Escape From Mount Stupid: Religion
Danny details the times religion has been used in games, and wonders whether the industry's portrayal of Islam is enforcing negative cultural stereotypes.
Cards on the table, I don't believe in a deity. If I'm totally honest it's not that I don't believe a god exists; I just don't believe your god exists. But my belief, regardless of whatever facts I think I have to back it up, is no more or less true than somebody else's devout faith.
Atheists and people of faith have a common ground; it's called common sense. You don't need to be secular to view the universe, and you don't need to be religious to be spiritual. They also have another thing in common: bastards.
Extreme religious groups actively make the world a less cool place to live. Whether it's Islamic extremists detonating themselves, fundamentalist Christians gunning down doctors, or neighbours in Northern Ireland throwing stones at each other over different interpretations of the same book, these people hijack religion to enforce their own cultural beliefs, and it's our misinterpretation of this reality that creates the divide between those with faith and those without.
It's also the reason games have largely avoided tackling religion, though it's one of the most interesting aspects of life. Some games, such as Mass Effect and BioShock, have done a great job of utilising it in interesting ways, but we still haven't reached the point where Islam can be portrayed without a suicide bomb.
I believe ignoring an entire culture out of some fear of offending their faith is a fantastic way of promoting intolerance. I wouldn't fancy it if every Irish game character was an IRA soldier. I hate the IRA, but far worse would be the cultural misrepresentation it carries. When the only Islamic people we see in games are extremists, as an industry we are collectively saying "Muslims are terrorists." That is not acceptable.
Finally, I want to say a special thanks to my friend Tamoor who agreed to be interviewed for this episode. We met through the GameSpot community a few years ago, and I'm very proud to call him one of my best friends today. He's also one of the great unsung journalists in our little industry. Follow him on Twitter at @tamoorh.
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