Text Games: How do Gods and Mortals Co-Exist?

text game god universe

by Ben Gorlick and Christina Roper

Without mortals religion cannot exist. In real life you might not be a religious person but in a text game you might be a religious leader or even a prophet of your god. Ironic? I think so too. Religion in text games is the essence of the foundation that makes a text world possible because gods have various responsibilities that are both similar and different than gods in our world today. Gods in text games have many attributes that are similar to Greek and Roman mythology as well as Judeo-Christianity. However, there is a solidity in the gods in text games that is not seen in modern day religions. When looking at the similarities and differences some questions come to mind. What is the value of devotion to a religion? Do gods have their own ambitions? How do gods and mortals coexist? 

To give a brief background of what the gods do in text games, you must first understand that the games are imagined, designed, and built by the gods. Because of the god’s creation of the game they have various responsibilities both public and behind the scenes. Their responsibilities include but are not limited to building new areas for mortals to explore, creation of skills, squashing bugs in the game, resolving mortal conflicts, creating and running global events, and maybe the biggest draw of them all, their personal interaction with mortals. Each god is given its own realm, for example, goddess of justice, god of war, and the god of oppression.

Within a god’s realm is a religious order of mortals. These mortals practice living according to a philosophy that is inspired by the god’s realm. Sometimes the god outlines the philosophy while in other realms the mortals might outline the philosophy. Usually to join one of these orders there is a pre-order clan where existing order members mentor and give direction to prospective members. Some call this education, others call it brainwashing, you pick. Within a god’s realm is a certain pecking order. The god must first pick a leader amongst their members who in some cases will act as the mortal voice of the god itself.

Gods much like some mortals can be very ambitious when it comes to carrying out and fulfilling their objectives. When gaining followers and acquiring popular vote is the goal, a god will provide incentives to lost mortals who are seeking guidance in life. They will unleash their true believers and existing order members to carry-out their religious propaganda and recruitment efforts. At times, multiple religions will be competing for a mortals application to their religion, and will put their knowledge and will against each other in order to convert. Conflicts don’t merely stop at that however. In text-games like Achaea, it’s commonplace to see a god instruct their followers to defile and destroy the wordly structures of another religion, primarily their shrines and at times, the inhabitants of the gods temple.

Mortals in text games can strengthen their gods by killing creatures and offering the corpses to the gods at a shrine location that they erected for their gods. Conversely, a gods followers defiling the shrines of another religion accomplish several goals: implications of dominance over the religion they are defiling, create a deficit of essence for that god, distract the gods followers from their work and create opportune locations to erect new shrines of their own religion. While the mortals fight it out amongst themselves, occasionally the war can escalate to such a point that the gods themselves battle it out for the world to see. Throughout history, there have been wars that have been started by differences in religions. Examples in our world, such as the Christian Crusaders, the Catholic Church during the middle ages and the modern day religious conflicts in the Middle East that stem back to biblical times.

Gods, if they are favored by mortals and if they so choose as well, can become the Patron of certain cities, guilds and houses. In such capacity, the gods assist in the development of the organization, adding to its depth, functionality and overall feel. Many gods in text games leave their marks, erecting permanent structures in cities or creating inhabitants and denizens that forever bear the distinct flavor of that gods impact. In Greek and Roman religions, gods patronned cities as well, for example Athens Greece by Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, Warfare and Crafts and Olympia, by the Greek God Zues.

Sometimes, long after a God has departed a city, the remnants and history of that Gods influence has so much impacted the citizens that the changes are permanent, such as the longstanding influence of the former God of Evil Sartan left on the city of Mhaldor in Achaea or the creation and philosophy of houses like the Occultists of Ashtan left by the once known Goddess of Chaos, Eris. Long after these gods and goddesses are gone, their legacy lives on in oral stories and traditions that are still carried out by mortals.

Much like in our world, in text games a persons particular faith can rule their thoughts and control their actions. Examples include people dedicating their lives to missionary work with little or no financial reward, with hopes of merely spreading the gospel of their religion. Contrasts include people that will martyr themselves in the name of their religion. Some religions even make it so very difficult to marry outside of their religion, vowing to disown family member in some cases if they violate their religious upbringings.

Unlike our text games however, in our world it is no commonplace to see a public display by gods interacting with mortals and each other. Gods are not visible to the naked eye. In the game Achaea for example, for a particular god there will be one or maybe two temples for one god. But in our world there are hundreds of temples devoted to one god or multiple gods. In our world religion and gods are more thought to be both within us and part of us.

All of this leaves me with one final thought. If we choose to believe in a god, where does that god truly exist? Is it in our faith and devotion? Is it in our practice of philosophies? In our world, in the Judeo-Christian religion you can channel inside yourself to speak with god and some feel as though through them He speaks back. In a text-game world there is real concrete evidence that there is a direct communication between mortals and gods. Which brings to question if that is something that we’d really benefit from, given the implications that disobeying them might bring. 

 Ben Gorlick & Christina Roper are text game enthusiasts who enjoy the free roleplaying games at Iron Realms!

Comments

hmm

Interesting read, I've been thinking a lot about Gods in Achaea as well. Think that struck me most was that you can't be an atheist or agnost in Achaea, as the gods are yelling things all the time for everyone to hear ^^

Good point Rugnar, no matter how far you run, sometimes even to the most distant reaches of the realm, the Gods are still visible!

I remember I used to think certain gods only inhabited certain regions because when I looked at who on islands I only saw me and Them. It was a long time before I learned differently.

I've fallen for this too

The other mistake is thinking that because you're stuck on an island and you'll you can see is a god that they will be likely to help you.  I know of more than one newbie who has done that.

I did that myself as a newbie. I have yet to recieve an answer, haha.

 

yea

agreed das

Definately an enlightening read...

i agree totally. I really liked reading this

I concur.

Heh, I'd like to meet an Atheist in Achaea :D

Being an athiest in Achaea is like being a member of the Flat World Society on earth irl.

 

works

...HOW it works, as long as it DOES work.

My experience with gods in imperian. No one is playing the god/goddess so nothing much happens. If there is an active god, expect said god's player to get fired if the middle of interesting things. Then more silence. Rinse and repeat.

 

Soooo true...

That happens sometimes with Achaea too. Don't feel left out.

Yeah, it's for favoritism. And I want to go, well duh. Of course they should show favoritism to their own congregants. As long as it doesn't give them an advantage in for quests, pk, or bashing and just RP stuff, I don't see why it's a problem. But I don't run things.

I guess divine charcaters really do have a heavy workload then. No wonder there zapping people from time to time

I have yet to see or hear of an Immortal zapping someone. It must not happen too often...

In my experience, it happens when necessary. Quite often, some idiot will turn up who is most deserving of a good zapping, and he/she will receive one. I've seen multiple zappings in a day, and then none for weeks.

You know, asking about it might just give you some first-hand experience.

It always nice to see some blue bolts fly across the sky in the realms. Means someones being naughty and someone is being rather amusing to the public. I'll let you choose which is which.

Oh, it happens. Trust me.

Join Midkemia online and then get smartassed with one of them, it'll happen. :D

Of course, this isn't the RECOMMENDED course of action!

Very interesting read.  I never thought about the workload that the Gods have but it seems like they can be easily overwhelmed.

Very interesting read.  I never thought about the workload that the Gods have but it seems like they can be easily overwhelmed.

I really don't think comparing in-game to IRL religion is very accurate. From an OOC perspective, we know that the "gods" are actually mortals, and that separation shifts icly - they make mistakes, they are not omnipotent, they can be defeated by physical or even political means - in one sense they can be viewed as bigger, badder mortals. My character has seen too many gods be destroyed to have a belief in "immortality", and has fought - and won - battles with gods before. Yes, they can kill her, but death also doesn't carry the same depth it would IRL.

 

And that isn't even counting the jarring shifts when the gods' players change.

I agree that it is not very accurate to compare them, as they are infact very different. What is important to keep in mind though, is that some readers of IRE Blog have never played a text game, so they would be curious how a text game God is similar or different to their concept, Illustrating that so much is conceived in the "concepts we have" of what a God is or is no.

 

Indeed.

For one thing, the gods of pantheonic religions weren't all that omnipotent either... but, I'm not so sure you can say IRE gods aren't omnipotent. They control the game world; this is, effectively, a form of omnipotence. It's true that there are still OOC limitations (text or code might have to be written, for example), but they could always pause the game for a few hours to implement stuff if they really had to (even though they probably wouldn't do it lightly, because that'd be annoying to a lot of people).

By fiat they're not omnipotent, simply highly potent. If they were omnipotent they would achieve their goals. Evil would wipe good off the face of the map and vice versa.

 

They're certainly not even close to being ominscient.

specially since your gods just got creamed by that bal'met guy!

Great article

I have found that my experiences in a Divine Order have been some of the most profound and deep roleplaying that I have had in the game. Well worth doing!

Some of the best roleplay I've ever experienced at times, were from Gods taking the time to step down and play a denizen character of the realms, or just be themselves and run these amazing events.

 

You all should come over to Midkemia Online, where the gods and admins are amazing for doing this with us pretty consistantly. That, and on Midkemia each God or Goddess has TWO (usually opposing) orders, not just one, which brings about natural conflict and amazing roleplay. ( <3 Tith-Onanka)

 

Check us out!

I know Gods are meant to be behind the scenes working on stuff, but I wish some would pop their head out more than rarely to interact with His or Her faithful. Always a blast but when they are quiet for so long you don't know if they are still around or not :(

Depends on the God and the IRE game.

Indeed. I'd be interested to see if there's some relation between how much writing/coding they do and how much they interact with their mortals.

 

Even a small act by a God can enrich and liven up a world, at least for a time.  Things need to be shaken up by a Divine every now and then.

On both a game level and on a personal level, a Divine can make playing a lot more fun with just a simple action. I still play Ephram because Melantha rocks and got him involved again.

Gods are truly helpful in games.  They help to liven up the place.

It may seem like a God or Goddess within a game is not-active, but the truth of the matter is, it's possible they may not have enough time on their hands to interact with mortals and those within their order. They could be coming up with events or testing and fixing codes.

And trust me, not all the times will Gods make themselves visible on QW, and yet they are still there. I've had interactions with a few Gods that were around, however, they enjoyed to be hidden and sometimes in the same room!

Excellent article! I had not even thought about this before! 

It was actually about 6 rl months into playing achaea that I learned that Gods were real things that were controlled my players. Somehow up until that point I had only experienced them in lore.

Gods who you can actually interact with are some of the better aspects of MUDs. I was quite pleasantly impressed to find out that once you join on Order you actually have the posibility of speaking to your chosen God in a real-life manner, heh.

like

I see the divine all the time, I think it is wonderful too. It is one of the things that I like about text games over graphic ones like WoW or Everquest. In those games you could run down the street yelling about how stupid each one of the  gods are and never see a consequence. If you try that in these games they are likely to zap you and turn you into a maggot.

Gods are very interesting characters. And being fascinated with both the Roman and Greek Pantheon I find myself spotting similarites between Gods within the game to those connected in mythology.

I hope Cassiopeia returns soon, being the patron of many She is very much needed.

An article comparing real world religion to an obviously artificial construct and the comments haven't devolved into a bunch of hate mail. That's a rare thing on the internet, even for an article that treated religion as respectfully as this one did.

Good job people. (or mods...)

As someone with rather unusual religious beliefs(pantheist) in real life, I often see my personal webpages get spammed by a lot of hate mail from you-know-whos. It is nice that many people are open-minded enough not to spam this article, especially when a large portion of the player-base would be religious.

Only joined an order recently, so interacting with a god is still a newish thing to me. It seems that those not in orders do not interact with gods that much.

but I would always be on my best behaviour

some not even in orders. Some gods kinda show up do their paperwork, zap a few people and leave.

Efficiency.

I wish certain gods were more active though.

Yay. Prandur was online today, he never spoke that i saw though, that makes me sad.

 

I can't speak for Aetolia, Imperian, Lusternia, or MKO, but on Achaea, gods seriously detract from the game.

 

They show up, get involved, start some good rp threads in the game, and then one day, they are gone. The players are left holding the bag, and instead of giving them a hand in trying to create a sense of continuity, they pointedly turn their back on them and pretend that god never existed.

Fast forward 1-2 rl years later, the god reappears, destroys most of what was left from the previous incarnation, redoes everything, starts some good rp threads, and then vanishes without a trace.

 

Totally unnoticable unless you're a long-term player, but then there are so few of them left! Hmm!

I hate when this happens. This is part of why I dread a new Agatheis eventually being revealed. OOCly I look at it and think, "We're a humble group. Just leave us alone."

I do wish they interacted a bit more with mortals, the few times I've seen it happen, I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I know they have other responsibilities - but you could always get another Celani or three, I'm sure there are no lack of volunteers. I suppose finding responsible volunteers is the tricky bit.

yeah. I don't think it helps if you get oen and he's gone soon or doesn't do anything

I agree with the above statement. I think when a volunteer gets promoted to a Divine they should be given less responsibilities behind the scene and allowed more time to interact with their followers. The lower-rung volunteers should be given most of the work in designing and improving the overall areas of the game. In opinion, it seems only fair.

 

... are everywhere.

Even now!

I like this article a lot. It really does spur one to think about these topics.

Me, being an atheist in real life, at first found very difficult to swallow the idea of me, in Lusternia life, worshiping a god. Then I came to terms when I realized that shrines can be thought as trash cans were I can dispose what I can't sell of my hunts or any useless object I pick up when going around. And I get paid with karma in return! ;-)

And when I began to think gods as an equivalent of a sport team, all my contradictions dissapeared. Go, Fain, Go!

Think of each god as a sports team and suddenly it's less about worship and more about being a fan.

I've seen quite a bit of resentment toward Gods since we know them as "admins."  I've been guilty of this myself a bit when things happen that I don't necessarily agree with, or see the reasoning behind oocly.  In some cases I've seen however, it's resulted in a complete lack of respect, which is really not a good thing for all parties involved.

Maybe I'd see less resentment if I actually participated in an Order, but it's interesting that the mortal interaction with Gods actually give us the opportunity to disagree and in some cases talk back to a God - something that would never even be thought of in RL religions.

Article was a good read, by the way! =)

I've been playing Lusternia for several years now. I wasn't around for open beta, but came in in around June 2005. I remember interactions with Gods, albeit not always the best, as I will admit I was a total idiot when it came to playing text based games at the time. However, last year I decided to finally take the plunge and join Terentia's Order. I know that my experiences within Her Order (and yes, I always capitalize, regardless of being in-character or not) have been very fun and very amusing. If anything, I wish that I could be awake later when She is online, but that's just the way life is! I urge everyone to try out an Order in their respective game, because you may end up liking it. I must admit it's probably not for everyone, but I've certainly had a good time and I wouldn't ever change it.

Edit: I noticed someone commented on the role of Gods as Admins. I have not always agreed with that Divine have had to say, or what They have done in Their roles as Admins. Sometimes, I must admit, They have really frustrated me. That's life. Just because They are harsh to you IC doesn't mean that you can't approach Them with OOC matters, or anything silly like that. Then... I've had some pretty awesome experiences with Lusternia Divine.

The gods have always been the backbone for the games we all enjoy with much to do

...if Maya really knew what's in my head whenever I prayed for salvation :o *clearmind* *clearmind* *clearmind* *blush*

Ha!

For a long while after playing, every time poor Madelyne had to pray for salvation she'd actually try to LOOK and STAND. Poor gullible Maddy. *cough*

Well, each know their own roles and it makes it interesting in game. It should not be confused with reality. The game puts you in environments you might never achieve in real life, like being together with Gods.

Pantheons. How do they work?

Wish shrines worked differently though!

Hard workers, don't get enough appreciation. I'd like to interact with one some day, but the only one I was interested in made it on the death list.

The Short answer is roleplay, and a certain level of mysterious. I don't think any Divine can properly be buddy-buddy with any of their followers, but keep a level of mysteriousness, and severity

 

The Sect system in MKO is awesome. My character is currently trying to 'create' a new aspect of one of the Gods by pulling enough followers to his Cult. The Sect system adds a delicious aspect to IG religion that is lacking from other IRE games.

All hail Neroes!

The read was interesting...I have yet to see a whole lot of interaction with Gods but, I have interacted with Shikari, The Predator and it was a fairly genuine experience.  The person playing Him was very good at keeping in character.

I have yet to see any zapping....mostly ive only seen Gods mentoring their followers to follow the correct path...

The Gods in IRE can't be compared to any modern-day idea of God(s). That is too much of a reach for me, personally. But that being said, Lusternia's gods are pretty interesting - getting stuck in a tiffle between two is engaging and sometimes scary.

Gods do put in a lot of work that mortals never see. I don't think most people appereciate the fact that without their volunteer work, IRE games would fail.

Vastar was a ton of fun and interacted with the Order on a daily basis, favoured often and made it a point to have 1 on 1 interactions with all the Order members. Too bad he went inactive

I haven't had any interactions with Gods in Lusternia yet, but I hope to join an order soon. I just see them as another outlet for some great RPing.

This is a great article! Thank you for writing this. Divine Orders are a huge part of what attracted me to Achaea and I think many people could benefit from reading something like this before or just after coming to the game.

 

Keep it up! :)

As a cleric, I see a lot of people don't even acknowledge Divine. I guess we have in game atheists.

It's not possible for there to be atheists in any Iron Realms games, give that the Gods are actual, physical beings who manifest themselves in front of mortals. There is no point in denying their existence unless one wishes to look like a massive idiot.

Closer would be someone trying to refute the Divine's influence.  There is a push to secularization in the natural world so it may cross over into the game world. 

fuck the te'serra :/

LOLOL!!!

In the large graphic MMOs, the people who actually run things don't have any direct interactions with the players; they can't, it's too big.  In text games like Achaea they can and do, and that plays a major role in turning it from yet another race to the top of the XP tree to a world you can actually roleplay properly in.

At one point in time Janus (of Imperian) had to split into a game God and an admin (Dwyn) so that he wasn't hassled for admin stuff all the time while RP'ing.  It's sometimes a hard line to draw in the sand when you are trying to be both, but also having to deal with players that aren't following the rules.

I must admit, I do miss the days when the Gods of Impy could zap you for being an ass, or blasphemous. One of my fondest memories was Janus killing me for accidentlally dropping Khizan into the middle of a wedding (I meant to send him elsewhere, but didn't fully spell the target's name).  Was good, and my character was in awe of Him for ages after that day.

I thought this was a very interesting and accurate article.

I never really worshiped the Divine in text games. Always followed them in the same relevance to a customer perscribing to a set of philosophy similar to my own character and roleplay.

Worshipping a Divine has a lot to do with how closely a Divine's teachings can connect with your own personal philosophy and interests, or expand upon it. A great example of that was Eris in Achaea, when she introduced the philosophies from the Principia Discordia.

@ Das: But that does not necessarily mean that Mhaldorians who worship Shaitan and Apollyon are IRL, worshippers of the same concepts that bring the Gods in Achaea alive to them (They are clearly Evil bastards IRL! Thanks for ruining my christmas! ..etc). I guess, to some extent, it does reflect their own personal interests, but I am wary about calling it a total reflection of one's own personal philosophy and interests.

I'd have to say that I'm a diehard fan of deities in text-based games. They tend to be the most helpful beings you will encounter, even if you happen to be of a warring faction. They help you if you encounter one of those bugs...where there is no way out, for instance. (That was not particularly fun)

But, I think that faith in deities in text-based games are so very different because divine are tangible and they do have ambitions. Once you've joined an Order and you're a part of those ambitions you tend to become intensely devoted to that divine. There seems to be a mutual understanding and respect. You protect each others' interests. I think that the closer that followers feel to a divine the more likely they are to be insanely zealous.

But, I think there is also something about the fact that they're not like other mortals. They don't play by our rules. They have some say in what goes on behind the scenes, and they also are insanely powerful. And so, you're either left quivering in fear, or you're agreeing with everything they say (hoping not to get zapped *ducks*).

To me, divine interaction is some of the best fun to be had in text games. If you haven't served a deity you're missing out on something seriously fun, and you should rectify the situation and start really studying. Find one you really want to get into. Find one that will suit your character well!

I've thoroughly enjoyed my divine interactions in Achaea, but there are two things which make it taxing from time to time.   First, people assume that a god is dormant just because they don't see that god often.  I happen to know my goddes is tremendously busy and likes to keep a distance from overmuch mortal interaction because she wants to see people acting natural (as opposed to switching into RP gear when they know she's around).   Second, people rely too heavily upon their OOC mindset when relating to IC realms.  People hear "Sin" and they immediately assume "Anti-Christian" which then carries over into the game.  

 I wouldnt've even thought of that. Different real-life backgrounds, it seems.

Divine interaction is all fun and all, when their first motive isn't to screw you over.

God interaction always makes the game more fun, especially when they have fun RP tasks an such to do.

I've always wanted to have enjoyable interactions with Gods in-character. Have to get my RP skills up before that, though.

I agree, God interactions can really liven up the game.

I need to figure out to join and become active in an order.

Me too!

In aetolia it is pretty easy, we just join a congregation then you get inducted into said order down the track.

I like that we as players have direct access to people who help devolop the game, so we can become familiar in some way, and they can help enhance our experience by doing cool things.

Could not agree more with this

This is part of the reason I play these games and find joy in them.

always wondered what it'd be like to try rp'ing an aetheist in one of these games

Cause there's usually drinking involved when you deal with the Dwarven god

I really regret selling the society I was attempting to build into a congregation. I really wanted an estate and... well you get the picture. Time to bash up another 50 gold and try again, I could even try to fundraise within the order I guess.

I've played many Muds in my life and in each the Gods are always different. One you'll have them appear all the time and walk around like mortals. Others they are merely the programmers and talk completely OOC, some they are both. As Shinji I've had yet to no interaction with Gods bar the one time I spoke with Slyphe. But as other Characters I've had alot of talks. But anyway, before I go into a ramble my whole point is I like the Gods being slightly unknown, we rarely see them, but we know they are there.

I really want to join an Order, but unfortunately there aren't any current Gods that fit with character's RP. I love reading the logs other people post about their Divine interaction, though.

It is REALLY impossible to be an atheist. Seriously. Think about it. Divine are shouting, and zapping all the time. Daslin's been hit MULTIPLE times... All that it takes to hear from them is say they don't exist or get smarmy as hell. Meh. Maybe it all just is in our heads.

Gods can be fun, until they go crazy.

Nah, crazy Gods are the best... Well, not really.

I have been zapped in Achaea, it was a warn zap! It was funny when it happened, my good friend at the time shielded me. I didn't even know I was warn zapped until I realized that I was shielded, thank goodness for good friends that want to protect you from even the Divine themself.

I personally enjoying playing a character devoted to a God in the game, even if they aren't 'active' because to me, it shouldn't be about that. I know everyone plays differently but that is how I play and I agree with Tekla that things are brought IC from OOC that have nothing to do with the religion itself. Take the time to learn about that God. :) 

Wow

Definitely a good read

Yay for orders!

Badly

I definitely like this article. I have talked to a God OOC before and he only told me minor things they do.. it blew my mind as to what they did minorly, not even major! Anyways, I think religion is very important in Text based games.. because truly, your thanking Gods for all the work and what they have done!

If done correctly

Or was that article particularly heavy for the subject matter of the game?

Interesting read.

the exact way they do now??

It's impossible to be an atheist or an agnostic - hard not to disbelieve a God or Goddess when they have conversations and zap people! But it's easier to be more apathetic towards the Divine and what happens. "Leave the Divine to the Divine," my character sometimes says, "Our mark is meant to be made in our world, not theirs."

It's simple enough to watch events from afar, but involving yourself in divine RP is also a relatively easy affair. It's nice to have both options.

divine RP now that's something I am curious to experience..

That is a good way to put it Bronislav.

Interesting.

Credit comment.

Pretty sure there are crazier factions in Achaea than that. ;)

furballs from space!

hm

hm

I also believe in the great kitten god of the sky

I like the fact that in Midkemia you can be at least slightly agnostic, or at least think the gods aren't all they're cracked up to be without getting blasted apart immediately.

Gods are good.