IMS-er Stef Aupers and Julian Schaap (Erasmus University Rotterdam) have recently published a paper titled: “Gods in World of Warcraft exist: Religious reflexivity and the quest for meaning in online computer games.” in New Media & Society.
In ‘secular’ Western societies, religious topics permeate media texts of books, films, series and games and such texts even inform several religious-spiritual movements. Critically expanding on theories about ‘fiction-based religion’, ‘invented religion’ or ‘hyper-real
religion’, this article studies if, how and why players of the massively multiplayer online
role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft reflect on religious narratives in the
game world and what influence it has on their personal perspective on religion. Based
on interviews with 22 international players, three forms of ‘religious reflexivity’ are
distinguished: (1) religious performance, an acting out of offline experiences with religion
through online role-playing; (2) religious relativism, a shift from dogmatic atheism to a
tolerant attitude towards religion; and (3) religious quests, an increased interest in
religion and active ‘bricolage’ of online religion and official religion to create personal
systems of meaning. Online games, it is concluded, can serve as laboratories where
youngsters freely experiment with religion outside the established churches.
The paper is available via: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/04/20/1461444816642421.full