor beat you to the punch when it comes to over generalization of stories and literature. My professor once told me all stories come down to two types of tales. A stranger comes to town. Someone takes a trip. It's a lot easier to find these themes than it is to ferret out the imagined intrinsic religious meaning you are finding in these games.

I think it says more about you, and Nadav for that matter, that you see angels and demons in all the games you play, than it says about the stories in the games.
 

CitySquirrel

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Who is Matthew Gault? Anyway....

Very nice read. I feel like I sorta knew this, but I never really thought about it. (Except when it was obvious)
 

Gralian

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lomylithruldor said:
I see what you say and i will admit i have never played any MegaTen games beyond the Persona series (3 and 4) which didn't really deal with concepts of heaven and hell in such a way. However i was more responding to the article when it talks about the creatures that we shoot at on screen. I don't mean in terms of plot and story because the author of this article does not deal with that. "Your conscious mind might not immediately associate those Grunts and Brutes with imps and demons". This is what i mean. It is in character design and symbolism not an in depth plot based around the concept. It's "oh, these aliens look demonic and are the 'evil' ones, therefore they are agents of the devil" not "here is a plot about *actual* demons causing a ruckus, humans in the middle, and angels trying to set everything right". I am arguing with the author that you can't just say "Oh look at (generic alien or enemy) it must be an agent of the devil because it's represented as such metaphorically". Beside the MegaTen games though, could you think of another series of games that deals with such themes as heaven and hell in a serious and literal way? Chances are no, and if you can, they would certainly be in the minority - in a 'niche' category.
 

Kermi

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Gralian said:
So... that was basically a page worth of 'in games we have generic 'good' guys and generic 'bad' guys'?

I didn't really see the point to all that at all. Obviously it feels more wrong to shoot a cop than a demon, aside from the "you're killing a human not a monster character" we associate the police force as something inherently good or positive in the real world, whilst monsters are not.

You're also treading light ground with Halo. You seem to forget that it's less about killing demons and more about a religious war. It's more akin to the catholic crusade against the muslims and saracens(?). The Covenant believe humanity for whatever reason is evil and must be purged as dictated by their prophets. They believe they are the holy and righteous ones. We are the demons to them. In fact, in Halo 1 and 2, i believe the grunts and elites even refer to you, the Master Chief, as a 'Demon'.
And 3. They even boast: "I killed the demon" is the last thing you'll hear before many a respawn.
It actually amuses me how the good versus evil stereotypes can be flipped that way in regards to Halo. The Covenant are following a sacred duty to purge the galaxy of the scum that is humanity, but the "Demon" rises up time and time again, mercilessly slaying them left and right.

As far as Covenant soldiers are concerned his one true purpose is to destroy the Halo rings, which are their path to a higher plane of existence, their afterlife, their paradise - and they must stop him at all costs.

To the Covenant and Flood alike Cortana is evil incarnate, the holder of forbidden knowledge and the Master Chief's guiding force.
 

BloodRed Pixel

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Matthew Gault said:
The Devil and the Game Designer

Many videogames use images and themes from the Christian mythology of heaven and hell. Matthew Gault goes to the source to find out exactly why game designers gravitate towards angels and demons.

Read Full Article
I oppose to the "EXACTLY" very strongly!

In this article are some pretty retarted views.

A sense of right and wrong does NOT inherentlty need a religious bases.

e.g. Halo (as mentioned in teh article):
Cortana is not an angel is a AI Utility. And a pretty dumb one by the way.
The Covenant and not demons, they are the opposing force having ´accidentally´
or by choice an opposite vision of the unviverse than you.
There is essentially nothing demonic in it. In fact for the Covenant the HUMANS are the demons.
It just leads to a heavy conflict in the train of the story.

But if it was otherwise the game would be pretty boring.
And this concept spans across a wide range of games where 2 or more parties struggle against each other.

The ONLY reason there are explicitly EVIL opponents in a game is to make killing them A LOT more easier for you.

In games Like Deus Ex or even Fallout the concepts of bad or even evil opponents is pretty blurred.

In Deus Ex you realize with every Soldier you kill that he is just a victim of the organisation he incidentally works for.
Or in Fallout everybody is just fighting for survival, some in more harsh ways than others.
Killing them is not a good thing, it´s just a means to survive.

It´s called Darwinism.
 

BloodRed Pixel

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But sorry, I forgot 52% percent of the US popularity actually believes the Genesis is true word by word and thus oppose to the existence of CD-Players.
 

Worgen

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BloodRed Pixel said:
But sorry, I forgot 52% percent of the US popularity actually believes the Genesis is true word by word and thus oppose to the existence of CD-Players.
those numbers are probably skewed, its the easiest thing in the world to come up with a statistic that shows what you want it to show
 

BloodRed Pixel

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Worgen said:
BloodRed Pixel said:
But sorry, I forgot 52% percent of the US popularity actually believes the Genesis is true word by word and thus oppose to the existence of CD-Players.
those numbers are probably skewed, its the easiest thing in the world to come up with a statistic that shows what you want it to show
I hope so, I hope so,... really!
 

Aptspire

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Halo? then it makes me wonder what the Flood (i see what they did there) represent? the debased and carnal nature of man?
also, it should be noted that in the second game, since the Master Chief has destroyed 'one of the sacred rings', he is most referred to, by the Covenant, as 'the demon', putting a nice play on the 'the good guy changes with different groups' theme
 

The Random One

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Eh, it's the other way 'round. It's much easier to create a game in which you say, look these are the bad guys, these are the good guys. Let's have them fight. So any setting in which these differences are obvious is going to work. Angels and devils work? Sure. So do Nazis and non-Nazis. Of course it's possible to use theology as a strong groundwork for a true story - someone up there mentioned Shin Megami Tensei, and second hand accounts lead me to include Disgaea as an example - but I'd say most of the time this duality is just used as an easy way to create a duality. Of course, since people nowadays confuse 'pressing moral issues' with 'you are the bad guy' it works just as well the other way 'round. No John, you are the demons.

By the way, good vs. evil is actually very rare if you take a look at all religions, especially pagan ones. If you look at Greek, Norse, Celtic mitology, the good guys are pretty much assholes and the bad guys are murderous assholes. Hell, Loki is the closest thing Norse myths have to a devil and he's on the good guys' side half the time.

trenton9 said:
I would be one of those 52%, except I have no qualms with CD technology:)
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