(RNS) — In the hit new video game Starfield, players can explore strange new worlds, battle space pirates and rescue civilians from deadly aliens. Along the way, they can find enlightenment in simple acts of human kindness or in solitude among the stars.But as in the real world, the meaning of life proves elusive.
“If you find it, be sure to come back and let me know,” one of the game’s clerics tells the main character during a visit to a temple. “It would make the next sermon more memorable if nothing else.”
Lead designer Emil Pagliarulo of Bethesda Game Studios told Polygon.com that he and his colleagues wanted to challenge players not to just explore the universe but also to think about what the universe means.
Along with all the other tasks common to role-playing games — acquiring resources, building up experience, fighting enemies and fulfilling quests — players have a series of transcendent encounters with alien artifacts, filled with light and sounds, as well as out-of-body experiences.
When the encounters are over, they have a chance to talk about what those encounters mean: Were they signs God exists — or just a weird trip?
Image courtesy of Bethesda Game Studios
Players also can choose to join one of the game’s three religions: the Sanctum Universum — a faith designed by a Bethesda staff writer turned Jesuit — that sees all of reality as holy; the Enlightened, which believes in human kindness but not in God; and House Va’ruun, an apocalyptic death cult.
The first two faiths get along fine with almost everyone. The death cultists …