Fans of the "Dead Space" franchise are undoubtedly familiar with Unitology, a fictional religion which plays a crucial, antagonistic role series. It was Unitologists who caused the chaos to unfold on the USG Ishimura in the first game, and have been part of every release since then.
As a religion, Unitology seems to bear a striking resemblance to Scientology. Both religions have science-fiction influences, vast payloads of wealth collected from their members, multiple "ranks" within the church which determine access to certain information, and a powerful collection of followers including CEOs and celebrities. The similarities seem to run throughout the games and are only strengthened by the events of "Dead Space 2."
Considering all this, I spoke with Wright Bagwell, the creative director on "Dead Space 2," to get the developer's take on how they view Unitology and whether it's supposed to be a parody of Scientology.
"We never really approach that discussion with the intention of poking fun at a particular religion, or sort of making a social statement about something that's going on right now," explained Bagwell. "For us, Unitology's purpose in the story represents people's illogical thinking about things they don't understand. It was never really intended to be a jab at any particular religion. I know people have said, 'Oh yeah, it's a jab at Scientology.' It was never really intended. I think people get that a lot because the name is very similar."
I pressed Bagwell further, saying that the similarities between the two seem to extend past the -ology suffix. Here's what he had to say:
"It was really just an observation about what can happen to anybody who is fanatical and illogical about their beliefs."
"What I find really interesting is a book by Carl Sagan called 'The Demon-Haunted World.' It's a great book and just a commentary on how there's this pattern of behavior over history where there used to be a lot of superstitious and illogical thinking. And then, as science took hold and modern thinking took hold, there was a lot less superstitious thinking. But now that people are not able to understand everything around them again, technology has gotten to the point where it's like magic to some people, and they're overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge and information that's out there. It's gotten people thinking illogically and superstitiously again."
"That's the commentary we're making [with Unitology]. In this complex, futuristic world, people are looking for ways to simplify their lives and put their faith in something that they don't have to think too much about."
Sure, it's a political answer, but it does make sense in the context of the Dead Space universe, and the same could be said about many religious movements outside of Scientology. It also answers a pretty massive question about the overarching storyline: All the religious themes and concepts in the Dead Space games are a misdirect. The Unitologists know as much as you do in terms of what the Markers are for and why they're so important. That is to say, they know jack squat.
If you're interested in learning more about how Unitology got started, check out "Dead Space: Martyr," or read the synopsis on that link. It fills in even more blanks about the Dead Space universe than the games seem to.