When I was a youth playing my NES back in the late 80s and early 90s, I did not realize how much of the games we played were censored to say the least. Was it because I was younger and did not notice? Or Perhaps it was because I did not care to notice and was having to much playing the game at hand.
Wow, my how the world has changed since those early days. Our technology has devloped, our games have grown up, and my religious views have changed. From a boy who was raised by very Catholic grandparents and at one point active in my church, to now a young man who has a very agnostic point of view on religion.
What does censorship though and my views on religion have anything to do with each other? Well its to elaborate the point that religion while covered in many many Japanese games was something that was shied away from on our side of the ocean. We had everything from Crosses to Satanic images were not allowed in their games. Why? Were we afraid of offending some one or were we afraid of just the topic of religion in gaming?
Let us also note that the guidelines themselves contradicted themselves. While religious images were not allowed, there was the exception that Roman gods were allowed. Yes, but why Romans?
To Be honest I really donot know why that was the exception or aside from the point that Nintendo wanted their games to be family friendly. So why is the issue still to some degree to this day not tackled as heavy? Is it the fact that it is such a touchy subject on both sides? Well I donot know why, but what I do know is that the medium itself can handle such a topic. And it can handle it to a degree that explores it in so much depth that it can make one really think about their positions on life. How Do I know this? Because the gaming has already done this, and it did it twelve years ago.
Xenogears was released in Japan way back in February of 1998. Eight months later in October of1998 we got this game at our very shores. And be glad we did, because due to the sensitivity of the subject matter handled in this game we almost did not get it.
Now those who are familiar with my Youtube channel will know how much I adore this game. And for those that donot, I adore this game to the point that this game is my favorite of all time. Why? Because like all the games in my top games of all time, like any great form of art it had a very profound effect on me. And that effect was to make me explore my views on religion.
I got this game the day it came out, and I was only fifteen when it did. At that time I was not really sure about religion, more confused about it. For me the game opened up the possibilities that there was more to religion, and that there were view points aside from being in a religious view point.
Of course before we get into the tangent that I was at the rather impressionable age of 15, I have since replayed the game several times and it still has an effect to this day on me. And why is it that this Japanese Roleplaying game of all games should make me reconsider my thoughts on religion?
Well Xenogears, while at the surface may be a story about warring nations, and gaint mechs being used in the conflict, it really becomes a story about faith, identity and the myteries of life. And there is a beauty to Xenogears I feel that the story covers the topic of not only organized religion, but that of the beliefs themselves.
Whats interesting here is how they present it. For example on one hand we have a organization, that is representation of how organized religion can be good to people. It teaches them tolerance and respect. Then on the side of the board we have the religion that blinds people to it. That people take overly granted and force beliefs upon others. It also shows religion can be used to blind and manipulate people to its own end.
What this ultimatley does is it shows two sides of the story. Alot of the time in anything we tend to side only one side and we see that side as either positive or just purely negative. In this game we take the theme of religion and we see it brilliantly handled as something that is powerful. Something like any power is both good and bad, and that religion in itself is not bad or good, its really the people who are.
Also Xenogears also handles the topic of, what if our beliefs are discovered to be true but not exactly the way we think they are? Say the idea that god exists but he is not as we imagined him to be. Or that what we believe seems true at first, but we discover the utlimate truth is quite horrifying.
What Xenogears did to me is show me that there are viewpoints that vary for the view of god and that what we may believe may not be true, but we may also never know. And to me as I got older I developed a view point that is open to any possibilities while living my life to the fullest.
Now I will do a blog someday dedicated to Xenogears alone, there is much to cover in that game. The story alone could be analyzed and dissected to no end. None the less I used Xenogears as an example that gaming can cover such a topic as religion in such a mature manner.
Now while more games are being released that cover the topic of religion, I think there could be more of them. Some games such as Persona 3 are magnificent in its subtle way of handling it, or lets put it out there the whole Shin Megami Tensei games. Other games such as Mass Effect handle the topic of religion in a more social context then rather it being the sole focus of the story. It even at one point has you as a player determine your one beliefs when having a conversation with a character. Or there is a side quest letting you determine if a Hannar preacher is being pushy or simply expressing his beliefs. And it does it in a matter that is rather tricky.
Heck even Halo tackles the topic of religion and shows its negative effects thanks to the ever so villianous convenant. So there are more signs that this topic while again not handled as much as it should, its getting there.
The one thing I have learned though is that no matter our thought processes whether a Theist, Agnostic or Atheist we should always respect each others views on the matter.(Being married to my wife who is a devout christian has taught me this the most).
I think in the end that to me, Videogames are a credible place to express ideas about topics. Like any medium, topics handled in this manner could make it our gaming experiences alot more worth while. So in the end with that guys, Magus Out!