Special Issue "Games and God"
A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 June 2019
Religions is seeking contributions for a Special Issue on games and religion. It is difficult to overstate the footprint of god-related content in contemporary video games. There are “god games” where the player is the deity. There are immersive world games where gods and heroes mingle. There are magic games where power comes from the gods. It is difficult to find a story-driven game that does not have its version of the Devil, some sort of incarnate Evil. Gods, saints, and demons: Religion is everywhere in contemporary gaming culture.
Research on this topic has come in two and perhaps three modes. First, researchers examine religion as one element in the larger culture within a game. The game’s religion is not the specific focus. Second, they examine how out-of-game religious actors attempt to proselytize within games. A third perhaps related line of research examines how game play affects moral action.
Within this literature, there is an odd absence of research related to a phenomenon that has been explored intensively in other contexts: The effect of the game on the outer world. What happens in games does not stay there; it always seeps out and sometimes bursts out, as with virtual currency. In 2006, many of us pondered the effect of game currencies on the real economy. Now we know: Game currencies were the model for Bitcoin, which has become the model for countless other cryptocurrencies, whose growth and reach threaten to completely decentralize global finance.
In the case of religion, we can well ask: What effect will game religions have on human religious practice in general? We are living through an odd moment. Religion in the out-world is being increasingly privatized, driven out of the public square, whereas in games it shouts it existence and plays a central role in motivating the characters. Games offer a robust, confident, and loudly proclaimed expression of humanity’s religious impulse, even as the religions of the brick-and-mortar world steadily recede in significance and voice.
- Why is this happening? Why would religions become a powerful cultural element in fantasy worlds and at the same time lose influence in the outer world? Are these two developments related?
- Scholars have produced many explanations for the decline of religious practice in the outer world. Why do these ideas not carry over into game worlds? What is different about games, so that the same people who have abandoned churches enthusiastically become virtual priests?
- What evidence is there of game religions affecting the out world? If there were an outward transfer of game religion, what would it look like? Is it possible that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is essentially game religion as lived practice?
- How does playing games affect the player’s notions of God? Do games systematically encourage faith, or do they call it into question?
- In what way are these questions different from those asked of other media: Television, movies, the internet. Is there something special about games?
Games stir up an explosive mix of faith, action, and fantasy. One could say that religions do the same. In this issue, Religions will explore how these two cultural phenomena relate.
Prof. Dr. Edward Castronova
Manuscript Submission Information
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- computer games
- video games
- new media
- virtual reality
- religious practice