Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2023

Course Description

“All play means something,” or so wrote theorist Johan Huizinga in 1938. Playfully speaking, our serious work in this course considers the cultural meaning(-making)s of game(s) and religion(s) as complex and intersecting embodiments of deeply human, serious play-forms. Transdisciplinary connections between Religious Studies and Game(r) Studies have a number of vectors, and, for the sake of convenience, we’ll be toying with a four-part paradigm of puzzles: gaming in religion; religion in gaming; religion as gaming; and, "nally, gaming as religion? In balanced measure, we'll be making room for BOTH the (serious) cultivation/enrichment of transferable, critical academic skills, through conventional coursework (especially writing!), AND all manner of experiential learning contexts a#orded through close-playing a curated selection of (social, tabletop, role-playing, physical, and digital) games. How might we contextualize the play-ful ways folk relate to game(s) and religion(s)? More seriously, what discourses and relations of power are at work in such considerations, and how might we imagine the relationships we have with game(s) and religion(s), while growing in (self-)critical awareness of the ideological/contextual nature of engaging broadly with homo ludens, the human at/in play? Come and play!

Student Outcomes

This course is designed to provide you with a broad introduction to the cultural meaning(-making)s of game(s) and religion(s) as complex and intersecting embodiments of deeply human (serious, play) forms. By the end of the term, you will have initiated and/or enriched... • Engagement with cultural difference(s): learn to observe, describe, explain, and compare in a non-evaluative manner, so as to find significant similarities and di#erences among, forms of observable human behavior—developing a critical appreciation of some of the defining (meta)narratives, knowledge, rites and rituals, materials, symbolics, values and mores, experiences, modes of discourse, and cultural appropriations that distinguish game(-like) and religious traditions within varying historical, social, and cultural contexts; • Development of robust, cross-cultural approaches to the study of play, game(s) and religion(s): establish and re"ne a toolkit of responsible, comparative practices and interdisciplinary skills in approaching and understanding cultural di#erence(s), all while considering re%exively our own globally-situated positions as they impact the relationships we have with play, game(s) and religion(s); • Commitment to critical, structural and intersectional analysis: connect and unpack fundamental elements of game(-like) and religious traditions to the ongoing development of political, economic and cultural identities, configured around power relations (frequently intersecting with race, class, gender, and other categories of difference) within diverse contexts.