I have had a love affair with all things ancient myth and lore from a young age. I clamored for stories of old gods and mighty heroes, wearing down my copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology until the words started to fade from the pages. So when Hi-Rez Studios announced that they were going to be tossing their hat into the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) with a game called Smite featuring gods and legendary heroes from across a multitude of ancient pantheons, I was automatically intrigued. That interest only grew as I looked into the game’s development and the response from early players. A question lodged itself in the back of my mind as it came time to select which god I would play. What if they put my God in the game? Would I be okay with that?
As far as the game play was concerned, it had proven to be a unique experience compared to other MOBAS. There are a host of game modes for people who are not impressed by the three lane combat that defines the genre. It plays more like a third-person shooter than the usual hurricane of mouse clicking. Instead of taking valuable time away from the action, there are auto-buy and auto-level options that take the pressure off of the character’s progression. It was everything I wanted it to be, but that was not what solidified the experience for me.
As I browsed the collection of gods available to me, I was downright giddy. The idea that I could play as Fenrir – the wolf destined to devour Odin at Ragnarok; Apollo – god of music and poetry whose chariot was the light of the sun; Osiris – guardian of the afterlife, son of the earth and sky, and so many more enthralled me. I selected every available character, ravenously clicking the “lore” tab on each to learn more about gods I had never heard of – gods like Hun Batz, the howler monkey god of the Mayan pantheon, or Au Kuong, Dragon King of the East (though later I would find he is actually Ao Guang in the original Chinese). While I was in-between matches, I became that young man again – clutching my well-loved mythology book.
It was when I played as the various Hindu gods and goddesses that I was given pause. The first of these was Kali, the Hindu goddess of time, change, and destruction. I remember reading books about Kali, but my knowledge was limited to a strange mixture of encyclopedic entries and Indiana Jones movie references. My hands quickly typed her name into Google to learn more, and, oddly enough, an article about the game was in the search results. In the early beta of the game, Hi-Rez had to deal with a number of complaints from Hindu players. They had issues regarding the depiction of the goddess, as well as the other Hindu deities in the game. The studio assured them that they had taken some creative license, but that they took great care to build from the texts available to them.
It was right about this time that I started seeing comments on every forum. “I can’t wait until they put Jesus in the game.”
The initial thought left a bad taste in my mouth, but I began to think about it from another angle. If they tried, would he fit? Would it even BE him? For the most part the gods they’ve chosen to add to the game do not seem out of place in a battle of this nature. They are trickster gods like Hun Batz or Loki, warrior gods like Ares, or depicted in their mythos as acting however they see fit. Their actions would be brushed off with a phrase like “as the gods will.” Likewise, they often appear in myths described as being unapproachable in power or appearing as mortal to deceive someone. None of this describes Christ. He is powerful, yet approachable. He became mortal not to deceive us, but to be with us. And while He did not shy away from harsh words or strong actions when they were warranted, He was gentle and offered grace to even the most unlovable.
I honestly don’t know if I’d stop playing the game if they made Jesus a character. I do know that I wouldn’t play him, and I know I wouldn’t be happy about him being there. Not because I would be outraged by the decision or his presence there, but because he just doesn’t fit. If they tried to make him – he’d be something, but he wouldn’t be Jesus.
I am reminded of another time when one of Jesus’ followers felt compelled to rush to his aid. The garden air was cool in the late evening. It was a time of sleep and rest in the heart of the high holy days. But there were those lying in wait to capture Jesus and cast him out as traitor. When one of Christ’s own followers attacked a servant that had come with the soldiers, it was Christ who reminded the young man of who he truly is. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”
Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is infinitely more capable of defending himself than I am. I will leave him to it. And if they ever do choose to put him in the game, I’ll spend those energies wondering how I can demonstrate the real thing to those who have only met the caricature.