Guild Wars 2, sequel to the popular ArenaNet MMO and e-sport, is currently in Beta testing, and I had a chance to play it during one of their open beta weekends. At character creation, I was presented with an interesting dilemma: Do I pick the steampunk-inspired people who rose up from underneath the thumb of oppressive fire gods, slaying them with technological might? Or do I not play as a gigantic cat monster that looks terrible in helmets? This is important, folks. In the end, I made a big shamanistic viking character. But it’s okay, because he wears goggles.
It isn’t the first time gamers have been given the choice to side with unbelievers, either. In Rift the Defiant faction had rejected the gods, believing them to be utterly useless in helping solve their invading dragon problem. Like the Charr, they instead turned towards technology, going as far as sending heroes back in time in order to save the future. I’m sure you already can tell what side I took, as I know jack about what the other side is fighting for. It’s completely arbitrary, but there is an appeal to the side that chooses to be victorious through their own hard work and ingenuity, rather than divine intervention.
It was actually in relation to Rift where I first heard the argument detailed above. If there are real gods running around, blessing everything in sight, and you choose not to follow them (or reject them completely) are you an atheist or a just a grump*? Can you really not believe in something that is prancing around right in front of you? Personally, I see atheism as the rejection of deities due to lack of evidence. If the evidence is there, and you still reject them, you’re just being stubborn and dogmatic—the irony of this scenario is not lost on me.
Not sure if this can be called a trend, by any means (I’d love to hear if any readers have seen other examples). After all, running around killing your gods is not an entirely new thing. Just ask Worf:
Our gods are dead. Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millennia ago. They were…more trouble than they were worth.
Thankfully for all the steampunk cat monsters, the gods have been silent for a long time, making the religious climate in Guild Wars 2 a little closer to reality, where people pray and it does diddly squat. Everybody knows that magic is what gets the job done.
So what about you gamers out there? Do you pick characters based on how much you relate to them philosophically?
*Friday’s comic will get into this a bit more.