Published on February 25th, 2014 | by gareth0
Five Popular Video Games With Religious & Spiritual Meanings And Symbolism
Article Wriiten By Liel Leibovitz
Liel Leibovitz is a writer for Tablet magazine and Author of “God in the Machine:
Video Games as Spiritual Pursuit “(2014). Leibovitz is also teaches at New York
University and is a video game scholar
1. Super Mario Bros: From the ancient Egyptians to Friedrich Nietzsche, the idea
of the eternal return of the same has fascinated many of humanity’s brightest minds.
Simply put, it is the notion that time isn’t linear but cyclical, and that the universe
keeps recurring an infinite number of times in more or less the same way. It’s a
key concept behind Hinduism. It’s also the basis for the Super Mario universe,
in which the same landscapes and the same foes occur and recur and recur again.
The pleasure we feel is that of recognition, which makes the frequent deaths we
suffer at the hands of Bowser and his enemies tolerable.
2. Shadow of the Colossus: How to contemplate nothingness? You don’t have to
be a Zen monk; this radical game succeeds by offering the very opposite of what
video games have traditionally offered-inaction. With only sixteen massive creatures
to find and slay, much of the game is spent riding through beautiful landscapes,
meditating on nature and on the violence to come. Little else is known. Nothing
else happens. It’s a true minimalist masterpiece of great emotional and spiritual
3. The Legend of Zelda: One of the most intriguing proverbs in the Jewish tradition
holds that everything is foreordained, and permission is given. You may ask why
one might need permission-or, indeed, action-when the universe is entirely prescribed,
but that would be missing the point of great theology and great games alike. The
Zelda franchise, the apotheosis of this line of thinking, consists of a series
of puzzles with very specific solutions; and yet, players have absolute freedom
to roam the dungeons, devise plans, try and err, and find their own way into the
one true answer. This space of possibility, as game designers call it, allows for
free will even in a universe which, like all video games, is governed by precise
algorithms. And Zelda makes free will fun.
4. Little Big Planet: This charming platformer allows players to build their
own levels, but something is missing-these levels all stand empty before the arrival
of Sackboy, a little sock puppet guy and the game’s protagonist, who runs through
them and suffers all the abuse they have to offer. Without him, our creations, as
convoluted as they may be, are never complete, and it is his presence that allows
us to play the game in full. Sackboy is not much of a theologian, but he would have
dug the fundamental Christian idea of grace: God loved mankind so much He gave them
His only son, and its that gift-more, even, than our own actions-that continues
to redeems us. The same tension is at play in LittleBigPlanet. Salvation has never
felt so whimsical.
5. Max Payne: Why do bad things happen to good people? Just ask Max Payne, a
stand up cop whose wife and daughter were both murdered by crazed junkies. It was
all downhill from there: he was framed for a murder he didn’t commit, fell in love
with all the wrong women, and, in three terrific games, shot his way through hellish
landscapes. He’s cynical and tough, and his inner monologue is so tortured as to
sometimes be comical, but Max Payne, like Job, remains on the side of the angels,
doubt be damned. Hallelujah for that.