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gaming the Crucifixion

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  • Brandon Van Every
    I said I was holding something for when things got slow. My memory was triggered by the Slamdance 2007 controversy regarding Super Columbine Massacre RPG.
    Message 1 of 9 , Nov 1, 2007
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      I said I was holding something for when things got slow.

      My memory was triggered by the Slamdance 2007 controversy regarding
      "Super Columbine Massacre RPG." http://www.columbinegame.com/ A
      contest sponsor pulled SCMRPG from the contest. In protest, 14
      Finalists walked out. Slamdance chose not to give any awards, since
      there were so few contestants left. At least one finalist thought it
      was better to use the contest as a forum to speak out about the issue,
      rather than boycotting:
      http://www.northcountrynotes.org/jason-rohrer/arthouseGames/seedBlogs.php?action=display_post&post_id=jcr13_1168438267_0&show_author=1&show_date=1
      but everyone who responded to his blog entry thought it was better to
      make a show of force.

      Violent video games, pah! Why not take game design into true "death
      threat" territory, if you're brave? :-)

      Don't bother playing the Roman who sticks a spear in Jesus' side.
      That's the meme of "oh, video gamers are so violent, they're all into
      shock." Too easy. Don't bother playing Judas. We already know that
      video gamers like to be the bad guy.

      WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

      *That's* subversive. Religions don't offer their prophets a *choice*,
      they offer a canon. Any action a religion prescribes, interactivity
      can second-guess. Why choose to do it the way Jesus did? What's so
      great about His way of doing things? Could he have gotten better
      stuff if He had played his cards differently? Would you choose a
      sharp stick in the eye, or a mega-violent spear in your side, if you
      didn't have to? There's a role reversal: religion canonizing violence
      that the player doesn't necessarily want to experience. What's this
      game going to reward? Any provable or tangible benefits to anything
      you do?

      There are many ways to "weird out" the experience of the Crucifixion.
      I haven't really thought them all through. I leave them to your
      imagination, and ask you to share any you feel like sharing.

      Once you've figured out how to hide from Christian high powered
      rifles, you could move on to Muslim cartoons. Those guys are so high
      strung, that you don't even have to ask what Mohammed *did*. You
      could just ask what he'd wear.
      http://www.mygamecompany.com/Products/FashionCents/main.htm


      Cheers,
      Brandon Van Every
    • Brandon Van Every
      Heh, not a big appetite for troublemaking here! :-) No matter. The meta-point is that if you want to be subversive, pick a subject where people don t think
      Message 2 of 9 , Nov 6, 2007
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        Heh, not a big appetite for troublemaking here! :-) No matter. The
        meta-point is that if you want to be subversive, pick a subject where
        people don't think there are any choices. Then offer some.
        Interactivity is ideal for distorting canonical wisdom.


        Cheers,
        Brandon Van Every
      • Jeffrey Morgan
        Woops. Read the message but forgot to respond. I find this idea to be intriguing. Although I do think that most people could not stand to have their religion
        Message 3 of 9 , Nov 6, 2007
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          Woops. Read the message but forgot to respond.

          I find this idea to be intriguing. Although I do think that most people could not stand to have their religion picked apart in such a way I always have such thoughts floating around my head. I tend to play with things in my head and wonder how thing could be if one pivotal thing were changed. How would history have been different. I love alternate reality stories/books/games/movies.

          A game that let you actually play out some of the things that Jesus did, and the game actually let you do something different. That would be interesting to say the least. I doubt anyone would actually do it. Or if they did, they would release it anonymously. There would be a backlash against them but Christians would not break out the rifles (or even come close) like.

          I think the main problem is that a number (not sure how large) of Christians (and non-Christians also) have never really thought about why they believe what they believe, so when someone challenges it, they simply go ballistic instead of trying to explain things. Its also the reason a game such as this one will probably cause lots of uproar but not much else.

          As for making a game about Mohammed, we have seen what has happened after the Swedish newspapers published a cartoon. Plus all of the death threats, and even jail time for others around the world who dared to re-publish them in other places. As for an interactive videogame, I for one wold not want to be anywhere near that one.

          Hopefully the above makes sense.



          Regards,

          Jeff.


          ----- Original Message ----
          From: Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...>
          To: gamedesign-l <gamedesign-l@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Thursday, November 1, 2007 7:56:40 PM
          Subject: [gamedesign-l] gaming the Crucifixion

          I said I was holding something for when things got slow.

          My memory was triggered by the Slamdance 2007 controversy regarding
          "Super Columbine Massacre RPG." http://www.columbinegame.com/ A
          contest sponsor pulled SCMRPG from the contest. In protest, 14
          Finalists walked out. Slamdance chose not to give any awards, since
          there were so few contestants left. At least one finalist thought it
          was better to use the contest as a forum to speak out about the issue,
          rather than boycotting:
          http://www.northcountrynotes.org/jason-rohrer/arthouseGames/seedBlogs.php?action=display_post&post_id=jcr13_1168438267_0&show_author=1&show_date=1
          but everyone who responded to his blog entry thought it was better to
          make a show of force.

          Violent video games, pah! Why not take game design into true "death
          threat" territory, if you're brave? :-)

          Don't bother playing the Roman who sticks a spear in Jesus' side.
          That's the meme of "oh, video gamers are so violent, they're all into
          shock." Too easy. Don't bother playing Judas. We already know that
          video gamers like to be the bad guy.

          WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

          *That's* subversive. Religions don't offer their prophets a *choice*,
          they offer a canon. Any action a religion prescribes, interactivity
          can second-guess. Why choose to do it the way Jesus did? What's so
          great about His way of doing things? Could he have gotten better
          stuff if He had played his cards differently? Would you choose a
          sharp stick in the eye, or a mega-violent spear in your side, if you
          didn't have to? There's a role reversal: religion canonizing violence
          that the player doesn't necessarily want to experience. What's this
          game going to reward? Any provable or tangible benefits to anything
          you do?

          There are many ways to "weird out" the experience of the Crucifixion.
          I haven't really thought them all through. I leave them to your
          imagination, and ask you to share any you feel like sharing.

          Once you've figured out how to hide from Christian high powered
          rifles, you could move on to Muslim cartoons. Those guys are so high
          strung, that you don't even have to ask what Mohammed *did*. You
          could just ask what he'd wear.
          http://www.mygamecompany.com/Products/FashionCents/main.htm


          Cheers,
          Brandon Van Every


          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gamedesign-l/
          Yahoo! Groups Links



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        • Brandon Van Every
          ... I think the problem with organized religion is that on average, it selects for people who aren t into critical thinking. Liturgical ritual is the primary
          Message 4 of 9 , Nov 6, 2007
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            On Nov 6, 2007 3:24 PM, Jeffrey Morgan <diurge@...> wrote:
            >
            > I think the main problem is that a number (not sure how large) of
            > Christians (and non-Christians also) have never really thought about why
            > they believe what they believe, so when someone challenges it, they simply
            > go ballistic instead of trying to explain things. Its also the reason a game
            > such as this one will probably cause lots of uproar but not much else.

            I think the problem with organized religion is that on average, it
            selects for people who aren't into critical thinking. Liturgical
            ritual is the primary method of transmission, not debate. In fairness
            this isn't true of all religious sects though. For instance I've seen
            a documentary on the Jewish debating traditions of the Talmud. I
            don't feel sufficiently well-versed in the "intellectual" traditions
            within major world religions; I just make note that they do in fact
            exist. They're irrelevant to the vast majority of religious adherents
            however. Mental stimulation isn't what they're looking for, it's not
            the life need being answered.

            > As for making a game about Mohammed, we have seen what has happened after
            > the Swedish newspapers published a cartoon.

            N.B. Danish newspaper. World boycotts of Danish goods, har har har.
            My sugar cookies, where are my sugar cookies??!?

            Yeah, this is the kind of game I'd rather have someone else do. I can
            think of these "great" theoretical ideas to pursue, but I don't have a
            sufficient axe to grind against world religions to assail them
            head-on. I'd probably take the more oblique approach of making a game
            about completely made-up religions. Invented mythological pantheons
            and so forth. I could present moral dilemmas that people will
            probably answer "X," from the standpoint of common sense. But world
            religions tell them "Y." Not sure what the X's and Y's would be, but
            it would be a good test of whether the sectarians are paying
            attention.


            Cheers,
            Brandon Van Every
          • Jeffrey Morgan
            [snip] ... This could be said, in general, of the society and culture we live in today (the American culture). Its all about whatever their friends think or
            Message 5 of 9 , Nov 6, 2007
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              [snip]

              >I think the problem with organized religion is that on average, it
              >selects for people who aren't into critical thinking. Liturgical

              This could be said, in general, of the society and culture we live in today (the American culture). Its all about whatever their friends think or whatever is the cool new thing. People are taught to go along with the group even when you may know or want to do something different.

              Our American culture suffers from too much groupthink (I may be over-generalizing here).
              http://www.psysr.org/groupthink%20overview.htm


              >ritual is the primary method of transmission, not debate. In fairness
              >this isn't true of all religious sects though. For instance I've seen
              >a documentary on the Jewish debating traditions of the Talmud. I
              >don't feel sufficiently well-versed in the "intellectual" traditions
              >within major world religions; I just make note that they do in fact
              >exist. They're irrelevant to the vast majority of religious adherents
              >however. Mental stimulation isn't what they're looking for, it's not
              >the life need being answered.

              I agree that this is true for some and not for others.

              [snip]

              >Cheers,
              >Brandon Van Every


              Regards,

              Jeff.

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            • Brandon Van Every
              ... I think it s an outgrowth of people s basic psychological drives. For instance, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator
              Message 6 of 9 , Nov 6, 2007
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                On Nov 6, 2007 5:01 PM, Jeffrey Morgan <diurge@...> wrote:
                >
                > Our American culture suffers from too much groupthink (I may be
                > over-generalizing here).
                > http://www.psysr.org/groupthink%20overview.htm

                I think it's an outgrowth of people's basic psychological drives. For
                instance, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator has the
                "Perceiver" vs. "Judger" axis. The MBTI doesn't attempt to explain
                what causes people to be Perceivers or Judgers, but they do exist. I
                suspect the psychological literature abounds in other kinds of
                classifications which say, essentially, "yep, Judgers exist." When I
                read the GroupThink article you linked, I translate it as, "The
                Judgers are in charge. The Perceivers should be in charge." Yeah but
                the Judgers are the ones with the most drive to tell other people what
                to do. It's a successful evolutionary pattern, so we're stuck with
                it.

                I think intellectuals often assume that other people share their
                values, or should. The MBTI says they don't and won't. Ever since
                I've realized how fundamentally different the psychology of various
                people can be, it's been easier for me to deal with other people.
                Instead of beating my head against a wall trying to convince somebody
                of something, I can recognize that they are in fact a Judger,
                psychologically they like things a certain way, and there's no
                changing them. It's easier for me to "live and let live" knowing that
                getting everyone to think the way I do is fundamentally impossible.
                Different categories of people can coexist with their own strengths
                and weaknesses.

                Sucks for national policy though.

                > >Mental stimulation isn't what they're looking for, it's not
                > >the life need being answered.
                >
                > I agree that this is true for some and not for others.

                To elaborate in MBTI terms, there's the Sensor vs. iNtuitive axis.
                Sensors are interested in reality as it comes to them through their
                senses. They aren't intellectual. iNtuitives are interested in their
                own internal world of ideas. They are disproportionately represented
                in academia, and are generally "of higher intelligence," as far as how
                society typically uses the word "intelligence."

                Recently I wanted to know if there was some easy test like the MBTI to
                determine why people need and adhere to religions. Instead I found an
                article suggesting that motivations towards religion are complex, with
                many possible needs being served, so there's no "one size fits all"
                explanation for why people become religious. Rather, a religion is a
                complex symbolic system capable of attaching itself to many
                environmental circumstances.
                http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/religdes.htm

                Perhaps religions are successful *because* they are complex. More
                points of attachment; compare genetic diversity for shielding against
                crop failures. So if you're looking for an Occam's Razor to shoot
                down people's belief in a religion, you're in for nasty surprises.
                Successful religions are likely rather resilient to being rejected.
                That's a side project for me at some point, to study the anthropology
                of why people reject religions.


                Cheers,
                Brandon Van Every
              • Todd Zircher
                ... The first time I saw a WWJCD spelled out, it was What Would Jackie Chan Do? This got me thinking about the story where Jesus threw the money lenders out
                Message 7 of 9 , Nov 6, 2007
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                  Brandon Van Every wrote:
                  >
                  > WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
                  >
                  > *That's* subversive. Religions don't offer their prophets a
                  > *choice*, they offer a canon. Any action a religion prescribes,
                  > interactivity can second-guess. Why choose to do it the way
                  > Jesus did? What's so great about His way of doing things?
                  > Could he have gotten better stuff if He had played his cards
                  > differently? Would you choose a sharp stick in the eye, or a
                  > mega-violent spear in your side, if you didn't have to? There's
                  > a role reversal: religion canonizing violence that the player
                  > doesn't necessarily want to experience. What's this game going
                  > to reward? Any provable or tangible benefits to anything you do?

                  The first time I saw a WWJCD spelled out, it was What Would Jackie
                  Chan Do? This got me thinking about the story where Jesus threw the
                  money lenders out of the temple. As a man of peace, this doesn't
                  seem like his normal modus operandi. Ah, but if JC whipped out some
                  kung-fu, now that's some prime story telling. After all, what did
                  you think Jesus did during those missing earlier in his life, learn
                  basket weaving?

                  I've been playing Titan Quest lately (like I'm up to lengendary
                  difficulty.) It would be very entertaining to place the player in
                  the role of Jesus. It starts from the very beginning. What class
                  would you choose for Jesus? Fighter, Sorceror (look at all the magic
                  in the Old Testament), Cleric, Thief (ala Robin Hood), or Carpenter?
                  Your mission is to perform miracles and spread the word of God. All
                  roads probably lead to the cross, but the path taken may tell a
                  completely different story about the legacy and the kind of followers
                  that you leave behind. It could be very interesting.

                  Think about open sandbox games like Oblivion. There are so many ways
                  to play that if you were a messenger from God.
                  --
                  TAZ
                • Brandon Van Every
                  ... Now there s a game. Deal with Jesus life as a matter of Grand Strategy, rather than the tactics at crucifixion time that form the backbone of what most
                  Message 8 of 9 , Nov 6, 2007
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                    On Nov 6, 2007 5:53 PM, Todd Zircher <tzircher@...> wrote:
                    > Brandon Van Every wrote:
                    > >
                    > > WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
                    >
                    > The first time I saw a WWJCD spelled out, it was What Would Jackie
                    > Chan Do? This got me thinking about the story where Jesus threw the
                    > money lenders out of the temple. As a man of peace, this doesn't
                    > seem like his normal modus operandi. Ah, but if JC whipped out some
                    > kung-fu, now that's some prime story telling. After all, what did
                    > you think Jesus did during those missing earlier in his life, learn
                    > basket weaving?

                    Now there's a game. Deal with Jesus' life as a matter of Grand
                    Strategy, rather than the tactics at crucifixion time that form the
                    backbone of what most Christians talk about. If you choose life path
                    X Y Z do you ever become a prophet in the 1st place? What is
                    "prophetly behavior" earlier in life? This subject could be treated
                    without Jesus actually. There's other material to draw on - Joan of
                    Arc comes to mind.

                    What about a Muslim view of Jesus? What do they say about his
                    prophetly life? You could piss off 2 major world religions, with 1 of
                    'em not being sure why they should be pissed off, only a nagging sense
                    that they've been co-opted for the agenda of some nefarious infidel.
                    :-)

                    > What class
                    > would you choose for Jesus? Fighter, Sorceror (look at all the magic
                    > in the Old Testament), Cleric, Thief (ala Robin Hood), or Carpenter?

                    This recalls old virtual world arguments about who wants to play a
                    game about baking bread.

                    > Your mission is to perform miracles and spread the word of God.

                    That's not choice though. That's the same old "hero's journey" saw
                    that we're always telling the players. Flimsy excuses for why they're
                    supposed to care about saving the world. Choice is like, you're
                    experiencing some odd events that modern day people would call
                    "paranormal." How do you react to those experiences? What doors do
                    your choices open for you, or close?


                    Cheers,
                    Brandon Van Every
                  • Brandon Van Every
                    ... I just saw Jesus Christ Superstar. It s subversive... the most subversive thing about it, I think, is it ascribes different motives to the principal
                    Message 9 of 9 , Nov 13, 2007
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                      On Nov 6, 2007 7:29 PM, Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Now there's a game. Deal with Jesus' life as a matter of Grand
                      > Strategy, rather than the tactics at crucifixion time that form the
                      > backbone of what most Christians talk about. If you choose life path
                      > X Y Z do you ever become a prophet in the 1st place? What is
                      > "prophetly behavior" earlier in life?

                      I just saw "Jesus Christ Superstar." It's subversive... the most
                      subversive thing about it, I think, is it ascribes different motives
                      to the principal characters. Same historical actions, but different
                      motives. So this changes "what it all means"... and leaves me
                      questioning whether the meaning ascribed to particular actions, is
                      merely a "stance" or a "cop." For instance in the film, Jesus appears
                      to be willfully choosing his own death. As he talks about his
                      disciples, and as he talks to God, you can see his motive: he wants to
                      be remembered. He allows himself to be killed for the chance of being
                      remembered. He *says* it's all God's plan, but it's quite easy to see
                      it as his own plan. What do we really know about what happened? That
                      Jesus incited a mob, wasn't all that careful with his personal
                      security, allowed himself to be caught, didn't make much of a legal
                      defense, and was executed. A religious person puts a spiritual
                      overlay on the events. An atheist says, hm, ancient state power as
                      usual. Can't have an adulating mob subverting authority figures, it's
                      bad for resource extraction.

                      This is a fundamental problem for interactivity. You can give a
                      player choices about what actions to take. But what do they *mean* ?
                      You and the player don't have to agree on what they mean at all.
                      There doesn't have to be any inherent communication between the two of
                      you, or any agreement. A devoutly religions person, an atheist, and a
                      person who just doesn't think about religion very much, could all play
                      the same game "about Jesus" and come to completely different
                      conclusions about it. More importantly, they could get bored of it
                      for very different reasons. How do you persuade an audience to see
                      the meanings of a work the way you see them? Or failing that, in a
                      way that keeps them engaged to the work? Otherwise it's "hm, get
                      nailed to a cross, flee town, hm, doesn't matter, big deal. Where's
                      my FPS?"

                      The games I've seen or heard of to date, seem to take a rather
                      unsophisticated "hands off" approach to choice. I'm thinking in
                      particular of "Black & White." Yeah you can love or abuse your
                      monkey. "The Sims," same thing. Who cares? The choices don't mean
                      anything. It's not authorship, it's "software as toy." It abdicates
                      the responsibility of meaning to the player.

                      > What about a Muslim view of Jesus? What do they say about his
                      > prophetly life? You could piss off 2 major world religions, with 1 of
                      > 'em not being sure why they should be pissed off, only a nagging sense
                      > that they've been co-opted for the agenda of some nefarious infidel.
                      > :-)

                      I suppose pissing people off is a way to get meaning into a game. I
                      wonder if there are other ways?


                      Cheers,
                      Brandon Van Every
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