2010-02-24

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.


* * *

The State of Video Game Studies & the Study of Religion
In a word, at present there seems yet to be no intersection of these two academic pursuits, despite the rich potential which lies in looking at video games with an eye to religion. Our purpose herein will be to make the smallest beginning of filling this void, prompted by observing that first, video games often have religious content of some sort (a matter primarily examined in our first section, "Against the Naysayers" and more fully in our mythologically-oriented section); second, that moreover video games have taken on certain religious functions and structural characteristics (to be explained and considered also in the mythological section, and again remarked upon when video gaming is considered as a 'way of life,' as well as perhaps in our ludological overview); and finally by a consideration of the possibility that their influence upon the dimension of our society generally regarded as the domain of religion grows so great that we would be remiss to fail to study them from a religious studies standpoint (which great influence will be evident throughout, and particularly in the "Way of Life" section and our concluding meta-examination).

In pursuing this purpose, we aim only for the most cursory of overviews and the sketchiest of inferences. Nothing conclusive is promised – but hopefully stimulating points may be made, and further thinking prompted.

Against the Naysayers
In referring to "the naysayers" in this section, no individuals in particular are meant. They are only an interlocutor standing in both for the general gripe that video games are bad for or against religion properly so-called, and for the counter-assertion against our entire project: that any religious content in video games is merely flavor. This section will be little more than a brief dismissal. For the part of the first breed of naysayer: the quite similar "video-games-make-our-kids-shoot-people" and the "video-games-make-our-kids-devil-worshippers" varieties are not to be taken seriously. To be fair, the sort of concern they represent is not necessarily unfounded. However, without saying more, the present overview alone ought to demonstrate that these camps are misguided.

As for the second sort of naysayer, he who will not allow that there is any weighty religious dimension to video games, it is precisely the aim of our project to demonstrate that such a brushing-off misses a very big point. While we will agree that some arguably religious content in video games is indeed merely flavor, nonetheless such content may be crucial: as the experiments of Lee et al demonstrate, narrative and background information plays a significant part in creating feelings of presence and a sense of immersion (phenomena to be considered more carefully below). If even merely flavorful religious content contributes to that background, its importance for the player's experience of the game cannot be underestimated. Some (Tews, for instance, to whom we will refer more than once again) go so far as to say that video games have "become an acculturating force" shaping "collective social consciousness" (Wolf p. 180), in which case we can hardly disregard the religious significance of video games.

Simply put, the religious dimension of video games cannot be ignored or glossed over. Pressing on, this will become quite evident.

Ludology
We may seem to be venturing a little off topic in addressing purely ludological questions, as their significance is not primarily religious. Nonetheless, understanding video games on their own level, as it were, provides good background and foundation to further investigation. Herein, then, for want of space we shall primarily examine one classificatory model, and the phenomenon of 'presence.' After each step we will propose some possible religious implications.

Lauwaert, Wachelder, and van de Walle Revisit Callois. In "Frustrating Desire" the authors discuss the merits and shortcomings of Roger Callois' seminal system of classifying games (briefly outlined in the annotation below). With the addition of repens, the element of surprise in a video game which draws the player forward (obtaining the main character's ultimate weapon in Final Fantasy X, for instance), and repositio, forced retry of actions or series of actions (the aggravating racing mini-game which must be played again and again to obtain said weapon), the modified Callois model seems well-suited for application to any video game. We may propose that this model can reveal a level of similarity between video games and religion inasmuch as one could use it just as well to classify religious behaviors or objects. Without being too facetious, one might observe that a teleological tradition like Christianity is relatively more ludic than Shinto, in that the former specifies an end goal and how to achieve it, while the latter contents itself with a rather paidic worship. Accordingly, one could find examples of religious phenomena which fit into any of Callois' four categories (Chinese stalk divination has a bit of alea about it, while glossolalia definitely smacks of ilinx).

Perhaps more interestingly, one could apply the lens of repens and repositio to religion quite fruitfully. Buddhist meditation draws many with the repens-promise of enlightenment, but few can endure the seemingly endless repositio of being distracted and beginning one's meditative exercise over again. If, as Lauwaert et al assert, this interplay and balance of repens and repositio constitutes the mechanics of learning, then perhaps the presence of the repens-repositio process in both video games and religion points to a significant underlying similarity.

Presence. The essential characteristic of the feeling of 'presence' is "the artificial sense that a user has in a virtual environment that the environment is unmediated." (Wolf & Perron p. 72) The definition given by Lee et al (p. 9) highlights the same quality of forgotten mediation, and moreover the three kinds of presence they distinguish – physical, social, and self presence – specify the kinds of objects felt to be unmediated. Interestingly, Lee et al note the growing importance of social presence, noting that video gaming is becoming more and more social, while on the other hand, McMahan (in "Immersion, Engagement, and Presence") stresses the importance of the social dimension in creating strong feelings of presence (Wolf & Perron p. 73 - 75). We will return to this social question in a later section.

Inasmuch as it is a question of mediation, scholars of religion are already quite interested in the matter of presence – one need only recall the Katz-Forman debate, for instance. The creation of virtual environments, I have heard it remarked, was once primarily the business of religion. If a little cynicism may be allowed, getting people to feel that their interaction in a certain virtual world is unmediated might be one way of defining religion. David Miller might have been on target indeed in Gods and Games when he told us religion was a game.

While we have of necessity been brief, even so terse a glance as we have given video game ludology should be more than sufficient to illustrate the potential for worthwhile investigation of the points of contact between video game and religious studies.

The Myth Medium
In this section we have two aims: first, to note the often mythical and religious elements of video game content, and second, to propose that over and above this superficial appropriation, video games have come to fill a role in which they behave much as myth once did in traditional society.

Mythical and Religious Images. Our first aim does not require us to look very far. Many are the video games in which mythical or religious imagery is to be found. Often, we must concede to the naysayers, much such content seems purely for flavor – the Castlevania series, a long-lived family of vampire-hunting adventure games, is rife with crosses and holy water; in many Final Fantasy games, occult-looking designs often appear when characters use magic attacks, and elsewhere. In neither example are these elements particularly significant. However, in noticing such superficialities, we must recognize a deeper importance. While on one hand Castlevania may initially have relied on pseudo-Christian and occult imagery as a skin for another early platform-jumping adventure game, more and more that imagery has become the basis for its entire atmosphere and storyline, spanning a veritable epic saga's worth of more and more involved installments. Similarly, since one of the earliest Final Fantasy games, players have been able to summon special monsters to fight for them in battle, frequently including the gods Odin and Shiva, and mythological personages such as Gilgamesh, the phoenix, and a dragon called Bahamut. Though most of the Final Fantasy games' storylines are unrelated, the recurrent presence of these characters ties the series together, and moreover infuses the games with a new variation of the ancient belief in protective spirits.

Sometimes this mythic content even goes beyond allusion and profoundly shapes the entire game. Perhaps the best example is Ōkami, in which the player becomes the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu incarnated as a wolf. (The game's title puns ookami, "wolf" and Ōkami, "great spirit," one of the sun goddess' appellations.) The whole game world and its story is a twist on Shinto mythology, which even ends with a remarkable call to assist the gods with our prayers. Since collecting points representing non-player characters' belief in your existence as an efficacious deity is actually part of the game mechanics, it is (perhaps deliberately, in this case) unclear whether this exhortation is meant to be regarded as simply part of the game or taken truly to heart by the player.

Taylor & Kolko remark upon the blurring of the boundaries in their examination of Majestic, a very different game; Ōkami shows another kind of boundary-pushing, particularly in the mythological and religious dimension. We should remember Frasca's insight (in "Simulation versus Narrative") that video games communicate ideology, even when we consider games with "made-up" religious ideas. In Final Fantasy VII, one of the franchise's most popular titles, the story revolves around the notion that the planet and all living things are animated by a spiritual-physical force called the Lifestream. As much as an explicitly religious document, Final Fantasy VII communicates this animistic message, which no doubt owes something to Japanese religious ideas in the "real world."

Doing Mythical Work. These observations lead us to our second aim, which more or less boils down to asserting that video games have come to provide the sort of common ground and social connection established by shared myths and religious lives in days of yore. This connection has already been made by Rebecca Tews in "Archetypes on Acid," where she notes "In modern society, we spend little time engaged in telling the stories of old. Gone are the fireside stories of the ancient heroes ... In their place ... we become [our new heroes], writing the script through our experiences in the video game world." (Wolf p. 175) Tews goes on to suggest that these experiences "perpetuate a distinctive culture and interpretation of reality" through the presence therein of "the cultural archetypes of all human knowledge." (Wolf p. 180) Even if we may be disinclined to accompany Tews to the end of her Jungian path, still we cannot but acknowledge that "the author [of a game] can imbed a worldview into the structure of the game itself, which is then 'lived out' by the player-character." (Wolf p. 109) With this in mind, we may note that a video game, and perhaps even more so a video game franchise, quite literally can become a myth cycle shared by its millions of players. The Castlevania and Final Fantasy series certainly fit this bill.

Most importantly we should take away from this section the point that video games indeed have this acculturating and socializing capacity, which may be the heart of our considerations in the following section.

Video Games as a Way of Life
To begin with, dispelling the popular image of the lone introverted gamer is our singular goal in this section. In so doing, we will reiterate that video gaming is an eminently social thing, capable of guiding and tying together peoples' lives as much as religion does. Afterward we will move on to address convergence and its bearing on the religious dimension of video gaming.

The Isolated Gamer. This stereotype continues to be probably the most common conception of video game players, perpetuated by legends of StarCraft players so immersed in their game and so obviously out of touch with the real world that they forget nourishment and rest and perish upon their keyboards. Against this mirage of the fatally ascetic loner we may look back to the origins of video gaming: the arcade. In "Hot Circuits" Rochelle Slovin notes the highly social character of arcade gameplay, though she also perpetuates the antisocial gamer image by contrasting the arcade with "solitary, home-based entertainment" (Wolf p. 145). To be fair, many players do spend an awful lot of time, often alone, playing video games. However, even the most time-consuming games, especially nowadays, are very social activities in various ways. Many, like StarCraft, are most popular for their multiplayer modes, in which several players, often over the internet, connect and play against each other. The ultimate iteration of this phenomenon, of course, is the massively multiplayer online game. T. L. Taylor devotes an entire book (Play Between Worlds) to EverQuest, one of the most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing games, set in a Tolkien-derivitive fantasy world. Were Taylor's book to be reduced to a single point, it would no doubt be: EverQuest is society. That is, social interaction serves as the very foundation of the game, as she argues throughout her work, and for many players is the point of their play. The richness of her argument cannot be reproduced here, so it must suffice to say that in this respect, certain kinds of games directly connect player to player. (Even outside the game, as in the case of the "Fan Faire" she attended.)

As suggested in our mythological section, video games also bring people together indirectly via mutual participation in the same game, even if not at the same time. This accounts for another broad sort of video game socialization, which above we suggested has a potentially religious dimension. Tews, speaking of the continuation of gaming habits into adulthood, notes "for many younger families gaming is a form of interactive family entertainment and a cultural tradition shared between generations from infancy on." (Wolf p. 171) To add another facet to the religious resemblance of this socializing phenomenon, which brings people together in participation much like religion and its ritual, we may recall Rappaport's note that ritual entails acceptance of an invariant sequence not encoded by the participant. In this case, the game itself is the sequence, encoded by designers, accepted by the player so long as they continue to play, and even passed down generation to generation, as Tews observes. While this may constitute merely a formal resemblance, we should be interested to find out whether this religious aspect goes any deeper. In any case, even if the religious dimension be rejected or disproved, the social dimension cannot be, and thus the illusion of video gamers' introverted isolation should fall away.

Convergence is not one of our primary topics, so we shall only say in passing that it illustrates the increasing mediation of the "real world" by the game. Taylor & Kolko's look at the unusual game Majestic (in "Boundary Spaces") shows a fine example of many media converging to create the game world, which fuzzily interpenetrated the players' "real lives." This sort of convergence is on an entirely different level than the more conventional sort, demonstrated by Ewan Kirkland in "Restless Dreams in Silent Hill" or Jane Park in "Cultural and Formal Convergence in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within." Kirkland focuses on video games' use of cinematic conventions, while Park examines the phenomenon of movies based on video games. The sort of convergence Majestic created, however, remains rare. What would interest the scholar of religion and video games would be convergence which on one hand disseminated content connecting various aspects of players' lives, much as does religious content, and more importantly, on the other hand constituted a new sort of mediated experience – one of immersion and presence and simulation; in other words, a convergence of media and content with an effect as radical as religion itself has always had. Precisely this convergence has been our focus in this and the previous section.

Meta-Examination of Video Games and Religion
"A theologia ludens" Miller wrote, "would view God as a player, man as a player" (Miller p. 158). Publishing his book in 1970, he probably never imagined the literal realization of this foundational element of his proposed theologia ludens in video games (Computer Space, the first coin-operated arcade game, would appear in 1971). Now we have real time strategy games like WarCraft or more paidic games like The Sims which give the player a god's-eye-view and allow him to control the tides of war and the banalities of everyday life. In Black and White, the player even becomes an actual god, good or evil, and sets about the task of amassing followers. Many video gamers presently look forward to Spore, a game holding the promise of letting the player become western science's secular creator god (remember, video games communicate ideology).

But in 'god-games' there is no in-game representation of the player. Such games only put man the player in the place of God the player, thus keeping "God as a player" and "man as a player" separate, and constituting an imitation of God's game by man. Even more powerful is the player's becoming an avatar of God. (Ironic that this was precisely the original meaning of avatar before the term was imported to refer to the in-game representation of the player; now it has come full circle.) When man the player grasps the controller and begins to play in the myth-like game world, his control of the in-game character representing him gradually joins him to that character, who, like a mythical hero, is a sort of god already. "The interactive medium of video games allows us to join the story in progress and become one with the quest" Tews observes. "Regardless of whether the game involves dueling adversaries, a quest for treasure, or simply perfection of a skill – the games themselves become symbolic of our own quest to self-actualize, our quest to become better than we currently are." (Wolf p. 175 - 176) At bottom, perhaps this is the most salient consequence of video games' resemblance of religion: through playing video games, as through playing the religion game, a sort of learning may be achieved through an identification in which man becomes the quester. Man the player becomes the avatar of the god as whom he plays.

Annotations

Aarseth, Espen. "Playing Research: Methodological approaches to game analysis." DAC conference, Melbourne, May, 2003.
Aarseth's purpose here is to distinguish the video game as its own distinct art form – rather than regarding it as subsumable to the conventions of film studies, for instance, as often is the case – and to provide a method for analyzing it as such. With his first step in this direction, he puts forward the term "games in virtual environments" to put an end to disputes over what exactly constitutes the object of 'video game' studies. He proposes that all games of this type possess three critical dimensions: gameplay (having to do with the player), game-structure ("the rules of the game," which when it comes to video games more or less means the game engine), and game-world (the content of the game, both in terms of things like the story and the characters as well as incidental parts of the game's virtual world itself like the layout of levels and the textures mapped onto three-dimensional polygons). Aarseth further suggests that each of these three dimensions is particularly suitable for analysis by certain disciplines in particular: gameplay by sociology and psychology; game-rules by computer science and game designers; game-world by art history, cultural studies, and so on.

In addition to this tripartite model, Aarseth moreover insists that of the three ways to study a particular game (talking to the designers, watching others play, and playing oneself), first-hand experience of playing the game is paramount. He mentions Bartle's famous four types of players in order to discuss different play styles, segueing into a consideration of the use of guides and walkthroughs by video game scholars (which leads him to propose a fifth player type, the Cheater). With these considerations he means to guide scholars in their decisions of how to play games in order to study them.

Aarseth, Espen, "Quest Games as Post-Narrative Discourse." Narrative across Media. Ed. Marie-Laurie Ryan. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 361 - 376.
As the title suggests, here Aarseth once again endeavors to free video game studies from being bound up with the methodology of disciplines developed for other media. Specifically, he argues that analyzing video games simply as stories is not only formally inappropriate but actually detrimental to the analytical effort's success. While making this case by way of examining the nature of the quest in three different games, Aarseth puts forward the notion of games' narrative structure corresponding to more or less (un)alterable strings of beads, each bead representing the part of the game in which the player may move at a given time, while the string (sometimes more like a tree branch, however, if not a spider web) represents the complete structure of the whole game. This string-of-pearls model helps to illustrate the nature of some video game narratives, providing a way to distinguish them from film or literary narrative.


Crogan, Patrick, "Gametime: History, Narrative, and Temporality in Combat Flight Simulator 2." The Video Game Theory Reader. Eds. Mark Wolf and Bernard Perron. New York: Routledge, 2003. 275 - 301.
This chapter uses the example of Combat Flight Simulator 2 to illustrate the interrelatedness of historical representations and contemporary cultural milieux as they come together in such video games. While the article would likely be of greatest interest to the video games scholar with an eye to history, for our project it is worth noting for its point that video games serve on more levels than one as training devices for the player. This notion not only has ludological significance, but gains our attention in considering the mythological aspects of video games as well.

Frasca, Gonzalo, "Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology." The Video Game Theory Reader. Eds. Mark Wolf and Bernard Perron. New York: Routledge, 2003. 221 - 235.
Frasca touches on numerous points worth mention in this chapter, but central to the piece is, of course, his discussion of simulation, which he contrasts with the previously more common phenomenon of representation. Touching on Callois' pivotal classificatory categories, Frasca goes on to suggest a three-level model for simulations' capacity to "convey ideology." All in all, this chapter proves a useful addition to our ludological battery, as well as giving some food for thought regarding the broader implications of the growing prevalence of simulation.
Grodal, Torben, "Stories for Eye, Ear, and Muscles: Video Games, Media, and Embodied Experiences." The Video Game Theory Reader. Eds. Mark Wolf and Bernard Perron. New York: Routledge, 2003. 129 - 155.
The author herein presents video games as successors in a line of storytelling media, while avoiding subsuming them entirely to the conventions of their predecessors. Most interestingly, Grodal recognizes certain aspects of video game storytelling which set the medium apart, notably the necessity of player participation to move the progression forward. As such, this piece represents a point of contact between our ludological and mythological inquiries.

Kirkland, Ewan. "Restless dreams in Silent Hill: approaches to video game analysis." Journal of Media Practice 6:3 (2005): 167 - 178.
Kirkland's article serves as an excellent example of analyzing a video game in terms of other media (perhaps much to Espen Aarseth's chagrin). Basically his purpose in this piece is to demonstrate the reliance on the cinematic conventions of horror film evident in the Silent Hill series of games, as well as point out the fairly linear narrative development built into these games. Our interest in this article lies chiefly in its illustration of the "intertextuality" of video games, a point considered in our examination of video games as a 'way of life.'

Lauwaert, Maaike, Joseph Wachelder, and Johan van de Walle. "Frustrating Desire: On Repens and Repositio, or the Attractions and Distractions of Digital games." Theory, Culture & Society 24 (2007): 89 - 108.
In this article the authors are revisiting Roger Callois' Les Jeux et les hommes and its oft-cited system of classifying games by the four types of agon, alea, mimicry, and ilinx, and the spectrum of paidia and ludus. While the article does not explicitly draw any connections to religion, it does serve as an excellent starting point for the ludological portion of our project's inquiry. This all the more so because the article begins by briefly contextualizing Callois' work in relation to Lévi-Strauss' thoughts on playing games, as well as Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens.

The authors' contribution in this article lies primarily in pointing out first that Callois' classifications may still be usefully applied to contemporary video games, and second in suggesting how those classifications need to be adapted in order thus to be applied. In a word, they assert that while Callois never foresaw games in which certain combinations of his categories were possible, video games (like their example, Final Fantasy X) have opened the way for such unforeseen combination because of their dynamic temporal structure. To integrate this aspect into Callois' framework, the authors coin the terms repens and repositio to stand for "surprise" and "(forced) retry" respectively. The balance between repens, drawing the player to continue playing, and repositio, forcing the player to go back and try again, bears critically on a game's (re)playability. The authors demonstrate how this analysis may be applied to various sorts of games, and conclude with fascinating comments about video games and learning.

Lee, K. M., Jin, S., Park, N., and Kang, S. "Effects of Narrative on Feelings of Presence in Computer-Game Playing." International Communication Association, New York, May, 2005.
The authors of this piece employ genuine scientific methodology to explore the relation between narrative and presence, “a psychological state in which virtual objects are experienced as actual objects in either sensory or non-sensory ways.” They report on a series of experiments which more or less substantiated their underlying thesis: a fleshed-out narrative background bolsters feelings of presence in video game players. In this regard, the article proves a valuable piece of the discussion of narrative and gameplay, which concerns us tangentially in countering the assertion that religious content in video games is merely a matter of style or flavor, and moreover bears on our consideration of video games as a myth media. Additionally, the discussion in this piece of the various kinds of presence adds a good deal to our ludological framework.

McMahan, Alison, "Immersion, Engagement, and Presence: A Method for Analyzing 3-D Video Games." The Video Game Theory Reader. Eds. Mark Wolf and Bernard Perron. New York: Routledge, 2003. 67 - 86.
This chapter, true to its title, considers various aspects of the qualities video games possess which conduce to the player's forgetting they are having a mediated experience. In this regard the piece nicely complements the brief discussion of 'presence' in Lee et al's scientific report. Moreover, though, this piece emphasizes the importance of the social dimension of bringing about immersion and feelings of presence, a point which brings our ludological inquiry into significant contact with our analysis of video games as ways of life.

Miller, David. Gods & Games: Toward a Theology of Play. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
Miller's book is a bit outdated to be centrally useful to the present project, and occasionally the text borders on being outright asinine, but nonetheless some interesting ideas are bandied about by the author. The bulk of the book's first half is devoted to a lengthy review of writings from various and sundry disciplines having anything to do with games and playing, and therein one finds a handful of points with which our project is concerned on several fronts, not least of which are learning through imitation and the performance of roles. For its age and all its levity, this work does demand attention as one of the few writings explicitly concerned with religion and games.

Park, Jane. "Cultural and Formal Convergence in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within." International Communication Association, San Diego, 27 May, 2003.
Park's article focuses not on video games themselves, but on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a computer-generated film produced by the makers of the prolific Final Fantasy franchise. Specifically, the article examines the phenomenon of a video game's quest narrative being translated into cinematic form, in contrast to the much more common opposite. For the most part this piece interests us as an indicator of the sort of convergence among media which video games are most involved in, and as such is worth noting in our examination of video games as ways of life.

Rehak, Bob, "Playing at Being: Psychoanalysis and the Avatar." The Video Game Theory Reader. Eds. Mark Wolf and Bernard Perron. New York: Routledge, 2003. 103 - 127.
While this chapter suffers some residual affliction of Freudian psychoanalysis, the author makes several interesting points about the nature of player mediation via the in-game avatar, a question of perennial interest. These ideas bear consideration in our meta-examination of the video game medium.

Slovin, Rochelle, "Hot Circuits: Reflections on the 1989 Video Game Exhibition of the American Museum of the Moving Image." The Medium of the Video Game. Ed. Mark Wolf. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. 138 - 154.
This piece is actually the author's reflections on a museum exhibit of classic arcade games originally organized in the late 1980s. On the whole it has little of direct pertinence to our project, but its consideration of the eminently social nature of early arcade game playing (contrasted with the supposedly relatively isolated nature of private play at home) is worth noting in our examination of video games as a way of life.

Taylor, T. L. Play Between Worlds. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2006.
While the present project has explicitly avoided focusing on massively multiplayer online games, Taylor's book about EverQuest, one of the most popular MMORPGs, proves itself actually a very valuable contribution, one which demonstrates that we could easily have limited our research to MMO games alone and had quite as much work cut out for us. While Taylor addresses several aspects of MMO gaming, the most significant point her book makes concerns the social nature of video gaming, that is, her study strongly demonstrates the flimsiness of the popular image of the isolated gamer alone in the dark, with no social life to speak of. Her discussion of EverQuest social life serves as one example of video gaming as a way of life, and moreover, our project uses her demonstration of the social quality of certain kinds of video games as a stepping stone to assert the social nature of video gaming more generally.

Taylor, T. L., and Beth Kolko. "Boundary Spaces: Majestic and the uncertain status of knowledge, community and self in a digital age." Information, Communication & Society 6:4 497 - 622.
With the example of Majestic, a game utilizing various communications media – telephone, fax, instant messaging, &c. – to create an immersive conspiracy theory experience, this article aims to demonstrate the blurriness of the boundary between gameplay and 'real life,' particularly in terms of the boundary between "fake" in-game information and "real" or legitimate information ostensibly outside the game. The implications of this blurring of veracity interest us in our consideration of the video game as the myth medium. Additionally, of course, a game like Majestic serves as one manner in which video games can become a way of life.

Tews, Rebecca, "Archetypes on Acid: Video Games and Culture." The Medium of the Video Game. Ed. Mark Wolf. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. 169 - 182.
Tews presents a psychological perspective on video gaming, surveying a handful of possible approaches to the phenomenon. Of these, she favors Jungian psychoanalysis, perhaps a curious choice, but one which yields the rich result of reading video games in terms of the presence of archetypal characters therein (from Pac-Man the sun god to Lara Croft the über-anima). Needless to say, this perspective weighs heavily in our examination of video games as myth media. Tews' thoughts on the social effects of video games also interest us in various sections of our project.

Wolf, Mark, "Narrative in the Video Game." The Medium of the Video Game. Ed. Mark Wolf. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. 93 - 111.
In this chapter, as elsewhere, Wolf takes the more common standpoint of considering video games in light of the conventions of other media, notably film. (In contrast to Espen Aarseth, who insists upon the independence of the video game as a medium and art form.) Wolf lays out a historical examination of the development of games' diegetic worlds – "the 'world' seen on screen, where the characters exist and where the story's events occur." This chapter is marked by a focus on interactivity, which interests us across the board in our project's various lines of inquiry.

Wolf, Mark, "Genre and the Video Game." The Medium of the Video Game. Ed. Mark Wolf. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. 113 - 134.
Again, Wolf imports the practice of classification by genre from literary and cinema studies for application to video games. As in the previous chapter, Wolf is set on illustrating the significance of interactivity. In the course of discussing this essential quality of video games, Wolf makes an interesting point or two bearing somewhat on our ludological and mythological considerations; however, his primary purpose in this chapter is presenting a relatively useless and rather obsolete list of video game genres based on the sort of interaction involved.

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