eGods: Faith versus Fantasy in Computer Gaming

eGods: Faith versus Fantasy in Computer Gaming

by William Sims Bainbridge
     
 

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What is the relationship between religion and multi-player online roleplaying games? Are such games simply a secular distraction from traditional religious practices, or do they in fact offer a different route to the sacred?

In eGods, a leading scholar in the study of virtual gameworlds takes an in-depth look at the fantasy religions of 41 games and arrives at

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Overview

What is the relationship between religion and multi-player online roleplaying games? Are such games simply a secular distraction from traditional religious practices, or do they in fact offer a different route to the sacred?

In eGods, a leading scholar in the study of virtual gameworlds takes an in-depth look at the fantasy religions of 41 games and arrives at some surprising conclusions. William Sims Bainbridge investigates all aspects of the gameworlds' religious dimensions: the focus on sacred spaces; the prevalence of magic; the fostering of a tribal morality by both religion and rules programmed into the game; the rise of cults and belief systems within the gameworlds (and how this relates to cults in the real world); the predominance of polytheism; and, of course, how gameworld religions depict death. As avatars are multiple and immortal, death is merely a minor setback in most games. Nevertheless, much of the action in some gameworlds centers on the issue of mortality and the problematic nature of resurrection. Examining EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and many others, Bainbridge contends that gameworlds offer a new perspective on the human quest, one that combines the arts, simulates many aspects of real life, and provides meaningful narratives about achieving goals by overcoming obstacles. Indeed, Bainbridge suggests that such games take us back to those ancient nights around the fire, when shadows flickered and it was easy to imagine the monsters conjured by the storyteller lurking in the forest.

Arguing that gameworlds reintroduce a curvilinear model of early religion, where today as in ancient times faith is inseparable from fantasy, eGods shows how the newest secular technology returns us to the very origins of religion so that we might "arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the last decade, video games have received increasing visibility and entered mainstream culture. Bainbridge, a sociologist of religion, participated in the enormous changes occurring in the video game world during this period by presenting an ethnography of religions in virtual online worlds. Using his in-depth research on massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft, Bainbridge examines the use of deities, souls, quests, and other religious entities and concepts in video game narratives, arguing that such stories and playing mechanics (the technical framework of a game)constitute a medium through which players situate themselves in relation to contemporary religion. Bainbridge, who played the games to research them, endowedhis blank MMORPG avatars with history and personality to emphasize the connections between the role-playing done in video games and in the real world. Though sometimes it is easy to stumble on the sheer amount of technical detail that Bainbridge provides,this admirable project legitimizes video games not only as a storytelling medium for entertainment, but also as reflections of history and modern culture to be critically analyzed.(Apr.)
From the Publisher
"This admirable project legitimizes video games not only as a storytelling medium for entertainment, but also as reflections of history and modern culture to be critically analyzed." - Publishers Weekly

"EDITORS' PICK. A long-awaited and truly fascinating book on the relationship between religion and multiplayer online role-playing games by highly respected sociologist of religion, science, and popular culture Bainbridge... The book's subject has been ignored by the academic world, perhaps because of its complexity, or possibly due to some in academia frowning on or ignoring games, even though understanding the gaming world is truly essential for understanding popular culture... This is fine reading. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." - Choice

"This rich, provocative account addresses video games' pervasive religious-themed imagery and constructs, which, prior to Bainbridge's work, have been studiously overlooked in academic study. The nuanced exposition reveals games to be rife with cults, proselytizers, evangelists, inquisitors, afterlives, temples, tombs, shrines, and of course e-gods and goddesses. Essential reading for keeping our ideas about games fresh and finally inquiring about that elephant in the room." - Bonnie Nardi, author of My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft, 2010

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199935833
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
03/26/2013
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
816,158
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

William Sims Bainbridge is a prolific and influential sociologist of religion, science, and popular culture. He serves as co-director of Human-Centered Computing at the National Science Foundation. His books include Leadership in Science and Technology, The Warcraft Civilization, Online Multiplayer Games, Across the Secular Abyss, and The Virtual Future.

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