baha’i video games: but do they pwn?

Back in the day (let’s say, oh, 1997) I was much more strongly into video games than today. For me, that included a plethora of various simple Macintosh-based shareware games (the Mac SE/30 was my first introduction to desktop computing), as well as first-person shooters such as Quake 2, Quake 3 Arena and Half-Life (as well as the now-legendary oldschool games such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D). I did my share of fragging, rocket-jumping, camping, and sniping; I even distinctly remember pwning a n00b or two.

Now, the subject of video games is a touchy one with some people; much of this is due to the violence displayed in many of them, particularly the first-person shooter genre. Games such as Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake were shocking for their time due to their inclusion of animated blood, gore and guts (colloquially known as “gibs” or “giblets”). Perhaps as a reaction to this, many denounced video games and refused to have anything to do with them. Others, seeking to prove that the medium could be used in constructive rather than destructive ways, sought to innovate (or, as in the case of the biblically-themed Super Noah’s Ark 3D, to tone down the original versions).

I remember the idea of a Baha’i video game being tossed around a long time ago among enterprising youth seeking to become shining lights in the gaming industry. I even specifically remember discussing with someone an RPG game (e.g. Warcraft) based on Bahá’u’lláh’s Seven Valleys. At the time, there was a lot of skepticism—how could one relate the mystical grandeur and depth of the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh in the form of a game? Wouldn’t the message be hopelessly cheapened? How would one represent the abstract, sublime concepts found in the Seven Valleys in a pictorial form?

Well, guess what? Chris Nelson, a Masters student at Australia’s University of Ballarat, has produced a concept piece using the Unreal Tournament (UT) game engine to do just that: illustrate the unillustratable, and “subvert” the image of violent video games in the process. Yup, a UT mod about the Baha’i Writings. You can take a moment to let your paradigm finish shifting. A glance at the Seven Valleys website yields a set of beautiful screenshots and videos that show the kind of work he’s been putting into the design of the piece. There’s no shooting or killing—just experiencing the environment, making this sort of a mix between virtual reality and machinima. The mod itself isn’t downloadable (unfortunately), although he has been exhibiting it at conferences and the like. The website is definitely worth a look; go check it out and expand your mind (thanks to George at Baha’i Views for the link). Leave comments, too—what do you think about it? Is this where the wave of the future is taking us?

4 thoughts on “baha’i video games: but do they pwn?

  1. It’s like what happens in the larger culture when technologies developed for making war turn out to have peaceful purposes.

    I’m not a gamer. It’s a generational thing. My sons are, though, especially my youngest. I knew he would be delighted with this news for a Baha’i-oriented video game, as he, too, has thought that would be the ultimate use of the technology.

  2. Thanks for the plug. Much appreciated. I’ve had around 1200 hits from all around the world over the last few weeks along with a lot of very complimentary emails.
    I’m hoping to commercialize The Seven Valleys so people can experience it first hand for themselves.

    There’s a chance I may be moving to Vancouver mid-year to start my next project (still games related although not quite so explicitly Bahai focussed).

    Cheers,

    Chris

  3. As a gamer I am very pleased that someone actually went out there and made what I do for fun an art form. Many people people are biased towards gamers, sometimes for good reason because they think of us as violence loving kills machines, which is certainly not the case. thank you again.

  4. I have a great idea for a video game but have little or no experience in programming or computers. How would I go about being a video game writer, like a screenplay writer? Is there a certian fromat that it would have to be written in for submission to an actual designer?

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