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The greatest story never played
Why don't religion and video games mix? The industry's top developers ponder the question.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - There aren't a lot of taboos in the video game industry. The Vietnam War, drug running and brutal homicides have all featured prominently in past and upcoming releases.

But mention religion to most publishers and they'll break land speed records as they dash in the opposite direction.

<!-- var clickExpire = &quot;-1"; //--> To figure out why, I spoke with the makers of some of the industry's biggest games.

"What you might think is ... couldn't you make a religious game where critics, fans and retailers would all line up and universally say 'Here's a game that has some sort of moral or educational value?'," said Todd Hollenshead, CEO of id Software. "But people tend to take religion extremely personally and therefore have more opportunity to be offended. If you make, say, a Christian based game, are you going to make it a Protestant game? If so, that might offend the Catholics."

Publishers aren't the sole reason we haven't seen many religious-themed games, of course. Some developers say the church hasn't been quick to see the benefits of the gaming industry.

"Embracing the medium is the way [for churches] to get across and deliver the message they want to," said Bill Roper, CEO of Flagship Games. "They've done that with music. They've done that with books. They've done that with movies. I don't think they've done that with games yet."

Good values That's not to say no one has tried. Several small companies, such as N'Lightning Software and Wisdom Tree Games, have released titles with moderate success. And there are more are on the way.

Crave Entertainment will bring religion to the PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance in October with its trivia intensive title: "The Bible Game."

And "Left Behind," based on the best-selling book series and using prophecies from the Book of Revelation as a framework, is a real-time strategy game putting you in charge of battles between good and evil during the apocalypse.

Neither game, however, is being published by one of the industry's big names, which would give it more power at retail stores.

While top tier publishers haven't put out many games with overt religious themes, several titles have injected a moral underpinning.

Chief among these was the "Ultima" series in the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. Creator Richard Garriott made role-playing games where, aside from killing monsters and collecting treasures, you also were presented with certain moral quandaries.

Done right, adding a moral element can bring a new dimension to games. Done wrong, it can be heavy-handed and ruin the experience.

"I really do believe that putting parables into gameplay in an interactive way makes the storylines much more interesting and more compelling to play," said Garriott, who is now CEO of NCSoft North America. "The issue is: They are just really hard to do. If all you're going to do is commentary about morality, that would be technically very easy, but very boring – and it would detract from the products."

Making games based on stories from the Bible, Torah, Koran or any religious scripture is a tricky affair, since many religious tales have little to do with the skills of man. So by having a player's choices affect the outcome of those stories, are you pushing aside a higher power?

"Taking those stories and putting ... your skill, reflex and wit as the determining factors would remove God's intervention ... and potentially place the glory on the Bible hero (or the player) and not on the God who ordained the course of events," argues David Fifield, a former game developer who worked on several titles including "Majesty" and "MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf".

Hollenshead agrees.

"I think it becomes a real challenge for a developer to make it interesting and compelling, but at the same time walk the line of not offending the sensibilities of anybody," he said. "I don't think anyone is going to get too pissed off if you misconvey what Hell looks like, which is what we've done. But boy, if you give players the chance to have Moses make choices with some ambiguous moral consequences, you've stepped in a deep hole of trouble."

Getting religion? With all the challenges, I started wondering: What would today's AAA developers do if they were to create a religious-themed game of their own.

id's Hollenshead said the company would likely pick a story from the Bible and have you play as the protagonist.

Garriott said he'd do something along the lines of what he did with the "Ultima" games: Put you in situations similar to those described in sacred texts, let you choose a path, then show the ramifications of your actions.

Fifield said he would use biblical stories as a framework. "The story of Moses has multiple decade long breaks in the text," he said. "Fill in those blanks and detail his rise to prominence in the Egyptian military, his wanderings and encounters in the wilderness and end the game with God's Judgment of Egypt and deliverance of the Hebrews through the Red Sea."

Flagship's Roper may have the best idea for bringing together people from different walks of life, though.

"I think it would be interesting to try to do a faith based MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game)," he said. "It would be a great way to bring people in the Christian community together from all over the world. ... You'd also get interest and traction and a way for there to be an outreach outside of the Christian community."

Will Hollywood's slump seep into the video game industry? Find out here.
Now I bet boltz will want to see this
 

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First of all, religion is the dodgiest story ever written. It completely lacks character development, not much of a plot and there is no active bad guy (they all mention the devil but he never does anything). The game would only sell for its name and then everyone will realise how boring their religion is and they'll blame it on the game.
 

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I think religious sector is really going to be hot place to make tons of money. I remember my Cousins family are very Christian and when The Passion of the Christ movie came out they watched it few times to support Christian movies.

I think that the games will either cater to religious family orientated people. I mean if people like it you will see it all over Christian stores everywhere. Or games will do horribly wrong. The only way they games can do well if it doesnt offend its fan base.

As for my opinion it sounds like way cash in to people who buy christian products. The example Moses based game that could give you option to go Good or Evil would be really cool. But i can seeing that never happening. Also i seeing the games having Playstation graphics at the best.
 

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Ocean Soul
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They already made gamesl like that for the nes. wheere you had to get the animals in the ark. haha. To me what INCA said is true. Only people who buy stuff because "christian" is slaped on it will buy it. They did it with music, so why not do it with video games. All they do is take the swear words out and replace them with god anyhow.
 

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Vanit said:
First of all, religion is the dodgiest story ever written. It completely lacks character development, not much of a plot and there is no active bad guy (they all mention the devil but he never does anything). The game would only sell for its name and then everyone will realise how boring their religion is and they'll blame it on the game.
Don't compare christianity to all religions (some of which are just 'mythology' now). And even in Christianity the devil is quite a tricky foe - and has dialogues with god on occassion, where they speak like civilized beings.

Also check out hinduism or buddhism, so much wonderful history and story behing those two religions. And then of course you have the ancient religions of the vikings, or the ancient asian religions...and native american religions. Lots of stories about evil trying to destroy man, and trickster demons. I'd love to see a game based on native american mythology, and ancient japanese mythology as well as indian. Lots of great characters.

Valkyrie Profile is an excellent example of a religious game done right. And with others you could play a helper of the gods, or a hero for the gods and the people that is part of a legend. (Moses is a legend for example).

The hardest part about dealing with the worlds most popular religion is not offending people and pulling it off correctly. I don't think playing as Moses would be too fun, but if it was done right, in an adventure game it could be sweet.
 

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I guess I was a bit generic when I said it was a bad idea. But I still think that adapting the bible to a decent game 'might' turn out good if it was done well enough.... though it would still need a lot of adaption.
 

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Hmm I don't think that online bible game would be good. I mean think about the religions stuff that goes on in the forum...just add some pretty graphics, sound, and milk, and you have hell breaking lose. Ironic, don't cha thing?
 

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Imagine a game where you play as a terrorist and blow yourself up with innocent civilians and then proceed to "Heaven" where you get 72 virgins to screw? Grand Terrorist: Mission New York anyone?
 

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Lobo said:
Valkyrie Profile is an excellent example of a religious game done right.
Valkyrie Profile... one reason that might have prevented this game from being released in Germany is the fact that Norse mythology is still some sort of taboo here (what a shame). You know, Hitler always saw the german people being on their way to Valhalla by following HIM. Politicians and maybe publishers, too, seemed to be afraid that this game would get thisnegative touch, too.

BTW: The Silent Hill games are also great examples for a religious game series.
 

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Final Fantasy X indirectly challenged a lot of religious views, even the view if god himself is real.
 

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And don't forget the Xenosaga (including Xenogears, of course).

Jeshua...
 

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I like storys like that, they don't really challenge it if you ask me though, because it's a i different world, they are just trying ot make it feel more like there own. I don't see what people in religions get so offended at this stuff. I mean they take it as far as saying poke'mon and LOTR is wrong because it's evil and people will believe it, even though it's FANTASY!
 

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Aided Onslaught said:
I like storys like that, they don't really challenge it if you ask me though, because it's a i different world, they are just trying ot make it feel more like there own. I don't see what people in religions get so offended at this stuff. I mean they take it as far as saying poke'mon and LOTR is wrong because it's evil and people will believe it, even though it's FANTASY!
Religious groups won't care whether it's fantasy or not. Even some between-teh-lines-criticism is enough to make them think that the game/movie itself was made just to offend their whole belief. I still wonder why Terranigma made it that far, because it clearly makes fun of christianity.
 

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Yeah, I know, it seems as if they do it so they can sell more book, on why and how it the antichrist or something. Then that give the people who buy it a reason to ***** and make their life seem worth living. (I know not everyone who believe in relgion does this, but this is a problem I'd say within the group)
 

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Vanit said:
... how is that relevant...
A Jihad game would be religious and controversal. I thought we were talking about the possibility of a game based on Islamic religion. After all we can do strippers, the mafia, and prostitutes in GTA why not religious terrorists? :innocent:
 
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