For 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.