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Religion in Games: Less a Leap of Faith, More a Suspension of Belief

I've no idea why, but it seems no accident that the week before Easter I went back to start over the original Assassin's Creed, the only game I've ever played that is set in the Holy Land.

Never have I been someone of faith. I'm a confirmed Episcopalian, a sect I've often trivialized as Catholics with a divorce, as voting hell out of existence and practicing a polite drive-thru religion that defines WASP culture. When I was 11, Mom and Dad encouraged my confirmation not so much to perfect my bond with the church, I suspect, but because they always taught me not to shut off my options and in this case, if I were to grow up to run for office in my home state, I'd need a verified religious affiliation. My term as an acolyte was mostly spent asking to be the one lighting and extinguishing the candles - because you used a device called the "lucifer" - and overcounting the congregation so my brother and I could consume the leftover consecrated wine.

But this week, like every time I've played Assassin's Creed, I felt a tug back to Sunday School, which I recall as full of stories about conflicted people who looked like Charlton Heston living in places that looked like a Prince Valiant comic or an Indiana Jones excavation, starring me, a guy who would be openly skeptical of it all if I lived then. Assassin's Creed truly indulges that nostalgia. Forgetting the atheism of its protagonists, the series delivers an undeniably sanitized presentation of religion. Religion is more a political than a cultural force, which allows the story to, for example, acknowledge certain facts about the Crusades or the Papacy without infusing any righteousness, or absence of it, to the faith they represent. The morality is entirely secular. Thus there's no value judgment on any religion, as the game's notorious startup-screen disclaimer takes pains to communicate.

Religion in Games: Less a Leap of Faith, More a Suspension of Belief - Weekend reader - Kotaku
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