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Mythology and religious elements in games help tell broader stories in fewer words, scholars say

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Using elements from mythology and religion in video games can help developers tell a "better" story, because providing a real-world background familiar to players can paint a broader narrative in fewer words, according to speakers at a PAX East panel today.

Vancouver School of Theology graduate student Emily Jarrett and Michael Lowings, technical team lead at genetics program developer Delta Genomics, believe that use of religious tropes and elements in games can help create greater stories, as they provide pre-existing foundations that can easily be built on or adapted.

"We're interested in telling better stories," said Jarrett,"and what matters isn't necessarily [the audience], but how [developers] tell those stories, engage people on more and more levels, and do so with intelligence."

Jarrett used the Assassin's Creed franchise as an example. Ubisoft has been opened about the makeup of its development team, which is comprised of individuals of various beliefs and cultures. A disclaimer displayed at the opening of Assassin's Creed 3 says as much.

"Ubisoft put together a team of various religions and cultures to write a story set in essentially a mythological age that uses real world religions, and is respectful to them by being real," Jarrett explained. "Historically, people know about the Crusades, and a lot of the issues between the Church and the people involved. We engage the story and we bring people's knowledge in. We bring in people's own understanding of history, and of a story, and are using fewer words by referencing something that is outside."

Lowings continued that developers can define a character that is "both a strong and nuanced character in five words or less," and further engage players by creating new in-game religions on existing mythologies.

"We create internally cohesive narratives," Jarrett said. "It's interesting how people engage these stories based on which one they think is more likely."