Religion in MMORPGs
By AnomalousSilence

Religion as a component of an MMORPG is quite controversial. Some players think this aspect  of society should definitely be reflected within the game, but others do not.  There really shouldn’t be any argument, though. The answer to the question of whether religions should play a role in MMORPGs, the truth, is quite a simple “Yes.”

Religion, whether you are a role-player or not, is a healthy aspect of any MMORPG. Many would argue that there is enough religious discrimination and bickering in the real world, so that we do not need to carry dissention over into MMORPGs. Guess what? It’s a game. It’s a MMORPG, so furthermore it is technically a role-playing game. However, many players, sadly, do not role-play in any form.

Regardless of whether you role-play or not, why take a level of depth out of the game for those who do RP? Religious discrimination is just as much a part of role-playing as is racial discrimination and bickering. So should the developers allow only one race, with only one skin color? Obviously not, so religion has its place in a virtual world, just as equally as do various races and large amounts of character customization.

For those who feel as if the developers should not implement religion, since they can use their valuable time implementing other, more important game play attributes, there is no reason for the developers not to include religion-centric items, as the developers have in the world of EverQuest. Depending on which god you follow, items may or mat not be wearable to you. As long as this type of differentiation could be implemented correctly, and not abused by providing better items for certain religions, or items centered around certain classes, it would be a nice addition to the game and would allow for greater item variety.

So there isn’t a reason NOT to have religion in MMORPGs. Sadly, there is a problem with it, however, and the problem can also be summed up in one word: gods. Religion can be a very immersive aspect,  though oftentimes the focus is centered entirely too much on gods.

What if the peoples of the world do not KNOW for a fact that there are gods, but various archaic texts have led many to believe that gods do, in fact, exist? That would leave a fairly substantial amount of room for the lore writers to create various religions, from those who worship spirits and are, in many ways, similar to Native Americans, to those who are very strict in religious ceremonies and worship a statue that they think the “one” God is absorbed within. And then, there are the agnostics and those who choose not to participate in any religion.

Religion is centric in many cultures, thus playing a large role in the development of real world societies. Can the same not be applied to the worlds of MMORPGs, thus giving the developers new and interesting lore? It would also give ample reason to include ancient, dilapidated churches and synagogues, or other odd forms of a worshiping house that isn’t found on Earth. Current thriving cities could have massive, beautifully and ornately decorated temples and other worship buildings.

With the advancement of artificial intelligence in video games, on certain days and at certain times you might even find various NPCs headed towards one of the buildings for worship service. Taking the concept farther, the NPCs could actually sing, do various rituals, preach, etc. once inside the building.

For the less developed races who thrive without a city, one could wander close to a village and find dances around a fire, with songs in an unknown tongue, and villagers dancing to the steady yet musical beat of a drum.

Need a reason to change the face of the virtual world? War is pretty good. Numerous times in our history wars have developed due to religious disputes. Bickering about who is right and why they are right can lead to full blown, all-out war that can eliminate entire cultures, and all but destroy cities and the poor citizens within them.

But hey, I’m getting a bit too carried away, no? Virtual worlds are most likely a long way from developing to the point where any of that happens, especially in the games I play - MMORPGs. Still, it is nice to wonder, to speculate, to imagine, and to hope for the day when things like that will happen, and when the world you are “living” in will be so very alive, and be able to change drastically.

Everything pretty much boils down to this: religion in MMORPGs is a good thing. Whether it brings newer, more diverse items or a greater sense of immersion and role-playing, it’s an important element of an online world and should definitely be included as a crucial part of MMORPGs.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.