Throughout the 2013 Season, select speakers at Chautauqua Institution — specifically chaplains in residence — have cast technological innovation in a pessimistic light. But it is not the criticism of smartphones and video games that is problematic. Rather, it is the sheer lack of a response to this criticism which serves as a reminder: The Institution has historically offered very little programming on technology and culture.
Technology has become a part of almost every aspect of our lives. Video games and the algorithmic culture perpetuated by human reliance and participation in digital forms of media can influence the way we perceive religion and relationships.
Friday, in the last interfaith lecture about the Week Six theme, “The Life of Faith in the Digital Age,” Rachel Wagner discussed what the rise in a digital, algorithmic culture means for religion, how religion is depicted in video games, and what video games mean for religious practice and ritual. Wagner’s lecture was titled “Godwired: Religion, Ritual and Virtual Reality.”
In popular video games such as “Halo” and “Call of Duty,” the player’s objective is to stab, shoot and blow up other players. The games are often criticized for their violence, but virtual reality researcher Rachel Wagner said they can be viewed as religious experiences.
Virtual experiences such as stories, films and video games are forms of world-building that serve as ways for people to make sense of their own worlds — activity that is arguably and patently religious, she said. Video games are interactive, with players making sense of a reality someone else created, so they also shape emotion and behavior more than other types of storytelling.
Wagner will discuss video games and virtual reality working functionally as religion and how recognizable religion is portrayed in games, at 2 p.m. Friday in the Hall of Philosophy. Her lecture, “Godwired: Religion, Ritual and Virtual Reality,” shares the title of her new book.