Or, How I Learned to Start Worrying and Fear God
Forget the devil, God is terrifying.
Very little media explores this idea of deity as horror, despite even the Bible itself deliberately invoking this feeling in places. Comicbook superheroes sometimes fight the likes of Galactus and Darkseid, but the Christian God himself is always treated as a figure of hope and light. Films are fascinated with the devil, and sometimes have some less-than-angellic angels to keep things interesting, but real fear of God is rarely explored.
Then there are videogames. The one that got to me is Bayonetta. The first game doesn’t even feature the denizens of hell, exclusively pitting you against angelic enemies. While utterly convinced of their own righteousness, they are portrayed as monstrous. For a little Catholic boy, seeing Bayonetta drop her robes of sisterhood and kick angels to death awakened something other than the thing you think I’m talking about.
I realised videogames were the one place that explored deicide to my satisfaction.
JRPGs that end with the protagonist killing God are so common as to be cliché. I challenge you to find an example of somebody parodying their plots without ending on the sentence “then at the end you kill god.” Even in my own limited experience, I slew the creator at the end of Xenoblade and experienced the ending of Dragon’s Dogma, which I won’t go into here for fear of spoilers or driving myself insane.
Dark Souls, the game that creeps into every conversation, deserves a mention here. It spends the opening and the first half of the game building a mythology and a pantheon that seems genuinely mythic, only to ask that you kill and usurp these gods in the denouement.
Even in other genres, you have gods of various pantheons being slaughtered. God of War is the obvious example, Kratos killing so much of Olympus he’s had to set his sights on Asgard. Most infamously, Asura’s Wrath is all about Deicide.
Why is this concept so acceptable in videogames compared to other storytelling devices? Is it as simple as wanting to provide players with the very peak of power fantasy, or is it a result of the Japanese culture’s influence on videogames and the subsequently slightly detached view of western religion?
I don’t know where it comes from, but I’m glad stories are being told like this. As someone who learned a lot about various forms of Christianity while being slightly removed from them, I found it difficult to totally accept such a petty, vengeful God. Variations on Lucifer that depict him as a proponent of free will and free information are hard to vilify in 2016.
God is terrifying. As a concept, an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful being that judges you and punishes you is really bloody scary. I’m not a religious man, but I find God scary in the same way people might find vampires scary, without necessarily believing in them.
Ask anyone with any amount of Catholicism in their background how they feel about hell, and they’ll all be equally terrified. As a child, I had one adult telling me all about hell and eternal damnation, while another encouraged me to be a sinful non-believable. I used to lie awake at night petrified of the thought that hell might await me because of whatever minor misbehaviour I’d gotten up to at school that day.
Now, I rarely think about God or Hell, and when I do it’s with a more academic view. Even so, when I think about Bayonetta kicking seven shades out of God, it reassures me about the other way I like to think about Bayonetta.
By Luke Summerhayes