(Militant Atheists shown below.)
Apparently, in game testing, some people had an issue with the game ‘Spore’ because it includes religion. I think as games mirror the real-world more and more, it’s impossible to avoid taking-sides or editorializing. Even the game ‘Civilization’ included religion. The problem is that you can’t give religion a role without implicitly taking sides on the issue. Some people think religion is like a virus, others see it as false but useful for civilization, and others see their religion as the one true way – humanity’s lifeline to God. You can’t really put all three roles into a game and please everyone. Will Wright comments on the complaints:
Eurogamer: You describe yourself as an atheist; take the so-called militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who see faith uniformly as a bad, negative and dangerous thing. Do you see it more benignly, even if you don’t necessarily believe?
Will Wright: Oh, I definitely see it more benignly. I see a lot of benefit and danger in religion like anything[…] I think our bigger fear was that we didn’t want to offend any religious people; but looking at the discussion that unfolded from this thing, what we had was a good sizeable group of players that we might call militant atheists, and the rest of the players seemed very tolerant, including all of the religious players.
And most of the atheists were very tolerant as well. I didn’t expect to hit hot buttons on the atheist side as much; I expected it on the religious side. But so far I’ve had no critical feedback at all from anybody who is religious feeling that we were misrepresenting religion or it was bad to represent religion in the game. It was really the atheists!
My only issue with Will Wright’s comment was his use of ‘militant atheist’. In any other context, the word ‘militant’ means violent, taking up weapons, and killing people. (In fact, the images above are from the first page of google images when you search on “militant”.) It’s silly to use that to describe atheists who are complaining. These guys didn’t show up at his house with AK-47s and technicals. But that doesn’t stop everyone from jumping on the theme: ‘Militant atheists’ up in arms over Spore’s sim-religion.
Now, “hardline atheist” I guess I’d be okay with that in the sense that it’s more accurate (though it has negative connotations), but at least it doesn’t erroneously hint at violence and killing.
Update: It seems that Spore doesn’t just include religion as a method of managing your civilization. In fact, it would seem odd to complain about that, and many other games have done the same thing. Rather, when you reach the Civilization phase of the game, you can choose a military, economic, or spiritual path. Choosing the spiritual path gives your people access to magical powers (Faith Heal, Black Rain, and Messianic Uprising). I guess atheists had a problem with some realism (simulating a planet’s
evolution Intelligent Design over billions of years), coupled with unrealism (gaining magical powers based on religion).