No new post this week (Im currently out of ideas lol). Instead, here’s a link to an episode of the Burrowshire Podcast with Brandon Vogt and Fr. Blake Britton on Video Games and Culture that came out this week:
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.
If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you can probably guess that I’m a fan of video game music. I actually started collecting it as an alternative to listening to the radio on my long drive into work, but Ive now got a pretty sizable collection (enough to simulate my own radio station by running shuffle all on my songs lol). Today I thought it would be fun to talk about some Catholic inspired songs in games. While many songs include Latin lyrics to make things sound epic (like the Song of the Post at the bottom), I want to focus on some songs that are more obviously Catholic inspired. Specifically, I’m going to talk about Gregorian Chant inspired songs and the song Megalith -Agnus Dei- from Ace Combat 4.
For those unfamiliar, Gregorian chants are typically prayers being sung by monks in monasteries for their daily prayers, although you can encounter it in other places as well. For a long part of the church’s history it was the primary form of music in Catholicism, and I believe it still is considered prominent among Catholic music (I think I remember the Catechism or some Vatican II documents mentioning that fact but don’t quote me on it). As a Catholic, when I hear this kind of chanting, it really gives the place I am a holy vibe. In video games, this kind of chanting is primarily used to give areas an air of mystery and majesty. The most prominent example I can think of is the Temple of Time from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
This plays in the titular Temple of Time, a building that looks a lot like a medieval cathedral, with stone, stained glass and flying buttresses everywhere. It gives the building kind of a solemn feel, like something ancient and important is there (which is true in the story, although you may not know it yet when you first arrive). This song has stuck with me all these years since I first played the game in 1998 and honestly probably comes to mind even before real Gregorian Chants just because I’ve listened to it so much. Another example of chanting is the song The Incomplete Stone from Nier.
Nier takes place in a super post apocalyptic world where the ancient lost civilization with ruins scattered everywhere is modern society. Early in the game, the main character goes to explore an ancient tower (basically a ruined office building). This song plays in the ruins while you are not in battle, giving them a real mysterious feel. The echo effect on the male voice makes it sound especially chanty, as Gregegorian chants would typically be done in large open monasteries which creates an echo. There are other examples of Gregorian Chant like songs, but these two in particular really show how Catholic like chants are often used to give a mysterious feeling to an area of a game.
The other song I wanted to talk about and the song that inspired me to write this post is Megalith -Agnus Dei- from Ace Combat 4.
This is actually from a game I’ve never played- I mainly know the series because it is famous for its good music. When I was researching the soundtracks to decide whether or not to buy them, I encountered this song as one of the most popular in the series. I was immediately thrown off because Agnus Dei is one of the prayers in the Mass (you can see it on this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnus_Dei_(music)). Apparently this version is the climatic final fight song of Ace Combat 4, but with some lyrics from the Latin prayer (you can see the lyrics in the video description or here: https://www.animelyrics.com/game/acecombat4/megalithagnusdei.htm). At first I thought this was simply a Japanese composer that thought a foreign religious song from the Mass sounded cool and just threw it in superficially as is typical, but it seemed to me at the time that some of the lyrics were changed to fit the context of the game. I’ve since found out that the lyrics actually come from Mozart’s Requiem, which music for a funeral Mass (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_for_the_Requiem_Mass#Agnus_Dei). This revelation shows they knew what was being said in the song and specifically chose it for the fight. That being said, there is still a bit of silliness with the lyrics in the context of the game’s world. The Ace Combat games take place in Strangereal, a fictional, vaguely modern world to justify fighter jet dogfights, which is a world where Christianity likely doesn’t exist (because it’s not the real world). The bulk of the Agnus Dei prayer, which is “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” is so incredibly specific to Christianity that the line really doesn’t make sense in a setting with no connection to real life. Despite the bit of disconnect between the world and the song, I thoroughly enjoy this song and am glad the composer decided to put it in the game. Even if they might not realize it right away, giving people a positive exposure to Christianity can only be a good thing.
So there are some songs in video games inspired by Catholicism and a brief discussion about them. I have to say, I really enjoy it when any Catholic sounding songs show up in games, even if it’s as superficial as just having Latin lyrics. As I listen to more songs (and run out of other ideas), I think I’ll occasionally come back and write about them, so look forward to that.
Hey there, and welcome to Truth in Games. My name is Trey. Recently I’ve been thinking about how there isn’t really a large overlap between people into nerd culture and people practicing Catholicism. I’ve found that nerd culture tends to be dominated by atheists because these days there is a pretty high correlation between people who view themselves as smart and both atheist and nerdiness. On the other hand, when I looked to see if any other Catholics were working in this area, most of what I found was condemning video games. I know there is some understandable resistance to new things in Catholicism, especially after all the craziness of the 60s and 70s but honestly I figured people would have been past this skepticism by now. The end result is that you have a bunch of people whose only exposure to religion is the new atheists and no one else is reaching out to them. Since I grew up fully in nerd culture and all my hobbies are there, I figured I had a perspective that might be more relatable to others like me. After some direct encouragement from my spiritual director and some indirect encouragement from Bishop Barron, I’ve finally decided to sit down and actually start writing. I can’t promise anything here will be super deep since writing and literature were never my strong suit, but hopefully it’s enough to get people thinking seriously about topics they might not have before. I pretty much fully expect no one to ever read this stuff, but you never know how something random you throw out there might affect people in the future.
My current plan is basically just write as ideas come to mind. I’ve really only got 4 at the moment (Castlevania, Legend of Heroes, Xenogears and Ys) that I’ll plan on releasing once a week or so, but I can’t really promise anything after that since as I mentioned, I’m not the best ideas guy out there. While my main focus will probably be video games, I might also occasionally talk about other topics I have an interest in like comics or anime. Also, as someone who collects a lot of video game music, I think I might just include a link to a elevant song with each post.
Anyways, welcome and hopefully you find what you read interesting like I do.