Born Again Digital: Exploring Evangelical Video Game Worlds Public Deposited

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  • February 2, 2022
  • Gonzalez, Vincent
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
  • Evangelical Christians have been creating video games for over thirty years, outpacing the efforts of all other religions. By the count that guides the present study, 773 games were made for religious audiences through 2010, of which 474 identify their affiliation as only "Christian," or "biblical." Like other artifacts of digital religion, these games allow us to see the entanglement of people's theological and technological universes. However, unlike many other aspects of digital religion, religious video gaming's novel artistic forms, cultural critiques, and theological possibilities largely blossomed beneath notice. Evangelical video game culture, thus, presents the creative production of a historically significant avant garde whose critical perspective has been neglected outside its own community. In particular, Evangelical video gaming transforms the concerns that connect it to other digital cultures - "violence," for instance, or "immersion" - by attending to the moral status of the player-in-play. This study combines the methods of Religious Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and Cultural Studies to show how the popular artifacts of digital religion can shed light upon their cultural context. My initial frame orients Evangelical video games through broad theoretical concerns and a series of cultural histories then focus our attention upon specific telling instances. My introduction applies a relational ontology to establish a vocabulary for examining religious video games in terms of the digital, religion, and play. Chapter two considers how groups learn to live with computers and details the specific stakes of digital religion for Evangelical Christians in the context of "spiritual warfare." Chapter three situates my catalog of religious games within a detailed history of digital religion. Chapter four focuses on the place of Evangelicals in the debates around video game "violence." Chapter five then considers how those debates are visible in seven Evangelical First-Person Shooter games. Chapter six provides a theoretical orientation to the future of Evangelical gaming by considering the notion of "immersion" in games. Chapter seven concludes by summarizing findings and offering suggestions for further research. Finally, an appendix presents a catalog of religious games as a resource for ongoing research.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Ariel, Yaakov
  • Bivins, Jason
  • Saunders, Barry
  • Morgan, David
  • Boyarin, Jonathan
  • Styers, Randall
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2014
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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