Voodoo, thats like Mumbo Jumbo from Banjo and Kazooie right?
Source material is great. Source material is awesome. Taking an already widely known and loved story and spinning your own narrative with it can be really powerful. Especially if that story isnt actually as well known as everyone thinks and you can do whatever the hell you want with it. See, religion has been around for a few years, and after a while original stories are kind of cast aside as more popular versions come to light. This may or may not be the case with many stories based on religion.
Really its all about being lazy. Its a three step process: 1) pick a religion or mythology, 2) find a cool name, 3) pick no more than one aspect from the original story in order the get the based on byline into your game. Before you know it you have Kratos ripping the head off of Apollo and everyones like yay! Were an easy to please bunch it looks like. For your reading pleasure here are some of the laziest and strangest reappropriations of religions myths used in video games.
Assassins Creed 2: Poor Gypsies
Real talk, Gypsies are straight up prostitutes in in Assassins Creed 2. When you want a little distraction you can just give them gals a little somthin somthin and theyll saunter on over to the guys youre trying to avoid and entertain them with their strikingly prostitute-like actions. Theyre also all females, around their early to mid 20s, usually accompanied by a tambourine, and dressed not unlike a community theater retelling of Brigadoon.
So thats wrong. In fact its wrong in the worst way. This misrepresentation of the Gypsy religion, that we all know well, came from a conscious slander campaign of the Church and State of the Ottoman empire in the 16th and 17th centuries. Even though the Gypsy religion (actually called the Roma or Romani religion) follows Christian morals and beliefs, its nomadic and liberal ideals put it at odds with the dominant rule of religion-as-a-means-of-control that the Ottoman Empire was so fond of. Therefore it was slandered out of existence as being a culture of classless, moraless, and disrespectful outcasts. Because this was force fed to the common people for centuries, this is now the common perception. So thanks AC2, thanks for being a beacon of tolerance for the Gypsy population.
The Binding of Isaac: The story of Abraham and Isaac
This is actually a pretty good one. Yes the game was set in modern times, but the themes and retelling of the story of Abraham and Isaac was spot on. In the original biblical tale God was testing the faith of his disciple (Abraham) through a series of tasks centered around his son, Isaac. Just like in the video game the tasks ultimately culminated in God asking the parent to kill their child. Once the parent attempts to do so, God stays their hand and rejoices in their faith. Yay!
Interesting note though, there are actually three versions of this story. The Binding of Isaac is based off of the Christian and Jewish versions of the story, in which Isaac is tricked and forced to become the sacrifice. In the traditional Islamic version of Abrahams trials, he tells his son what God is demanding. Isaac then has such love and devotion for his father that he agrees and goes willingly to be sacrificed. Interesting how one facet can change the entire moral of a story...
God of War: The kind of legend of Kratos
Kratos: the Mount Olympus destroying, God slaying, mortal machine that has become the figurehead for the Playstation. In God of War, the story of Kratos is one of this normal dude who turns into a whirlwind of death after his brother gets taken. We see him maiming and/or killing deities such as, but not limited to: Ares, Apollo, Medusa, etc.
Unfortunately in Greek Mythology Kratos isnt that badass. Him, along with his siblings Bia (force), Nike (victory), and Zelus (zeal) are the winged enforcers for Zeus. Long story short, they're Sky Police not the most exciting thing in the world. But! That one time in God of War when Kratos slays Chronos is kind of true: in Grecian mythology he actually needs the help of Bia and Hephaestus to finish the deed.
El Shaddai: The amalgamation of Bible stuff
El Shaddai, the game about the prophet Enoch on a quest to hunt down fallen angels and bind them for eternity. sounds plausible. And then wham in comes Lucifel. Lucifel? I dont get it. You were right there, you had God, Enoch, fallen angels, all that good stuff. Why not just say Lucifer? It may be because the Book of Enoch, which is the name of the main character of El Shaddai, is not actually considered cannon in many Abrahamic religions. Enoch himself was said to be the great grandfather of Noah, and an observer to many of the stories that occurred in the game itself.
Theres only one problem, well theres a few. One is that Enoch did none of it, it was all angels against each other while god was still trying to figure out who had fallen and who had not. Secondly, and most importantly, Lucifer was never shown to have a cell phone in the bible, so basically this entire game is a moot endeavor.
Crash Bandicoot and Vodou
OOOoooOh Voooodoooo! Witch Doctors, Voodoo dolls, weird blood stuff, Jamaican accents. By this point in our lives we have a pretty good grasp on what Voodoo actually is. I mean just look at Crash Bandicoot, we have the robust characters of Uka Uka and Aku Aku to really inform us of this culture. But, shockingly, there are a few issues with Crashs representation of Vodouism (the actual name of the religion) Issue No.1: those are hawaiian words, Uka means mountain and Aku is a type of fish. Issue No.2: what the heck do they have to do with the Vodou religion?
Unfortunately actual Vodouism is too boring to be used in a game. Its a community based religion, has no holy script, voodoo dolls arent even a thing, they have dedicated clergy, and are focused on social activism in their communities. Yuck, thats not exciting.
Little Samson, surprisingly unlike Big Samson
Finding a fresh jawbone of an ass, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. Then Samson said, With an asss jawbone I have made asses of them. With an asss jawbone I have killed a thousand men. What. Thats oh my god. That passage was from the Bible, Judges 15:15 to be more precise, and details this one time that 3,000 Phillistines went to war against just Samson. If youve never seen a Donkeys jawbone, see the picture above, now imagine just how creative Samson had to be with it.
The character Little Samson from the video game of the same name bears little resemblance to his Bible Terminator namesake. In the game Samson and company (Psh, Bible Samson didnt need no damn company) go on a quest to rid their world of a Dark Prince. The game would have been much darker if they would have really leaned into their source material. Like that one time Samson castrated--you know what? Never mind.
Final Fantasy Advent Children: Sephiroth as Jesus
This one is pretty interesting, and the misuse here may actually just be an spin on what we know and love. See, Advent Children refers to the Christian belief of the Advent, or the second coming of Christ. At the Advent is when all pious souls come to this rebirthed son of God to beg for forgiveness. Ultimately the rebirthed Christ deems them either worthy or unworthy to enter heaven.
But think about it, who is being rebirthed in this story? Sephiroth. And who is the one asking for forgiveness? Cloud. It doesnt seem likely the the writers would completely ignore the religious imagery that they were weaving, or they were secretly crafting this antithetical savior story. Im going with the latter, since theres even a water baptism performed by Sephiroth. Maybe Cloud wanted his enemy to come back, maybe he wanted to be judged unworthy. Deep.
Garshasp, you know, the Iranian mythological hero everyone knows and loves!
Persian monster slayer! Alright! Dragon slaying! Alright! Raising a son and becoming king of Zbolestn! ...alright? You have to hand it to the developers of this game, they really went out of their way to find a mythology not already beat to death. That means going alllllllllll the way back to Iranian mythology. And honestly looking up stuff on Garshasp, theres a lot of great material that could have been used as awesome story fodder in the game too bad it wasnt used. Aka the game wasnt too good.
Take The Daeve (spelled as Deevs in the game because why not) for instance. They are noxious creatures that promote chaos and disorder...they are personifications of every imaginable evil. Damn, thats heavy. Also there was this one time he cooked food on the back of a dragon and then killed the dragon. Garshasp was a serious dude yo.
Fallout: the bastion of Mormonism
Alls well that ends well though. Sometimes, like in the case of Fallout, video games get it right. You wouldnt think Fallout would be the champion of the Mormon faith in video gaming, well actually its not but it did paint them in a light that many Mormon practitioners found respectful. Remember (name of that fort)? In Fallouts lore that is run by the descendants of Mormons, and exists only to do the best it can in the service of others. And remember Joshua Graham? Basically the Mormon Batman.
Did we miss any games that really screw up religion? Yes, Halo throws around out of context Bible verses in impressive volumes. And yeah Age of Mythology shouldnt be a study tool on your next Classics exam. But were there any games that really throw a religion you know for a loop? Let us know in the comments!