The Aetherlight. A Case Study of the Formational Potential of a Game
Keywords:Christian Games, Formation, Discipleship, Theology, Games, Edugaming, Narrative Mechanics, Allegory, Metaphor, gamevironments
The Aetherlight (2016) is a point-and-click adventure game designed for 9-12-year olds to entice them to engage with the grand narrative of scripture through an allegorical reimagining in a 3D steampunk world. That is a lot to ask of a game. Conceptualised primarily as an educational game, The Aetherlight (2016) also needed to be an excellent game to draw in a generation with high expectations of the game experience. In addition to these two objectives, The Aetherlight intended to point players away from the game to real-world interactions with the Bible and to live well as Christians in their own communities. Can a game possibly do all of these things? This article will explore the making of The Aetherlight and the tensions between the competing agendas to make an excellent game, to educate, and to direct the players away from the game towards engagement with the Bible and real-world interactions as Christians. Just as the characters in The Aetherlight story wrestle with their own humanity, the game team wrestled with each other over philosophy, pedagogy, and ethics at every stage of development. In doing so, the process of making a theologically formational game for tweens became theologically formational for all who worked on it. This case study reveals how diversity of thinking, experience and skills can converge to create an invitational game where side quests, speedrunning, and grinding all form part of the narrative to engage players with the philosophy and ethics of the Christian way of life.