The gaming industry has recently surpassed Hollywood both in quantity and in revenues. In 2013 Silicon Valley generated revenues of $ 93 billion, a 17.7% increase on the amount earned in 2012. However, few academics have explored the phenomenon of religion in the world of video gaming. Therefore, on the 17th of October, the NOSTER research group Moving Visions, traditionally focused on the interconnection between film, religion and theology, will host a special symposium on religion and video games: ‘Playing God’.
Can god be found in video games?
Within the emerging field of investigation on the interaction between video gaming and religion, theological inquiries and reflections are not among the popular topics to be discussed. Traditional or ‘classic’ Christian theological topoi like salvation, incarnation, sacrifice and Eschaton are nevertheless easy to be found in modern day video games, like the Mass Effect series, Bioshock, Bioshock: Infinite, Master Reboot, Limbo, Brink, and Fallout 3: New Vegas.
The old narratives of the Christian tradition reappear in new and inventive forms and modes in modern video games. Besides this, the valorisation question is especially interesting in this field. How does the study of theological topoi in games make the world a better place? What would we tell grantors to be their return of investment? A whole field of theological study lies barren, waiting to be discovered.
During the day, several scholars investigate the narrative and symbolic intertextuallity between the domains of religion and games. Dr Freek Bakker will wrap up the afternoon with some concluding words.
On July 8, Web development company RustyBrick released its newest mobile application for Android and iPhone users: Minyan Now. The New York-based company, best known for creating a popular phone siddur, uses modern technology to enhance traditional Jewish practices. The company’s latest product is designed to help Jewish men form and find minyans anywhere.
The idea for Minyan Now was inspired by RustyBrick CEO Barry Schwartz and founder and CFO Ronnie Schwartz after they personally struggled to find the quorums necessary for public prayer after their mother’s death. According to Jewish law, recitation of the traditional mourner’s prayer known as Kaddish requires a minyan.
A study is being conducted by Brian Altenhofen, a doctoral candidate at Texas A&M University under the direction of Dr. Heidi Campbell, in order to look at the way American Catholic Priests use Facebook. Recent studies have looked at the way new media is being negotiated by religious leaders of the Buddhist, Islamist, and Evangelical Christian faiths. Similarly, this study aims to discover the ways Catholic Priests negotiate social media in order to maintain and/or establish religious authority. In order to discover this, participants are needed to conduct a survey and follow-up interview. Ideal participants will be American Catholic Priests who use Facebook on a fairly regular basis (3 or more times a week) in order to conduct either personal and/or professional business on the social media site. If you know American catholic Priests that use Facebook pass this flyer along and have them email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When they walk in the doors of the sprawling, red-brick Hope Community Church in Raleigh, no one takes a bulletin. Instead, they whip out their smartphones, tap the silver “Get Hope” app and open the sermon notes.
“We never really knew if anybody was reading them,” said Joe Woolworth, the church’s media director. “People would often just recycle them when they were done. With the app, it was cheaper, and we were able to go green.”
Thousands of people have downloaded the church’s app since it was created two years ago. Once inside, they can sign up for a community group and find one of the church’s 13 Facebook pages, nine Twitter accounts and three Instagram pages. They can donate to the church via a secure Web page. They can sign up to volunteer.
Helen Coffey wants to meet a fellow Christian to share her life with, so signs up to a religious dating site. She, like other young religious women, finds the experience isn’t quite what she hoped for
“Unfortunately, as hit and miss as internet dating can be on mainstream, generic sites, it gets even worse on the niche ones, contrary to what you’d expect – at least in my experience and several other women I’ve shared tales of woe with.”
Shaman, paragon, God-mode: modern video games are heavily coded with religious undertones. From the Shinto-inspired Japanese video game Okami to the internationally popular The Legend of Zelda and Halo, many video games rely on religious themes and symbols to drive the narrative and frame the storyline. Playing with Religion in Digital Games explores the increasingly complex relationship between gaming and global religious practices. For example, how does religion help organize the communities in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft? What role has censorship played in localizing games like Actraiser in the western world? How do evangelical Christians react to violence, gore, and sexuality in some of the most popular games such as Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto? With contributions by scholars and gamers from all over the world, this collection offers a unique perspective to the intersections of religion and the virtual world.
Introduction: What Playing with Religion Offers Digital Game Studies by Heidi A. Campbell and Gregory Price Grieve
Part 1: Explorations in Religiously Themed Games
1. Dreidels to Dante’s Inferno: Toward a Typology of Religious Games by Jason Anthony
2. Locating the Pixelated Jew: A Multimodal Method for Exploring Judaism in The Shivahby Isamar Carrillo Masso and Nathan Abrams
3. The Global Mediatization of Hinduism through Digital Games: Representation versus Simulation in Hanuman: Boy Warrior by Xenia Zeiler
4. Silent Hill and Fatal Frame: Finding Transcendent Horror in and beyond the Haunted Magic Circle by Brenda S. Gardenour Walter
Part 2: Religion in Mainstream Games
5. From Kuma\War to Quraish: Representation of Islam in Arab and American Video Games by Vit Šisler
6. Citing the Medieval: Using Religion as World-Building Infrastructure in Fantasy MMORPGs by Rabia Gregory
7. Hardcore Christian Gamers: How Religion Shapes Evangelical Play by Shanny Luft
8. Filtering Cultural Feedback: Religion, Censorship and Localization in Actraiser and Other Mainstream Video Games by Peter Likarish
Part 3: Gaming as Implicit Religion
9. The Importance of Playing in Earnest / Rachel Wagner
10. “God Modes” and “God Moods”: What Does a Digital Game Need to Be Spiritually Effective? by Oliver Steffen
11. Bridging Multiple Realities: Religion, Play and Alfred Schutz’s Theory of the Life-World by Michael Waltemathe
12. They Kill Mystery: The Mechanistic Bias of Video Game Representations of Religion and Spirituality by Kevin Schuts
Plenty of good things are done in the name of religion, and plenty of bad things too. But what is religion, exactly — is it good or bad, in and of itself? Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah offers a generous, surprising view. He is a philosopher, cultural theorist and novelist. His latest book is “The Honor Code,” exploring moral revolutions.
“… next time somebody wantsto make some vast generalization about religionis that maybe there isn’t such a thingas a religionand that therefore what they saycannot possibly be true.”
How has the geography of religion evolved over the centuries, and where has it sparked wars? Our map gives us a brief history of the world’s most well-known religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Selected periods of inter-religious bloodshed are also highlighted. Want to see 5,000 years of religion in 90 seconds? Ready, Set, Go!
Tip: the “print” version breaks down the process stage by stage.