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Failures and Lessons in Making Islamic Games - Issue #4

Night Blade
Night Blade
Two of the top three Islamic games I made, didn’t quite cut it; but I figured out a great solution to this.

While Quest for the Royal Jelly (QFRJ, Circa 2012) and Eman Quest (circa 2019) are two of my best Islamic games, I also consider them failures. Why?
I created QFRJ as part of an RPG Maker competition. Consider QFRJ’s intro story snippet:
Quest for the Royal Jelly: Islamic beliefs in a video game?
Quest for the Royal Jelly: Islamic beliefs in a video game?
The game story and theme deals directly with aqeedah (issues of Islamic belief) -such as a creature other than Allah (God) claiming to be all-seeing and all-hearing; being the recipient of sacrifices; and more. This is one of my first attempts at imparting something Islamic from a game.
Honestly, it comes off very heavy-handed and a bit preachy. Definitely not my best work. And also, definitely not using games for what they’re best at: telling stories and showing characters’ beliefs.
Years later, I made the opposite mistake with Eman Quest. It started as a technical demo (“can I create a procedurally-generated, interesting forest?) and I reworked it to add a story and Islamic elements after it was mostly done.
Consider this screenshot of the intro, which shows and plays the recitation of an ayah ("verse”) of the Qur'an:
An ayah ("verse") of Qur'an shown in the intro of Eman Quest
An ayah ("verse") of Qur'an shown in the intro of Eman Quest
Direct, but also indirect. The actual verse talks about kindness to parents (which is a huge thing in Islam). Right after this, a skeleton kidnaps your mom, and you head off to save her.
Other than the intro, the Islamic elements are minimal - you play a hijab-clad Muslimah (Muslim woman). Another ayah shows at the conclusion of the game. And you deal with an antagonist possessed by jinns (invisible, powerful creatures).
And this brings me to my recent epiphany: if you can take the Islamic parts out, and the game still works, it’s not a great Islamic game.
In QFRJ, heavy-handedness aside, you can remove the shirk (belief in and sacrifice to) the royal jelly, and the game still works. In Eman Quest, you can remove the ayaat of Qur'an completely, and the game still works.
Notice, in ADAAN (A Day and a Night), you can’t do this. The character’s motivation fundamentally is repentence and coming back to God, something inherently religious. Plus, it’s hard to stem the flood of Islamic elements - character names, motivations, religious actions, a masjid (mosque) location, seeking knowledge, and more.
Going forward, I now have a much clearer idea on how to make my games foundantionally, positively Islamic. And I intend to apply it on my very next, in-progress project (Match-3 Roguelike), with one more secret ingredient. But more on that later :)
What are your thoughts on religion in games, and specifically the use of religious elements and iconography (verses of Qur'an, hijabs, masjids, churches, pastors, imams, etc.) in games? Hit reply and let me know, I am very curious to hear from you!
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Night Blade
Night Blade @nightblade99

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