The Ankh, also known as the crux ansata ("handled cross"), the key of life, or the key of the Nile, is one of the most commonly depicted objects seen in ancient Egyptian art, where it is often in the hands of Egyptian deities who use it to restore mummified bodies to life. As a hieroglyph, it is usually read to mean "eternal life," and as a result it has come to strongly symbolize the afterlife, rebirth, and conception. Physical depictions of the ankh in ancient Egypt were almost always crafted from gold, as it was thought to be intrinsically tied to the sun. In the modern day, the ankh has become one of the most recognizable artifacts of ancient Egyptian culture, and is used frequently in popular media (including video games) as a physical representation for many of the concepts which it is closely tied to, or as a metonymic object that stands in for or is otherwise meant to represent the country of Egypt.
Common Usage in Video Games
Font of Life
Many video games choose to co-opt the ankh's connotations of rebirth and the afterlife by making it into an artifact that literally restores or represents life force in some way. One of the more recent examples of this is Blizzard's World of Warcraft, in which the Ankh is a reagent used by the Shaman character class for the Reincarnation spell. Other times, it is meant to symbolize life itself; such was the case in 1996's Powerslave, in which an ankh is seen in the game's interface directly overlaid over the player's health bar.
Sign of Benevolence
In some cases the ankh is used less as a restorative artifact than as a general indicator of the benevolence and good will of a certain party. This can be evidenced in games such as Populous, where evil deities are identified with a skull, while righteous deities are denoted by an ankh. It is also a recurring object within the Ultima series, where the Avatar, the player character and a symbol of bravery, honesty, and virtue, is portrayed quite frequently in raiment emblazoned with a golden ankh.
Symbol of Egypt
As one of Egypt's most identifiable icons, the ankh is often used in video games when game developers wish to invoke of the culture of ancient Egypt. Many games feature the ankh prominently in their architecture, especially those which contain levels with heavy Egyptian influences, such as the desert continent of Thysis within Raven Software's Hexen II. Other games, such as Serious Sam, use Egypt as their setting, so the use of ankhs in their architecture can be seen as an attempt at authenticity more than anything else.