Video Games and Religion: A Fivefold Inquiry

I've mentioned before that I started this blog to pursue some of my incidental academic interests in the wake of a course at Reed College on religion and media studies, in which I wrote a final paper on religion and video games. This week, I give you that paper and the annotated bibliography which accompanied it. In future posts we may examine some of the theory mentioned here more closely, and bring it to bear on video games of interest.

This paper was originally written in the Spring of 2007.


Magic Cards as Icons

To wrap up our series of posts on Magic: The Gathering, we'll change gears and consider one perhaps less substantive but nevertheless fascinating aspect of the game which occasionally has some overlap with religious imagery. Magic cards' art is for many players and collectors an important attraction, and sometimes the primary attraction to the game. Indeed, when I first encountered Magic in elementary school, I never had any idea how to play, but collected the cards for their art.


MTG as Ritual, Part II: Player as Planeswalker

Last week, we found that while still just a card game, Magic: The Gathering fits Rappaport's definition of ritual, which we established by checking the game's characteristics against the definition step by step. In order to cement an understanding of why Magic not only happens to fit a definition of ritual, but really works like ritual, we will today consider the issue from a different angle: the player's perspective.


MTG as Ritual, Part I

Armed with a definition of ritual from our previous post, let us examine Magic: The Gathering in light of that definition, and see how the card game fits the bill. Recall Rappaport's definition of ritual:

"I take the term 'ritual' to denote the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not entirely encoded by the performers." (Roy Rappaport, Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity, 24. Italics his.)