A new online journal seeks to broaden and energize scholarly and popular discussions on video gaming, religion and culture. Motivated by evidence that suggests video games play an important role in cultural and religious socialization, especially for the young people, “gamevironments. games, religion, and stuff” is a groundbreaking journal highlighting important approaches to studying gaming and religion.
The publication is spearheaded by Kerstin Radde-Antweiler, Associate Professor of Media of Religions from the University of Bremen in Germany, and Xenia Zeiler, Associate Professor of South Asian Studies, from the University of Helsinki in Finland. They represent a new movement of scholars that take seriously the ways digital and video games and game play reflect and shape popular notions about religion in contemporary culture.
Gamevironments seeks an exhaustive understanding of video games, religion, and culture through not only providing analysis of the religious themes within video game content, but also provide spotlight research that focuses on the impact religious characters and narratives have on gamers.
As Radde-Antweiler states, “This journal looks beyond how religion is simply depicted and narrated in video games, by also highlighting research of how religion is encountered in studies of gaming and environments.”
Together Radde-Antweiler and Zeiler argue that in order to fully understanding the complex relation of religion and video games requires gathering information on more than just the content of games. It includes truly exploring how religious content in games such as World of Warcraft and Halo are discussed and negotiated by the very people playing these games.
“For us the title ‘gameviroments’ captures this important and unique approach to studying religion and games,” suggests Zeiler, “We are interested in the actual discussion on religious content within a game by gamers, and other people interested in games.“
As the journal’s title implies, articles seek to provide a new understanding of both the technical and cultural environments of video games. This is unpacked in the inaugural issue which spotlights importance of researching ‘game environments’, or gamevironments, through so-called Let’s Plays. These are increasingly popular self-recorded gaming videos, where gamers narrate their strategies and are commented on by often tens of thousands of people. Studying Lets plays allows researchers unique insights into how gamers and audiences perceive gaming and discuss them.
Future issues will also take-up topics including games for education and religion and video games in Asia. The editors welcome contributions in these areas and on any other topic which addresses religion in diverse global video games and the gaming landscape. Their aim is to establish and maintain a critical dialogue on religion, gaming and culture, which include perspectives beyond regional contexts.
“Overall the journal demonstrates the key approaches and new frontiers of researching video games and gaming which strongly relate to religion, culture, and society from a global perspective . . . Work presented here will help widen the lens by drawing attention to research on the actors, that is gamers and people interested in playing and commenting on games,” said Zeiler.
The first issue gamevironments –titled “Video Gaming, Let’s Plays, and Religion: The Relevance of Researching Gamevironments”–was released for publication on December 31st, and is found at: http://www.gamevironments.com.
This summary of research is provided by the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu), which seeks to show how digital religion shapes our everyday lives and world.