For some reason, over the past couple of days I’ve become fixated on a video game that isn’t in the Bioware family. It’s not even in the Bethesda family. I know – you’re shocked.
Now, I’m an unabashed gamer, and I’ve written before about using games to work out life problems and also how fascinated I get when a game has some sort of religious system built in. My new obsession, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, has such a system and, like many other games, has a series of built-in buffs depending on which patron deity you choose…but it differs in that there’s also a bonus to choosing not to have a patron. There are a total of twelve deities in the game universe.
In addition to the choice of a patron (personal) deity, there is a system of deity shrines set up across the maps that grant various blessings (temporary stat improvements) as well as temples/monasteries/house of worship dedicated to those same deities.
Here’s how it works, in a nutshell: during character creation, you choose race (4 options) and gender (2 options, sadly), customize your appearance, and then are asked to choose from six options with regard to patron deity – five gods that are available to your race, and one “No Patron” option. Each choice carries with it a set of attributes and you can receive buffs that range from decreased damage from poison to earning a greater percentage of experience points.
I am currently playing as a Dökkálfar which, for anyone who knows me, makes sense. In Amalur, Dökkálfar are master manipulators, able to work subtly from the shadows or use charisma to charm others into doing what they want. Dökkálfar almost always have more than one end in mind and are suited for a combination of magic and stealth, which is how I like to play most games.
As a Dökkálfar, I had the choice of the following gods as patrons (as well as the choice of having no patron at all):
- Belen, God of Death
- Lyria, Goddess of Fate, Magic, and Luck
- Aryllia, Goddess of Love and Beauty
- Lupoku, God of Mischief, Patron of Brewing
- Ethene, Goddess of Wisdom and Art
This group makes sense, if you think about the nature of the Dökkálfar, and it impressed me even though I was (and still am) a bit put out that there’s no room for the lone person who wants to worship outside the norm. I mean, my own religious path is outside the norm for a born WASP living in the Mid-Atlantic states, so why would I want my game character to stay in her expected box?
(Digression city, there. Per usual.)
Anyway, given the nature of the Dökkálfar it makes sense that they would connect with the five deities available, and I ended up taking some time to figure out how I wanted to play my character before choosing a patron so that my play style would fit the bailiwick of the deity. This is slightly different than what I do in real life, of course, where I mold my behaviors to what is expected by my deities (my game play tends to be the other way around, although there’s some interesting interplay with the drell gods…and there I go, digressing again.)
The point I’m trying to make (and dancing around, apparently) is that I have two distinct methods of behavior in relation to deity. In game, I look at how I behave and pick deities that match those behaviors. Outside game, I look to my gods for what is expected of me and then mold my behavior to fit. For example, Sekhmet expects me to be forthright and uphold ma’at no matter the situation. This, of necessity, means deviating from my usual reluctance to get involved in things that don’t directly involve me…and has also changed my definition of what direct involvement is. Set requires that I make informed decisions and active choices, and this led to having to stop waiting for things to happen to me and to start making things happen for me.
Looking at both of those examples, it’s clear that (outside game) I have changed myself rather than changed who I worship. I am accountable, and take responsibility for my actions. I speak out, rather than keep silent. I encourage rather than discourage, but without the saccharine positivity that so many people don like a mask. I am kind but not nice. I’ve modified my actions and, as a result, I am worthwhile not only to my gods, but to myself. And really, in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?