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Playing with Religion in Digital Games

Edited by Heidi A. Campbell and Gregory Price Grieve

Publication Year: 2014

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.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Digital Game Studies


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: What Playing with Religion Offers Digital Game Studies

Heidi A. Campbell and Gregory Price Grieve

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pp. 1-22

The perpendicular Gothic spires of a thirteenth-century medieval cathedral tower over the strangely empty English countryside. Inside, the richly decorated choir stalls are empty; the sun filters through the stained-glass windows, streaking the dust-filled air and illuminating the gilded nave and the hallowed halls, which are covered with a veneer...

PART 1. Explorations in Religiously Themed Games

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1. Dreidels to Dante’s Inferno: Toward a Typology of Religious Games

Jason Anthony

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pp. 25-46

It’s hard to imagine two more different arenas than games and religion. Games strike us as a pleasant distraction, a space where amiable conflicts play out to a conclusion which, tomorrow, won’t matter much. Religious activity is clearly quite different. It calls for utmost seriousness and a minimum of conflict, and our commitment will ...

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2. Locating the Pixelated Jew: A Multimodal Method for Exploring Judaism in The Shivah

Isamar Carrillo Masso and Nathan Abrams

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pp. 47-65

The video game The Shivah (Wadjet Eye Games, 2006) opens with the epigraph: “A Goy [non-Jew] came up to Rabbi Moishe to ask, ‘Why do rabbis always answer with a question?’ to which Rabbi Moishe replied, ‘Why not?’” In a similar Talmudic style, this chapter opens with a question: “Where has the pixelated Jew gone?” In popular...

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3. The Global Mediatization of Hinduism through Digital Games: Representation versus Simulation in Hanuman: Boy Warrior

Xenia Zeiler

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pp. 66-87

Research on digital games and religion has primarily concentrated on European and U.S. settings. Asian developments, except the Muslim Middle Eastern contexts of Syria and Palestine, have long been nearly completely overlooked.1 This is even truer when it comes to digital games that are related to Hindu and Buddhist traditions, regions, and audiences. Though in the first decade of the...

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4. Silent Hill and Fatal Frame: Finding Transcendent Horror in and beyond the Haunted Magic Circle

Brenda S. Gardenour Walter

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pp. 88-106

On a rainy afternoon in a sleepy, middle-class American town, seventeen-year-old Heather Mason visits an aging shopping mall on an errand for her father. Walking through the main entrance, Heather is transported to the horrifying town of Silent Hill, where the mall has become a monster-infested and blood-soaked nightmare. Descending...

PART 2. Religion in Mainstream Games

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5. From Kuma\War to Quraish: Representation of Islam in Arab and American Video Games

Vít Šisler

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pp. 109-133

Video games increasingly recreate real-world events and spaces, making tangible connections to the outside world. In doing so, they use real people, places, and cultures as their referents, opening new forms of representation.1 Since 9/11 there has been an increase in video games, mainly first-person shooters, produced in the United ...

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6. Citing the Medieval: Using Religion as World-Building Infrastructure in Fantasy MMORPGs

Rabia Gregory

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pp. 134-153

“A betrayal. A curse. The Age of Strife Begins. . . . Warriors, heroes, and adventurers begin the restoration. . . . What role will you play? Join the battle for supremacy or let chaos rule. Shadowbane.” This resonant baritone voiceover to the cinematic introduction to Wolfpack’s 2003 massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) lists dualistic clichés of fantasy role-playing games as the camera pans over...

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7. Hardcore Christian Gamers: How Religion Shapes Evangelical Play

Shanny Luft

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pp. 154-169

On the website Hardcore Christian Gamer (HCG), evangelicals share their faith as they deliberate over their favorite video games.1 Their religiosity is overt. Members engage in online Bible study, post prayer requests, and share spiritual testimonies with one another. For example, in a discussion forum designated for sharing spiritual testimony...

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8. Filtering Cultural Feedback: Religion, Censorship, and Localization in Actraiser and Other Mainstream Video Games

Peter Likarish

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pp. 170-190

Users don’t always play the same game. Two gamers rush home with copies of a recent entry in their favorite fighting game series, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi (Atari, 2007). One lives in Japan, the other in the United States. Both tear open the packaging, choose their favorite character, and start fighting others from the television series....

PART 3. Gaming as Implicit Religion

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9. The Importance of Playing in Earnest

Rachel Wagner

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pp. 193-213

The error people tend to make the most in thinking about games and religion is to assume that the primary opposition at work is the idea that religion is “serious” whereas games are “fun.” I propose that a more accurate distinction is between being earnest as opposed to being insincere in one’s engagement with the ordered world...

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10. “God Modes” and “God Moods”: What Does a Digital Game Need to Be Spiritually Effective?

Oliver Steffen

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pp. 214-237

“I’m not sure how much religion you’ll find in The Path,” writes Michaël Samyn, director of the Belgian independent studio Tale of Tales, in response to an inquiry.1 After all, The Path “is a short horror game inspired by older versions of Little Red Riding Hood, set in modern day.”2 Six sisters, aged nine to nineteen, are sent on an errand to their ...

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11. Bridging Multiple Realities: Religion, Play, and Alfred Schutz’s Theory of the Life-World

Michael Waltemathe

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pp. 238-254

In Resistance: Fall of Man, a first-person shooter set in an alternative history, aliens have attacked earth and enslaved most of humankind and transformed them into supersoldiers. Some of the fighting in the game takes place in what is left of Manchester Cathedral in England, which in the alternative history is now infested by alien forces. As a result of this depiction, in the real world the Church of England ...

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12. They Kill Mystery: The Mechanistic Bias of Video Game Representations of Religion and Spirituality

Kevin Schut

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pp. 255-276

The video game medium is ideally suited to represent one aspect of religion: the experience of being a god. Game after game gifts players with supernatural powers. From Dust (Ubisoft, 2011) has players take the role of a Polynesian deity that protects The People mostly via reshaping entire islands. The title character of Bayonetta (Platinum Games, 2009) is a witch who can take on and destroy the forces of heaven....


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pp. 277-280


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pp. 281-284


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pp. 285-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780253012630
E-ISBN-10: 0253012635
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253012531

Page Count: 314
Illustrations: 7 b&w illus., 3 tables
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Digital Game Studies
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OCLC Number: 878923601
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Playing with Religion in Digital Games