New Book Sheds Light on the Role Played by Religion in Digital Games

The book "Playing with Religion in Digital Games" spotlights the growing influence religion has in digital gaming. It also showcases the increased attention by scholars around the world to digital gaming and its impact on popular conceptions of religion.

A recent Indiana University Press release illustrates how using religious images, narratives and characters in popular video and digital games can reveal important insights about how religion in popular culture. Playing with Religion in Digital Games gives a fresh look into a range of common manifestations of spiritual and religious themes of different gaming platforms. The book also maps the ways religion is used in gaming to create myths and meanings, revealing the implications of these uses for gamers and framings of religion.

This is the first volume in Indiana University Press’s Digital Games Studies Series, which is devoted to examining video games while engaging a range of social and cultural issues. The publication is edited by Gregory Price Grieve, associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina and Heidi A Campbell, associate professor of Communication at Texas A&M University, who assembled an international collection of scholars working on the intersection of religion and gaming.

This is an important collection, as editor Gregory Price Grieve notes. “There is a notion that games and religion have nothing to do with each other,” said Grieve. “This book provides evidence that they do actually have a lot of similarities and these similarities offer insights into aspect of how religion is performed.”

The book explores how religion is portrayed and negotiated within religiously-themed gaming, the ways religion is performed and presented within mainstream gaming and how gaming may serve a religious-like role in the practices of some gamers. Chapters analyze debates about how using Muslims and Hindu gods as gaming characters reframes religion in both positive problematic ways. Other chapters consider how some characterizations of religion expressed in popular games present non-traditional conceptions of the relationship that exists between virtual and spiritual worlds.

This book contributes to understanding of how religion is interpreted and employed by game designers and players in important ways, shedding light on existing questions about the role of religion in society and conceptions of religion outside religious communities.

Overall, Playing with Religion in Digital Games maps the different and dominant approaches in the emerging field of religion and gaming studies, while urging why games studies needs to pay more attention to the role played by religion in digital games.

As Grieve comments, “Many people have made very general claims about religion and games, but few close readings about the games themselves exist. No other book provides such a thorough and theoretically mindful analysis of religion within a variety of games as this one.”

The book has already received accolades from Publisher’s Weekly and scholars including Mia Consalvo of Concordia University and author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames.

“This volume brings together the fields of religion studies and game studies in valuable ways,” Consalvo writes. “It helps us see the many and complex roles that religion and spirituality can take on within contemporary videogames, and explores how digital games have become a key element of contemporary life—in both its sacred and its profane expressions.”

Playing with Religion in Digital Games was published by Indiana University Press in late April 2014. More information can be found at:

A summary of this research is provided by the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (, which seeks to show how digital religion shapes our everyday lives and world.

This overview is also posted at Religion News Service at: