Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pocket God: Video Games and Metaphysics

"What kind of god would you be? Benevolent or vengeful? Play Pocket God and discover the answer within yourself. On a remote island, you are the all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders. You can bring new life, and then take it away just as quickly. Exercise your powers on the islanders. Lift them into the air. Throw them in the water. Propel them into the horizon. Show them who's boss!"

So reads some of the promotional copy for an iPhone application called Pocket God. Sure, it's tongue-in-cheek, but isn't interesting how video games delve into matters of metaphysics? They even touch upon ethics and epistemology at times.

Although Pocket God seems like just a cartoon-inspired diversion, in some senses it represents extreme views of God. Is God capricious? Does His will change on a whim? Dare we try and justify God's supposed goodness in light of evil and suffering (theodicy), when perhaps He's just having a little "fun" with His creations?

"God games" are not new. In fact, video games of this sort have been around for many years. In broad terms, any video game that places the player in a position of such ultimate power is a sort of god game. Black & White (2001), for instance, is a god game. It's rudimentary plot is even similar to that of Pocket God -- you play as a god ruling over various island tribes.

As an extension of our proclivities for diversion, entertainment, and recreation, god games of any sort are not limited to the video game arena. But in it they've certainly found more active expressions.

What drives participation in diversion? Pascal claimed, "The only thing that consoles us for our miseries is diversion." That may be the case for some, but is it for all? Is it perhaps the image of God in us that drives us to create music, art, literature, games, etc.?

There is in us, to paraphrase Pascal, an element of greatness, placed there by God, but also an element of wretchedness, placed there by human fallenness. We rebel. At some level we do want to be the god of our world.

As of this writing, by the way, Pocket God is the number one iPhone application.


Doodah said...

Does the game come in a PC format or just a phone app???

Robert Velarde said...

Pocket God is for iPhone/iPod touch. Black & White runs on PC.

Anonymous said...

cool and funny game