Category Archives: Games

Just a game?

jag-rbgFor the convenience of anyone who wishes to follow along with my November 19, 2016 Society of Biblical Literature presentation entitled “Just a Game? Exegesis, Theology, and Ethics in Five Recent Bible-Themed Board Games,” here is the slideshow, presented as a PDF with one slide per page. The program book abstract reads as follows, though it’s no longer 100% accurate to the presentation:

In both the introduction and the conclusion to their groundbreaking study Toying with God: The World of Religious Games and Dolls (Baylor University Press, 2010), Nikki Bado-Fralick and Rebecca Sachs Norris noted that “[m]ost religious board games are simply religious versions of familiar games like Monopoly or Risk, with churches and missions replacing railroads and hotels” (177–178; cf. 2). In the years since then, several new Bible-themed board games have appeared, including Genesis (Gigantoskop, 2010), Kingdom of Solomon (Minion Games, 2012), Kings of Israel (Funhill Games, 2014), and Commissioned (Chara Games, 2015). Each of these games seeks to provide a kind of religious edutainment in which players experience biblical narratives and themes by way of engaging game mechanics. In general, these games exhibit better game design and production values than previous attempts. Moreover, despite clear family resemblances to existing secular games, they depart from the trend noted by Bado-Fralick and Norris of reskinning prior exemplars. Like their forebears, however, these games are “expressions of religiosity growing out of contemporary modes of communication and exchange,” each with “layers of culture, relationship, and identity embedded in [it]” (Bado-Fralick and Norris, 175)—not to mention layers of exegesis, theology, and ethics. This presentation peels back some of those layers with respect to Genesis, Kingdom of Solomon, Kings of Israel, and Commissioned, and the presenter’s own work co-developing a fifth such game, Crossroads (Trivium Studios, 2016). Coherence and/or incoherence between the games’ implicit theologies and those held by the presumptively evangelical Christian audience, supportive and/or subversive approaches to the biblical source material, and representations of divinity, ethnicity, and gender in each game will receive special attention.

Snippets from the history of gameful learning

A collection of old gamesIs this a keyboard I see before me, its letters toward my hand? Why, it certainly is, and now I find myself writing the first Higgaion post in quite a long time. I’m working with some other Pepperdine folk on a workshop intended to encourage and support what we call “gameful learning.” We use this term to describe everything from using games and simulations in class to structuring entire courses like alternate reality games.

While typing an e-mail to one of my colleagues, I noticed that my Mac’s built-in dictionary doesn’t recognize the word gameful, so I decided to investigate the word using Google’s Ngram Viewer. I found a few interesting snippets.

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Gamifying higher education: is it BS?

Ian Bogost, professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, made waves a couple of years ago by bluntly characterizing gamification as bovine excrement. (That’s as profane as it gets here, folks. Deal.) Bogost had actually made the same points, in more detail but without the splashy hook, several months earlier in a column for Gamasutra.

In that May 2011 column, Bogost characterized “gamification” as “exploitationware.” Bogost’s chief target in the essay is gamification as a marketing gimmick, but some of his criticisms may have application to higher ed as well. Indeed, he begins the column with an anecdote from a higher ed conference:

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Gamifying higher education: welcome to the World of Biblecraft

Here’s the elevator pitch: My Religion 101 course, also known as “World of Biblecraft,” functions like a cross between Farmville, Minecraft, and the World of Warcraft, where students earn XP and level up by exploring the Bible.

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Gamifying higher education: a useful distinction

In the introduction to my blog series on gamification, I mentioned the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report: 2013 Education Edition, which identifies “Games and Gamification” as a growing trend with a time-to-adoption horizon of two to three years. The term “Games and Gamification” updates the NMC’s older terminology, “Game-Based Learning.” By combining the use of educational games with gamification under a single reference, however, NMC potentially confuses two distinct phenomena.

Jennifer Zaino’s August 5 post for the EdTech Magazine blog, “Why Gamification Is Winning Points on Campus,” takes the confusion a step further by including the academic study of games under the heading of “gamification.” Continue reading