Study: Modern video games overly connecting violence to religion

What do you get when you mix religion and video games? According to a new study released by the University of Missouri earlier this week, you get violence; or specifically, an over-emphasized depiction of violence in connection with religion.

This little controversial cocktail was stirred up by a doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Greg Perreault. His findings were presented at the Center for Media Religion and Culture (CMRC) Conference on Digital Religion this past January.

assassins-creed-revelations-templarThe 20-odd page research paper, according to the conference program, is called RPG religion: Depictions of religion in contemporary role-playing games. It examines five recently released video games which Perreault believes to have the heaviest reliance on religion for storyline: Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy 13, Assassin’s Creed, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Three of the games are fictional religious, while two deal with the Roman Catholic Church. Perreault says he spent somewhere between 30 and 70 hours per game, with the exception of Final Fantasy XIII, which took much longer.

Perreault played through each game, took notes on key themes and visually analyzed the scenes that were heaviest with religious themes; he concluded that the video games were closely tying religion to violence.

“In most of these games there was a heavy emphasis on a ‘Knights of Templar’ and crusader motifs,” the doctoral student said. Not only was the violent side of religion emphasized, but in each of these games religion created a problem that the main character must overcome, whether it is a direct confrontation with religious zealots of being haunted by religious guilt.”

We’ve already seen how touchy a subject like violence in video games can be with the number of legal movements over the years, why throw in another touchy subject like religion with violence? Perreault tells VentureBeat that initially he didn’t expect to stumble across the violent aspect:

“In general, I tend to to think that studies of violence in video games are passe. I set out interested in the depictions of organized religions versus spiritual religions, expecting to find organized religions depicted far more poorly than spiritual [ones].”

thane prayingSo, are video games churning out anti-religious propaganda? On the one hand, Perreault points to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed title, where the heroes, or Assassins, are depicted as “Enlightment era secularists” who are working to prevent the Roman Catholic Church, with its Knights Templar, from controlling the wills of the masses. On the other hand, there is Thane and Mass Effect 2 where the “spiritual themes” are portrayed in a more positive light. Ultimately, Perreault believes that game developers aren’t intentionally trying to hurt organized religion’s image.

“I believe they are only using religion to create stimulating plot points in their storyline. If you look at video games across the board, most them involve violence in some fashion because violence is conflict and conflict is exciting. Religion appears to get tied in with violence because that makes for a compelling narrative,” he said.

In an interesting rebuttal to the idea of the study, Gamma Squad points out that video games were initially defined by Japanese developers, and Japan’s major religions include Shintoism and Buddhism. As a result, developers treated Western religions as exotic and unusual; overly sensationalizing certain aspects of the history.

Perreault elaborated on his study at Game Politics, saying that religion is an interesting topic for writers because “it is something that is key to people’s motivations, to their lives.” He went on to say that, Western literature, movies and television have already been stipulating religion’s role in society, and video games’ growth as an industry in recent years has allowed more compelling stories which “[tap] into that conversation” on religion. Incidentally, the conclusion isn’t limited to T or M rated video games; Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has also supported Perreault’s findings.

Product Review

Brutal and emotional, 'God of War' is everything a blockbuster game should be

In a new land, on a new journey, God of War evolves beyond the button-mashing action of its youth into an action game with engaging combat and an engrossing story.
Gaming

The N64 was an all-star console with a line-up of all-star games. These were the best.

The Nintendo 64 introduced a long list of top-tier games, but which were the iconic platform's best? From Mario Party to Ocarina of Time to NFL Blitz, check out our picks for the best N64 games.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in August 2018, from ‘Her’ to ‘Jurassic Park’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

Amazon Prime brings more perks than just free two-day shipping. Subscribers get access to a huge library of TV shows to stream at no extra cost. Here are our favorite TV shows currently available on Amazon Prime.
Gaming

Blazer5 Gaming has dominated the NBA 2K League. Now they prepare for the playoffs

We spoke with Blazer5 Gaming, the NBA 2K team that currently tops the professional 2K League, about their journeys to playing the basketball sim for a living. We also played a little game of overrated or underrated with NBA 2K19's ratings.
Gaming

Blizzard wants to see Diablo characters join fray in ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’

With Diablo 3 coming to Switch later this year, is it possible that we could see Blizzard characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate down the line? Blizzard would very much like to see Diablo characters in the Nintendo brawler.
Gaming

Blizzard changes its tune, says ‘Overwatch’ could run on Nintendo Switch

Blizzard's hugely popular multiplayer shooter Overwatch isn't available on Nintendo Switch, but one of the studio's senior producers says that it could technically run on the hybrid console.
Gaming

‘Warframe’ adds a trio of minigames, including a 2D fighting experience

Digital Extremes has added a new 2D fighting mini-game to Warframe, its free-to-play science fiction title. The game can be unlocked by using the Standing resource and features a surprising amount of depth.
Gaming

New 'Fortnite' challenge is among the most difficult yet, but we know the solution

Where are the Stone Heads looking? That's the challenge posed by Fortnite's sixth week of season five. It's an easy challenge in concept, but difficult to manage in execution. If you don't want a hassle, no sweat. We've found the solution.
Gaming

The PlayStation 5 rumors are heating up, and the console may arrive by 2020

Recent rumors suggest the launch of the PlayStation 5 is closer than you might expect. Predictions range from 2018 to 2021, and some reports are already making definitive claims about the hardware.
Gaming

Federal judge puts the brakes on ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ mod that allowed cheats

The GTA series brought us the lawlessness of Los Santos, but U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton handed down an injunction against David Zipperer of Georgia, maker of the Menyoo and Absolute mods.
Home Theater

They’re not just for gaming: Watch Blu-rays on the Xbox One S and Xbox One X

While the Xbox One S and Xbox One X boost the visuals of your games, they also can pull double-duty as Blu-ray players, but there's a bit of set up needed. Need help? Here's our guide on how to watch Blu-rays on the Xbox One S and X.
Product Review

'Battle for Azeroth' lets you play Warcraft without canceling evening plans

‘Battle for Azeroth’ promises to put you in the middle of a new war between the Alliance and Horde. The plot too quickly unravels into dull fetch quests, but the game’s variety keeps you itching to log in it even as the story…
Deals

Relive the glory days of arcade games with hot deals on Arcade1Up cabinets

Looking for a way to enjoy classic arcade games the right way? The new Arcade1Up machines have you covered. They're surprisingly affordable, too, with an MSRP of $400, but if you pre-order now, you can score one for only $300.