Worship of the Lamb has been incredibly popular since its release for its dark yet cute aesthetic, addictive gameplay, and creative cult-based mechanics. However, it’s far from the first game to explore cults. In fact, there are many games where players are dealing with a cult in one way or another, like Cultist Simulator, Underhand, The Shrouded Isle, Evil Cult, Heretic Operative, Enter the Gungeon, Civilization 6: Red Deathand Honey, I joined a cult.
This is just the tip of the iceberg too, as many games have cult worlds such as Resident Evil, Fallout, Silent Hill, Night in the Woods, Tomb Raider, EarthBound, dead spaceand BioShock. The types of cults range from religious to personality-driven to demonic or Lovecraftian. A veteran gamer is familiar with fictional cults, but some fans may wonder why in-game cults are so prevalent. There are a number of possible reasons, and there are actually many ways video games have explored cult stories.
The relationship of video games to moral panic
There’s an elephant in the room when it comes to video games and their relationship to religion and morality. For a long time, video games have been portrayed as a corrupting influence, especially for young people. Many finger pointers in this scenario are strongly religious, viewing video games as a sin for their sometimes fantastical, violent, addictive, and sexual content. All of this has contributed to a deep cynicism towards religion in many video games, and in some gamers themselves.
Perhaps that’s why video games have begun to explore cults as a way to think critically and question what’s going on behind those who are persuaded by moral panic or the mentality of crowd. Video games provide a safe way to discover and interact with cults, which can be quite dangerous in real life. Much of the moral panic that targets video games is due to ignorance and fear-mongering, which is much emulated in fictional video game cults.
Even recent games like Worship of the Lamb attracted the attention of moral panic with numerous negative reviews with religious overtones. It’s part of what attracts more people to games like Worship of the Lambhowever, because it ironically increases the fascination with the game as a counterculture.
The Different Ways Video Games Interact With Cult Stories
While most cults are negatively associated in video games, developers often examine why cults occur. Players are placed in a unique position where they can see how much a cult can feel like family. The plots are often set up with a protagonist who loses everything, this is precisely when the cults try to recruit someone. While many video game cults are fantastic, some are more entrenched, as in Far Cry 5whose villains are a sect of militant Christians.
Bioshock InfiniteThe main villain of is the founder of an ultra-nationalist cult, and he was loosely based on Ernst Rudin, a true Nazi, and Anthony Comstock, a Christian moralist who led major censorship campaigns. The big twist is quite revealing of how one can also connect to a cult. The twist is that Bioshock InfiniteBooker DeWitt’s main character is actually the villain, but the villain comes from an alternate reality where he was baptized and believed he was absolved of his sins while Booker fled, believing baptism would not forgive his sins. This little detail changed everything, creating two opposite versions of a man.
A game known to many cults is To fall, from the Treeminders to the Church of the Children of Atom. While most worship activities in To fall is goofy, fun, and explored in secondary content, there’s a taste of reality everywhere in this series and its factions. There are so many cults because the nuclear war left a somewhat blank list of very desperate people. There is a sadness about cults in that they want answers in a world that does not.
These examples hitting closer to home are fascinating and reflect the times in which developers and gamers live. Today, there are many cults ranging from religious to philosophical to political, and some are finding homes online. Whereas Worship of the Lamb is more recent, it takes a far more fantastical approach to cults. There are few things that connect the real world to the cult in the Worship of the Lamb, and that may be part of why it’s so popular. Many gamers typically play games to escape reality, and not always to critically engage with them as some other games do with their narratives. Either way, it’s clear that cults have a broad but detailed history in the video game industry.
Worship of the Lamb is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
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