How religion serves to build lore and narrative within video games. When in God of War Kratos paid his revenge with the destruction of Olympus, we not only reviewed the gods from a twisted prism; we enter into the broken relationship between a Spartan and his divinities. In Dragon Age, instead, we observe the coexistence of different beliefs and their derived conflicts. At a similar level we find Horizon Zero Dawn, in which rebuilt humanity has settled into different tribes who turn to new gods for answers. Today in MeriStation we talk about how religion is a common narrative mechanism in video games, both to shape the lore and to elaborate the protagonist’s journey.
If we stick to the definition of the RAE, religion is the “set of beliefs or dogmas about divinity, feelings of veneration and fear towards it, moral norms for individual and social behavior and ritual practices, mainly the prayer and sacrifice to worship him ”. Thus, it is not surprising that when designing the setting of a game, the religion practiced by a society is taken into account and how it affects our protagonist. What is the main character’s relationship with the gods? How does their existence affect history?
Kratos and the relationship between mortals and gods
The tragedy of the Ghost of Sparta can be understood as the rebellion of one man against the gods. As in all Greek myths, the gods interfere in mortal affairs and, in this case, a fateful pact catalyzes a spiral of vengeance that culminates in the destruction of the known world. Kratos surrenders to Ares in a desperate promise: “Defeat my enemies and my life is yours”, after which the god makes him his champion until the end, that is, the slaughter of his wife and daughter. Betrayed, the Spartan embarks on a crusade against his former lord and subsequently Olympus himself, even after being promoted as the new god of war. Thus, in Kratos we observe the revolt against the natural order of Hellenic cosmology: a human refuses to accept the designs of his divinities and rebels against them. Kratos’ path of revenge takes the lives of the gods and, with them, the elements that sustain the Earth: without Poseidon, the oceans are out of control; without Hades there is no control over the living and the dead.
However, Kratos gets a second chance, in a land far away and ruled by another pantheon: the Norse gods. In the God of War universe we find the coexistence of different mythologies and cults, and even Christianity has a place. When Cory Barlog, director of the 2018 God of War, was asked via Twitter if Christianity existed in Kratos’ universe, he replied, “Yes, it is part of his world.” In God of War II we already find a reference to the Temple of the Fates, with a mural that represents three figures that follow a star in the sky, which is easy to relate to the Magi visiting the Child Jesus.