There's a discussion on GameSpot concerning whether the ESRB should put a new notification on game boxes--for "spiritual content". The contents of my last post, following those of the OP and another guy, are as follows:

From muthsera666:
No. Anyone who passes on a game because it features a religion
different from his or her own has serious issues. Should we not read
books from other cultures because they don't believe what we believe?
Why is the Japanese religion of Shinto (spirits residing in objects)
any less valid than Christianity in the West (Jewish zombie)? I was
Christian for a while, but the church I attended stifled my cultural
exposure, and I'm glad I quit. Now, I can enjoy looking into other
cultures and ways of interacting with the world without the judgemental
nature of the Church telling me that something is wrong because it is
different.


Response from OP, Euaggelistes:
I do not want to go too far off topic, but to answer your question,
one would be valid and the other not if one were true and the other
were not. For example (this is not an attempt to proselytize rather an
attempt to show how one religious understanding can invalidate another):

Jesus
claims to be God. That claim is either true or false. If it is true
than any religious belief which held that it was false would be
invalid. As God Jesus claims that there are no other Gods. If this is
true than any religious belief which professed the existence of other
gods would be invalid.

The question should not be what one believes but rather what is true.

And then me:
And what is the best way, in the real world, to determine that
something is probably true? By ruling out the alternatives. For this we
use science (and historical methods). Unfortunately, it can't tell us
one iota about one-off events that defy the established behavior of
things. This leaves every religion and every belief system that
includes "miracles" high and dry, with regard to sufficient evidence to
justify belief in the system. Furthermore, knowing what we do about
conscious beings, it makes no sense to think that there could be a mind
without some sort of brain or similar structure. We also know enough to
safely infer that many things in many belief systems are false,
including the Genesis creation stories (there are two) and the story of
the Noachian flood.

The first point above is exactly why there is
no real difference between creating a religion for use in a game and
depicting a real one in a game. As such, if the ESRB had some
descriptor for religious content, for it to be fair, it would need to
be slapped on the box of even games that had religions created
specifically to be included in them (such as in Final Fantasy X), since
people could always adopt that religion in real life... and there would
be no way to tell if the real-world one were any more true than the one
from the game.

I think this is ludicrous. If the ESRB were forced
to do this, where is the justification for them not doing it in every
other case where there are "supernatural" entities in games, such as
the benign Luigi's Mansion? Why wouldn't they also need to do it even
in every case where a metaphysical view were presented in the game? Or
would it only count if the term "god" (note: not "God" or
"Christian/Jewish/Muslim god") were used, and if so, why? This is a
very slippery slope, and it could result in an extra ESRB notification
on so many games that it would just be insane. Why not just tolerate
the fact that the game takes place in a mostly fictitious universe?
Also, exposure to these different "supernatural"-inclusive game
universes is pretty much just like living in the religously pluralistic
world that we live in. If you want notification due to religious
content, do you ask people what their belief system is before talking
to them? Or will you not talk about belief systems with anyone who's
not of your own?

What about religous people who have no problem
with not having this notification? There are probably entire religions
full of people who wouldn't/don't mind. Is it ok for the ESRB to cater
to some over all the rest?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(What is with the damn font reverting back to italics even when I tell it to stop italicizing?! And then it won't unitalicize some things even when they're highlighted! I was able to unitalicize the first paragraph below, but not the one below it.... Eh, I'll make 'em look uniform.)

I don't want to just discuss ESRB notifications specifically with regard to "spiritual" content in games, but what are your views on what notifications the ESRB should use and under what conditions, in general? Do you think I'm right in my above view or that my view is wrongheaded?

One objection I could see coming is the claim that if the ESRB shouldn't notify due to "spiritual" content, then it also has no basis on which to notify for any other content: language, comic mischief, violence, gore, sex, etc. This would pretty much mean the dissolution of the ESRB.

Posted by Angry_Beaver Mon, 20 Jul 2009 18:36:59 (comments: 9)
 
Mon, 20 Jul 2009 19:13:31

Basically if they're going to do this (and I could care less either way) they should handle it in a very simple manner.  If a modern day religion is mentioned or plays a large role or there's excessive symbology used, then it should get the spiritual tag.  Typically when a religion is the focal point of a game it's usually done in a negative manner so people should have the right to know if they need to avoid it.

As far as ghost, zombies, and made-up religions go then I say screw it.  No tag necessary.  If they're going to do this, it should really only be used for actual religions.  So a game like Final Fantasy Tactics wouldn't get it, but Resistance Fall of Man would due to the Manchester Cathedral that was used as a level.  Keep the rule very black and white and there shouldn't be an issue with it.  But if they really start in on games that allude to a religion or have similar sumbols that could be interpreted as something then it'll become a nightmare.

 
Mon, 20 Jul 2009 19:15:36

If religious people want put warning that the game might provide content that that particular religious group finds offensive, then fine, do it yourself. 

You can't expect people that are not religious or from another religion to do it for you! I mean how would they know what a particular group outside their own finds offensive?

ESRB should focus on violence, language and nudity. Nothing more.

 
Mon, 20 Jul 2009 20:21:59
Thanks for the replies.

However, I'm also wondering about the basis for any ESRB notifications if religious ones aren't used. USians have more of a problem with sex than with violence, while the converse is true of Europe and Australia. Some people have no problems with one, the other, or both in games, so if religious notifications aren't listed, what are the grounds for other notifications? I'm not advocating that they not be there, but the issue intrigues me.

robio:
What if a religion crafted specifically for a game became a real-world religion? How do you think the ESRB should deal with games later in time that contain references to that religion?
 
Mon, 20 Jul 2009 21:22:16
If a video game religion became a real world one then I'll just go ahead and kill myself because I no longer want to be a part of this world.  And if it's not far off don't worry I'm ready. Ever since Englad recognized some religion based on The Force I've had my finger on a trigger.
 
Tue, 21 Jul 2009 04:00:33
While I agree with the sentiment about religious xenophobia, I don't see where a religious notification is any more unreasonable than one about alcohol or language, or "fantasy violence".

I need to preface this by stating that I don't think the ESRB is relevant, and it's a lazy shortcut for parents.  If they really cared, they'd research it themselves.

That said, I'd be more concerned about a child of mine being subjected to indoctrination than seeing some blood.

Lastly, the purpose of the ESRB, regardless of effectiveness or validity, is as an aid to parents.  It's an informative tool, and if parents feel that a notice for religious information is useful, then that's really all the ESRB is there for.  Other than advising parents/guardians, what purpose does the ESRB have?

Side note: ruling out alternatives is one of the worst methods of determining the truth, because it's dependent on a complete test suite.  If you miss a single possible answer, and you're information becomes completely worthless.

Side side note: The word "spiritual" is meaningless.
 
Tue, 21 Jul 2009 05:02:18

What Iga_Bobovic said.

Yodariquo:
Are you implying that a religious game would be indocrination? A religious game could be used as indoctrination, but even a game that is nothing but propaganda like that religious RTS or RPG or whatever it was is still not indocrination unless it is being used to condition someone.

 
Tue, 21 Jul 2009 07:20:38
Not implicitly, no.  It was a matter of stating that of anything, it's as valid of a bullet-point for subject matter as anything else.
 
Wed, 22 Jul 2009 00:10:46
Lastly, the purpose of the ESRB, regardless of effectiveness or validity, is as an aid to parents.  It's an informative tool, and if parents feel that a notice for religious information is useful, then that's really all the ESRB is there for.  Other than advising parents/guardians, what purpose does the ESRB have?

This more general discussion of "offensive material" is the one I'm interested, even if an acceptable position on it happens to invalidate my view on the subject of religious notification... which it very well might do, as I infer from what you've said..

Side note: ruling out alternatives is one of the worst methods of determining the truth, because it's dependent on a complete test suite.  If you miss a single possible answer, and you're information becomes completely worthless.

Perhaps I should have included "and also looking for confirming evidence", since eliminating possibilities isn't all that science does. However, I didn't want to get bogged down in the type of discussion where I have to refute statements like "they've found Noah's ark!", which I thought might happen if I did mention it.
 
Fri, 24 Jul 2009 08:18:53
I have never, not once, considered the ESRB rating when purchasing a game. Having said that, if they want to make themselves even more irrelevant then yes, they should include such descriptions. They can also include, "Philosophical", "Historical" and "Emotional".
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