Friday, March 13, 2015

God and Video Games

If you accept the conclusion that there is a real chance our universe is actually a computer simulation, or even possibly a super-advanced video game, it puts an interesting and sometimes disturbing new spin on many of the world’s religions and myths.

The major eastern religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) used one of the most advanced technologies from the time of their origins -- the wheel -- as a metaphor to help people understand reincarnation and the cycle of death/rebirth. Video games like Super Mario Brothers now provide us with a much more direct allegory. Mario is destined to keep dying and being reincarnated until he achieves the next level. To take it even one step further, from a Buddhist perspective, the only way to help Mario escape this cycle of death, stress, and pain is to eliminate the desire to win and just turn off the game.

The idea that the universe might be just an elaborate computer game can also resolve a big conceptual problem some people have with the Christian holy trilogy. If you look the game World of Warcraft, it becomes easy to understand how someone could be both the absolute creator and an individual within the creation. The programmers of the game also chose to make characters for themselves to become part of the game. These avatars are more limited expressions of themselves but still arguably them.

I think, though, that the eeriest aspect of world religions to reexamine from this unusual perspective is the book of the Genesis.

Try reading it from the point of view of someone playing a game like Civilization or Sim City for the first time. They spend a few days building a world. They decide to start off simple and in easy mode. They start with only two characters in a nice, safe garden with just one rule. Yet things still manage to go bad. Despite several attempts to fix things, the game continues to deteriorate as the number of characters grow. Eventually, out of frustration there is a decision to make a complete backup file of the important data (the Ark) and delete the game (flood) to do a hard reset. I’ve personally played several games just like that.

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