The very first #Overwatch religion is now a thing, at least on paper. One Brazilian fan has created the National Church of Hanzo in honor of the game's popular character #Hanzo Shimada. Given that Star Wars has inspired its own religion, the Church of Jediism, it was only a matter of time before it spread to video games.
Mateus Mognon can be credited with the feat and he wrote about it at length to show how such a church is possible. At first glance it looks like the crazy idea of a dedicated fan, but not is all as it appears. The church's creation was less of a "I believe in this" and more of a "let's see how far we can take it."
Brazil's Religious Laws Made It Possible
It turns out that Mateus was testing Brazil's religious tolerance laws and seeing how far he could go in the name of religion. See, in order to protect religious freedoms in Brazil, the Constitution offers tax exemptions to religious entities. As long as they're tied to a belief, religious organizations are exempt from paying taxes on property, income, cars, or goods and services.
Unfortunately, it's also easily exploitable, as we can see by virtue of the National Church of Hanzo. Almost 68,000 religious entities have been registered since 2010. Mateus decided he wanted to see what kind of churches would actually be approved. The process was so simple that he found it was far easier to create a church than it was to open a private business. All he needed was five friends, an address to register the church, signing off from a lawyer, and money for fees. He probably could have done this with a regular Overwatch team.
In order to go the extra mile, Mateus chose the most absurd religious idea he could think of: a church dedicated to Overwatch. And not just Overwatch in general, but one dedicated to its controversial hero, Hanzo. He took inspiration from Neil Gaiman's American Gods, saying, "the gods are as powerful as the number of followers who believe in them." With over 30 million players in Overwatch, that makes a powerful god indeed.
Hanzo Is The Messiah
The choice of Hanzo as the Messiah was deliberate, as opposed to what would have been the more culturally appropriate Brazilian Lúcio. Hanzo's emotional backstory and redemption after killing his brother, along with his resemblance to the stereotypical Jesus, fit the idea of a religion. Also too enticing to pass up was the Hanzo's flaws via his controversial stance in the community: Hanzo's character has acquired a stigma due to lesser skilled players who insist on only playing that hero. If he could make a church dedicated to Overwatch's "most hated character," any church was possible.
In order to keep things legitimate and stay on the good side of the law (and avoiding any fraud), Mateus added religious tenets for believers of the Church of Hanzo to follow.
- Their goal is to "Preach peace and harmony on the internet and online communities."
- Holy days are a free Tuesday each month for religious studies (i.e., playing Overwatch).
- High-calorie snacks are the holy food of choice, especially during religious "meetings."
- Baptisms and initiation into the church are completed by playing an Overwatch match. If, for some reason, the new convert doesn't actually own Overwatch, the free-to-play Paladins game will suffice.
- Sins include using the term "Hanzo Main," "rage quitting" games, hate speech, and toxic behavior in streams.
The Church Is Fun But Probably Won't Be Real
While the Church of Hanzo was a fun idea, it's mostly just one grand experiment testing bureaucratic boundaries. Creating and utilizing a fake church in order to evade taxes or commit fraud or money laundering has harsh consequences and could land any guilty parties up to 15 years in prison.
The church is also at risk of Blizzard's intellectual property breach, were they to feel threatened. The religious statute offers the church as the sole distributor of any religiously-affiliated products, which would also be government tax-free. In this case, Hanzo's status as a copyrighted character would make any products directly competing with Blizzard and as such infringing on their property.
Mateus' entire goal was mostly just wanted to see if such a thing was possible and he definitely proved that. While he ended the story with an ineffectual plea, "Blizzard, please don't sue me," he added that the real crime, should there be any, is Hanzo's Dragon Strike ability.
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