May 19, 2004
Less Math, More Myth
FoS* Matt Penniman is writing a new weblog about games and game design with a special emphasis on the precursors to all our fancy Final Fantasies: pen-and-paper role-playing games.
His latest entry talks about the prosaic ways that gods are handled in RPGs, e.g. as normal characters with really high “stats.”
That practice has extended into the digital age. Final Fantasy games always end with a battle against a) someone who wants to be a god, b) someone pretending to be a god, or c) a god. And invariably — even though these omnipotent foes have 45-zillion “hit points” (ah, the hit point: irreducible unit of life in RPGs) — you end up killing them.
Reducing deities to game terms (which bear a striking resemble to legal language) is a sure way to suck all the life and mystery out of an encounter with the divine. For a certain style of play, this degree of specificity can be useful — but I vastly prefer the approach that says, “The gods work in mysterious ways. Mortals cannot fathom their powers and practices.”
What would a game with truly mysterious gods look like? Here’s a notion: There’d be conversation, not combat. You wouldn’t kill God; you’d trick Him, or make a deal with Her.
You know, like in Greek mythology. People were always yanking Zeus’s chain, right? And setting up weird bets with Hades.
*Friend of Snarkmarket
Also, I would just like to say that I am really proud of the headline I came up with for this item.