No One Tells You How to Build a Holy Game. An Effort to Build Readings in Theory and Praxis


  • Jason Anthony



Holy Games, Game Syllabus, Game Design, Rites, gamevironments


Game design courses and programs have gained considerable ground on university campuses in recent decades, spurred by a cultural swerve toward digital gaming. Are there ways for these curricula, with their focus on practical experience and production, to discover an overlap with an existing body of scholarship that looks at games within religious contexts? One intriguing, if highly hypothetical, arrangement: a university design program focused on the creation of holy games, the subset of rite found, in one form or another, across traditions and in both historical and current practice. Examples of games that might fit this definition include the Mesoamerican ball game, sumo, the ancient Olympics and the hiding of the afikomen during the Seder. Because such games exist, it stands to reason that they were shaped by human hands. As religious traditions evolve, and new offerings and forms of practice are made continuously available, especially in digital contexts, is there value in having trained craftspeople who can deliver modern versions of holy games that are satisfying and fit for purpose? The paper looks at a syllabus of readings for such a program, in the unlikely event it should ever exist, drawing on an interdisciplinary coursework that includes ritual criticism, literature studies and ludic archeology.