Back when I first started writing here, I did some research online to see if anyone else was doing anything with video games and Catholicism. While my search was mostly fruitless at the time (although I’ve since found a few others like Fr. Blake Britton with Word on Fire), I did manage to find a topic in a discussion forum trying to think up how to make a good Catholic video game. I thought it was a pretty interesting discussion back then, so today I figured it would be interesting to talk about the challenges with making a Catholic focused video game and discuss the one really good idea I saw someone come up with online.
So why is creating a Catholic video game so hard? Even if you ignore the fact that discussing religion seriously would shrink your potential audience, it still is hard to imagine a video game with a major focus on Catholicism. The problem is the need for some kind of gameplay. Most games out there deal with some kind of conflict or fighting, which doesn’t work nearly as well for a Catholic story as it does for a general one. You could try to use an historical setting (for example, the Crusades) like you see in the few games out there where the Catholic Church present, but when you do that there is a real temptation to just remove the focus of religion entirely (like in the original Assassin’s Creed game).
You could also do some kind of grand strategy game where the focus is converting people to Catholicism, but when you do that the religion itself tends to get abstracted out completely and as a result, it could be about any religion. And while you could make a cool story about Catholicism, if there isn’t any kind of game that to go with it you might as well write a book or make a TV show. There simply isn’t much gameplay out there that could work with a compelling Catholic story. That said, there is one type of game that could work well for a Catholic story- a stealth game.
The one idea for a Catholic game that I’ve seen that feels like it would actually work is a stealth game playing clergy during a time of great persecution. The example I originally saw online was for a game about a priest trying to minister in Elizabethan England (where being Catholic was considered treason), but really the idea could work for other times of persecution as well, such as the French Revolution Paris or Soviet Poland. The gameplay would then be something similar to the stealth parts of older Assassin’s Creed games or something like Metal Gear Solid (just without the combat).
The player character would have to sneak through dangerous areas filled with people on the lookout for them by hiding in the shadows, blending in with others, or if you want to go full Assassin’s Creed, parkouring all over the town. With a setup like this, suddenly a Catholic focused story no longer feels tacked on. In fact, it is enhanced by it instead, giving people a sense of the tension people went through during these times in a way that a book or show couldn’t. I remember when I first read this idea being really impressed because up to that point I honestly didn’t think a video game about Catholicism could be done without either skimping on the gameplay or the religion. So overall, I feel that if someone really wanted to make a video game focused on Catholicism, a stealth game would absolutely be the way to go.
In the end, while I believe in general it is particularly hard to come up with an idea for a Catholic focused video game, you could at least make it work in the stealth genre. All that being said, there realistically isn’t much of a chance of a game like this being created. Making AAA games costs hundreds of millions of dollars and companies simply wouldn’t be willing to invest that much money on something that could alienate a large chunk of their potential audience. And while you could potentially find a small indie game team to create it on a much smaller scale, in my experience the indie game crowd tends to pretty heavily overlap with political activist types that hate religion and wouldn’t be interested. I guess I’ll just have to wait another decade or two for enough Catholics who like video games to actually have a small group willing to try.
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Metal Gear Solid