@feenwager I’m with you. This year is all about cutting back and making do with what one has for the most part. I seriously don’t know how I’d cope if I operated under the @redswir1 mandate…it’d end up being a burden and choice paralysis would be an encumbrance like nothing else.

Outside of curiosities, I’ve got all I need for a good long while. This is it as it stands:

PC:

  • Wargame: European Escalation – This covers my online strategy needs, which can be offset by the trusty old Supreme Commander 2 with friends.
  • Real Warfare 2: The Northern Crusades – Having something this tough is great, and covers a semblance of RPG-ness with unit veterancy.
  • OilRush – Really enjoy this one. Galcon Labs on the sea with node-specific unit creation. It serves the purpose as an evening’s warm-up.
  • Jagged Alliance: Back in Action – For all its faults, I can’t get enough. The new mod scene for BiA is only bringing new and exciting things to the table, so there be legs here.

Vita

  • WipEout 2048 – Being a racing game, there’s really no end bar the speed of light. Plus, you can always work on being better at WipEout. Plus, having a nice little rivalry with @ajguy on the lap time friends leaderboards is terrific.
  • Unit 13 – The demo is great, so having a score-centric military shooter with heaps of content and challenges allows me to get my shoot on, but also do it in co-op. Especially having reached that time in my life where I simply cannot play any sort of competitive multiplayer shooter on account of time commitment and, frankly, the community, beating score is the order of the day.
  • Motorstorm RC – Who can say no to an RC version of Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off Road? Not me. Cheap as chips, and one game where I won’t mind paying the tiny prices for DLC like new cars and tracks. A new pack of four vehicles came out yesterday for the game in Euro-land with the price of under a buck. Nickel and dime me all you want with Motorstorm RC. Asynchronous racing is where it’s at.

So, yeah. I’m with you on the backlog attack. To quote the affable Don Chipp of the Australian Democrats, “We’ll keep the bastards honest”.

In regards to religion in games, I agree that the most interesting and relatively finger pointing-free experience would be found in the Japanese gaming sphere. Religion, especially the Japanese appropriation and interpretation of Western Judeo-Christian dogma, appears to come from a spiritualist perspective, rather than an ideology that serves also as a civil construct and establishment.

Does the divergence occur in the West mostly due to the games industry (safely assuming) being primarily of the leftist political persuasion, whereas – at least in my understanding of modern day America – revivalist evangelism and religiosity is very much a part of conservative right-wing affair? And for the most part, the Western European religious experience is in somewhat of a decline and, as Eddie Izzard put it, “a bit of a hobby”, especially in the colonial Antipodes.

The Japanese cultural experience, traditionally, has had that delightful and rather quaint spiritual malleability. Shinto animism (which I think bleeds through a highly iconographic-centric society into why they have mascots for everything; the spiritual inhabitation of objects also seems to affect a child’s appreciation/respect of surroundings – but that’s another tale) found coalescence alongside Shibunritsu Buddhism. Of course, one could argue that the import of Christianity upset the apple cart, but the cultural packaging was different. Buddhism arrived to mark the birth of Japan’s cultural golden age; heralding the appropriation of kanji, of interesting social and political doctrine, of artistic and architectural breakthroughs etc. The arrival of Christianity could be considered just as important, as the Portuguese brought the arquebus and the breech-loading cannon, new naval and smithing techniques and so on. Buddhism, however, was not one part of the early imperialist arsenal and thus, given the Confucian social construct, religious oppression was not part of the landscape to any great extent (unless you were Christian and faced someone like Kato Kiyomasa).

If we look at games in general, I find religion in Western games – particularly RPGs – is used as anything other than source of spiritual guidance. It’s portrayed as a specific arm of power or traits, used to define and augment a player as having a particular set of skills or definitions. In King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame, your choices and actions (in probably one of the more fascinating aspects of that game) shift your religious persuasion around towards one of four socio-religious points. For the sake of gameplay, this offers your forces and kingdom certain attributes or negatively affects diplomatic standing etc., but religion is purely a convention of mechanic, rather than narrative. I think this speaks to how we in the West view religion. It has historically always been an extreme point of contention on account of its social countenance, rather than its spiritual depth, co-opted into a political force time and time again. The US Republican campaign trail at the moment is fascinatingly similar on some levels to the Iberian Reconquista or the Teutonic push into Prussia.

Contrast that to the Japanese “religious” experience, where you have Shinto marriages, Buddhist funerals, various superstition-centric time-tempered holidays, the Chinese zodiac being more than simply trivial and other such calendar and life events. Despite this variance of spiritualism, I would be hard-pressed to call the Japanese people “religious”, though most people would tick “Buddhist” on the census. They’re an introspective (perhaps overly so) lot, so religion or belief is just another filtration process for pondering or processing perspective, feeling and emotion. Couple this with an incredible respect for tradition, helped in no small way to – like many old cultures – a fairly inflexible social structure, and you’ve got a group of people who see the spiritual experience as an unshakeable cultural construct, but remarkably one of the few aspects of Japanese life that starts from within, rather than without.

This sensitivity to others’ preconceptions and beliefs allows for a non-vitriolic attitude to the notion of belief. You’ve a country where the societal glue requires as little friction as possible (due to a number of things, though I’d put it down to population density, natural phenomena like quakes/floods and limited land for food production), so it stands to reason differences in Buddhism schools and variation in Shinto ties are seen with fond interest, rather than hostility – much like a regional dialect or food product.

As it stands, Japanese spiritualism in games appears – though I am no expert, especially these days – as a challenge of character and source of inspiration. We may kill Gods, but those Gods are merely proxies for adversity and a growth or attainment of sensibility – as Pete said. The true Japanese spiritual experience can be seen where the notion of a pantheon is not a binary equation, where an entitled perspective of good/bad doesn’t stick. In Judeo-Christendom, demons are irrevocably evil. In Japanese spiritualism, they take a far more neutral form – sometimes even good.

In essence, as much as I can’t stomach JRPGs these days for a number of reasons, their depiction of religion is always the more palatable. I’m not a New Atheist – I find them as bad as religious fundamentalists on account of lacking any hint of humour – but I can understand the stance and enjoy the rhetoric. However, from a cultural perspective, there’s so much room for experimentation and analysis of religion and spirituality in games from across the geographic board.