Spiritual Enlightenment in Virtual Worlds. Designing a Religion Site in Second Life

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2012

112 Pages, Grade: 87.5/100









1.1 Research Background
1.2 Virtual Worlds
1.3 Virtual Religious Activity
1.4 Research Question
1.5 Research Scope
1.4 Research Framework

2.1 Ludology
2.2 Narratology
2.3 Spiritual Experience

3.1. Design Process
3.1.1 Define
3.1.2 Collecting Information
3.1.3 Design Steps
3.1.4 Implementation
3.1.5 Evaluation

4.1. Results
4.2. Discussions

5.1. Conclusions
5.2. Recommendations



Appendix 1: Questionnaire

Appendix 2: Visitors’ Data


Table. 3.1. Via Dolorosa Station Design of Each Station

Table. 4.1. Visitors’ Demography

Table. 4.2. Features Summary

Table. A-2. Visitors’ Data


Fig. 1-1. The Holy Land site in Second Life

Fig. 1-2. The Devine Mother site in Second Life; meditation place for Sai Baba’s followers

Fig. 1-3. The Garden for Our Lady of Lourdes site in Second Life

Fig. 1-4. The Buddha Center site in Second Life

Fig. 1-5. The Virtual Hajj by IslamOnline.net in Second Life

Fig. 1-6. Research Framework

Fig. 2-1. Primary Scheme

Fig.2-2. Communicating Inner Experience

Fig.3-1. The Flow for Design Process

Fig. 3-2. The Via Dolorosa

Fig. 3-3. The Via Dolorosa in the ‘Real’ Life

Fig. 3-4. Island Map Overview

Fig. 3-5. The Design Process of Jerusalem City

Fig. 3-6. The Signs

Fig. 3-7. Landing Point of the Via Dolorosa

Fig. 3-8. Welcoming Message at the Landing Point of the Via Dolorosa

Fig. 3-9. The Information for Animated Scripted Tour

Fig. 3-10. The Telepad for Teleporting Avatar

Fig. 3-11. The Golgotha Hills

Fig. 3-12. Jesus’ Tomb

Fig. 3-13. The Cathedral

Fig. 3-14. Animated Seat inside the Cathedral

Fig. 3-15. Sacred Fish Shop; outside look (left), inside look (right)

Fig. 3-16. The Light Shop

Fig. 3-17. Screenshot of Second Life website during the Holy Week

Fig. 3-18. Screenshot of Virtual World Blogger

Fig. 3-19. Morning Prayer Meeting inside the Cathedral

Fig. 3-20. The Assistant Board; Welcoming Gate (a), Station 2 (b), Last Station(c) ..

Fig. 3-21. Visible Sign

Fig. 3-22. Volunteer Positions Sign

Fig. 3-23. New Shops for Rent

Fig. 3-24. Wedding Planner Shop

Fig. 3-25. Stage for Live Concert

Fig. 4-1. Visitors Summary

Fig. 4-2. Visitors Data

Fig. 4-3. Visible Signs

Fig. 4-4. Invisible Signs

Fig. 4-5. Audio Visual at Via Dolorosa; Music (a), Video (b)

Fig. 4-6. Various Rituals at Via Dolorosa


Above all, I would like to thank my savior; Jesus Christ, thank you for this vision and passion. I would like to thank my wife Eva for her personal support and great patience at all times. My parents, brothers and sister have given me their unequivocal support throughout, as always, for which my mere expression of thanks likewise does not suffice.

This thesis would not have been possible without the help, support and patience of my principal supervisor, Prof. Chien-Hsu Chen, not to mention his advice, friendship and support in finishing my research. The good advice and support of my second supervisor, Prof. Tay-Sheng Jeng, has been invaluable, for which I am extremely grateful. I would like to acknowledge the financial, academic and technical support of the National Cheng Kung University, Tainan and its staff, particularly in the award of a Distinguished International Scholarship that provided the necessary financial support for this research. I also thank the Institute of Creative Industries Design (ICID) for their support and assistance since the start of my postgraduate work in 2008, especially the head of department, Prof. Feng-Tyan Lin.

I am most grateful to Dr. Bruce Tsai and Sunny Tsai for helping me with the Chinese part of this work. I would like to thank Thomas Blair, Ezra Peranginangin, Allan and all the Ph.D. classmates at ICID for your kindness, friendship and support. I remember the generosity and the help of the ICID office assistants Ya-Ping and Chia-Ping, your helps will always be remember. Thank you also for my best friends and design team in Second Life, Namssab1nad Piers and Electra Karsim for their dedication and support to this project though I never met them in person.

Last, but by no means least, I thank to all my friends in Tainan, Dayspring Church, PPI Tainan, KAWANKITA and elsewhere for their support and encouragement throughout, some of whom have already been named.

“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7(NLT,2007) Tainan, July 2012


The growing of Internet users is amazing. Among these users, there are users who even practice their religion online. A study conducted by Pew Internet & America Life Project found that 64% of the America’s 128 million Internet users have done things online that relate to religious or spiritual matters (Internet & Project, 2004). In response to this need, there are some churches and missions’ organization started doing online ministry. In line with this development, there is another medium arise called Virtual Worlds. USATODAY and the Christian Post reported that Leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim sites estimate about 1,000 avatars teleport into churches, synagogues or mosques on a regular basis while hundreds more list themselves with Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan and other groups (Grossman, 2007; Kwon, 2007). This research is based on Christian Theology with narratology and ludology as video game study’s on designing a religious site in the Second Life®. This study answers questions like; what are the significance features of Second Life for spiritual enlightenment to its users? And what are the design patterns of the “religious site” (the site as mentioned in RQ1)? It uses “research through design” by "Design-Implementation-Evaluation" of a religious site in Second Life. The findings suggest that Second Life and its features could be transformed into “sacred” place and give spiritual enlightenment to its users. The features of Second Life which provide spiritual enlightenment to its users include: Animation, Audio Visual and the Interactive Environment. There are four design principles in resulting of this research including; Storytelling, Mapping, Affectiveness and Virtual Ritual which could be used in designing religious site in Second Life.

Keywords: Ludology, Narratology, Religion, Second Life, Virtual Worlds


網路使用者的成長率驚人,其中已有許多人在線上進行宗教活動。根據 Pew Internet & American Life Project 調查顯示,美國的 1 億 2 千 800 萬網路使用者, 當中有 64%曾經進行線上宗教活動,或是其他與精神信仰相關的事務(Internet & Project, 2004)。有鑑於此需求,一些教堂與佈道組織開始從事「線上服務」。隨 此發展,「虛擬世界」成為一個佈道新興媒介。依據 USA TODAY 和 The Christian Post 報導顯示,基督教、猶太教和回教的主要網站共約有 1000 位虛擬化身固定 造訪,佛教和其他異教網站則有數百位虛擬化身。(Grossman, 2007; Kwon, 2007)。 本研究是基於基督教神學觀,以「敘事學」和「遊戲學」角度來設計宗教啟迪網 站於 Second Life 遊戲中。本研究解答幾項問題:在 Second Life 的虛擬朝聖,何 種精神啟迪的特性顯著地影響玩家?有哪些”宗教網站”的設計圖像表現?本 研究採取”透過設計的研究”(research through design)方法,於 Second Life 遊戲 中的宗教網站進行”設計-執行-評估”的設計程序。本研究結果建議可善用 Second Life 以及其遊戲特性(包含動畫、影音和互動環境),將之轉換為神聖儀 式所在地給予玩家精神教化。四個宗教網站設計法則可應用於 Second Life 類型 遊戲設計為:說故事、可對應性、有效性、以及虛擬儀式。 關鍵詞:遊戲學、敘事學、信仰、Second Life、虛擬世界


1.1 Research Background

As one of modern communication tools, Internet has changed our society and communication rapidly. Several researches are done in the past about the online religious life. The research done by Pew Internet & American Life Project presented that: 83% of those responding to our survey say that their use of the Internet has helped congregational life (Internet & Project, 2000). In 2004, Pew Internet & American Life Project also conducted a research and found that 64% of the America’s 128 million Internet users have done things online that relate to religious or spiritual matters (Internet & Project, 2004). McKenna & West reported in their research that many of the same benefits associated with membership in a traditional religious institution are also associated with membership in a virtual group devoted to one’s religious beliefs (McKenna & West, 2007). They found out that many who are participating on the online religious forum are those who are not active church-goers. Thus, this participation in these virtual groups allows these individuals to reap important self and social benefits that they would otherwise be missing out on. It also mentioned that these participants are able to reconnect with and strengthen their faith through the virtual fold. If there are any of the family members who involved in the same online religious forum, it will not only strengthen the importance of online group identity for the individual, but also gain benefits from his or her participation. This means that individuals who take part in online religious communities benefit from gains in social support and feel more connected to others who share their faith (McKenna & West, 2007). As one of the growing areas, religion activity has proved that there are significant users who use Internet for their spiritual life.

Online religion practice, however dominated by Christianity, but there are other beliefs also present such as; Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist (Helland, 2004). There are several studies on the online religion that have been conducted, included: Christian (Campbell, 2004; Casey, 2006; Hutchings, 2007; Young, 2004), Islam (Bunt, 2004; Kalinock, 2006), Sikhism (Jakobsh, 2006) and Buddhist (Macwilliams, 2006; Prebish, 2004). Most of the research in online religion has been done from sociology of religion perspective. When some of them focus on virtual churches, mainly from an ethnographic approach, answering questions such as what are people doing there and how their online life relates to the rest of their lives (Hutchings, 2010), how are Christian faith and practices carried out in the churches (S. Jenkins, 2008), how do different denominations and religious affiliations differ from each other (Jacobs, 2007), how do online churches affect their offline counterparts (Campbell, 2007) Obviously the Internet plays a role in the shaping of religious identity and construction of meaning online in ways that may influence offline religiosity (Campbell, 2005). In other hand, Campbell suggests that an awareness of religious beliefs and practices is an important component for understanding many Internet cultures.

1.2 Virtual Worlds

As the Internet grows; it has created a lot of possibilities. One of them is the area called the 3D environment. The 3D environment is Virtual Worlds which started as Virtual Game. Virtual Worlds can be defined as:

“Synthetic worlds, or virtual worlds, are persistent online 3D spaces that replicate many of the features of the real world. One negotiates them using a virtual body much like a video game character, and many thousands of people can be in the world at the same time, making the environments much like a real place, socially speaking. The worlds have a sort of fantastical yet logical reality to them, such that people can fly, but only if they have wings or a flying spell or happen to be birds to begin with.”(Castronova et al., 2007)

The communities in the Virtual Games are considered one of the most promising online game models - integrating traditional computer games into the context of collaborative virtual environments (Guo & Barnes, 2007). Users use representation of themselves called “avatar”. Avatar is originated from the word avatara, means “descending”, which is the representation of the god Vishnu (Schalk, 1996; Smart,

1989). As in the virtual worlds, avatar could be anything; from human, animal, beast and even unreal creature. Virtual Worlds are not just games or character development for its “avatar”; it has been moved beyond that (Kaburuan, Chen, & Jeng, 2011). Many opportunities have been developed such as: Business, Education, Race, Gender, Subcultures, Marriage and Relationships, Avatars and Identity, Religions, etc. (Conklin, 2007). There are several types of 3D Online virtual worlds; such as: THERE®, Moove®, Active Worlds®, Dreamworld®, Cybertown®, World of Warcraft®, Second Life®, Sims Online®, etc.

Among these existing Virtual Worlds; Second Life® (SL) has its own economic system and its own currency, the “Linden Dollars”, which can be changed into U.S. Dollars by using a stock market system. Their monetary circulation corresponds to financial transactions in real life, as Linden Lab’s revenues clearly show (Castronova, 2005). This made clear that SL is not just a virtual playground. It’s a place where people can enhance their real-life possibilities on an economical, a social life as well as in a religious level (Kaburuan, Chen, & Jeng, 2009). USATODAY and The Christian Post reported that leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim sites estimate about 1,000 avatars teleport into churches, synagogues or mosques on a regular basis while hundreds more list themselves with Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan and other groups (Grossman, 2007; Kwon, 2007). People who go to Virtual Church experienced the “real” experience just as in the real life church (Kaburuan, Chen, & Jeng, 2012).

Second Life® according to its official guidance book is “A virtual environment in which almost all of the content is created by users—people like you. You are the one who determines what Second Life means to you. Do you enjoy meeting people online, talking to them and doing things together in real time? Welcome to Second Life. Do you enjoy creating stuff and making it come alive? Welcome to Second Life. Do you enjoy running a business and making money—real money? Welcome to Second Life. The list of possible Second Life activities is as long as you can imagine”(Rymaszewski et al., 2007).

Creating new objects — clothes, guns, spaceships — is one of the most popular SL activities, and the driving force behind SL commerce (Rymaszewski et al., 2007). These possibilities make SL as a space where the users or avatars can create their own contexts and cultures.

1.3 Virtual Religious Activity

Religion activities, besides going to online or virtual church, occur in Virtual Worlds. Online space has been transformed to sacred place as people used to seek religious matter there. Sacred places located in geographical space are often identified by particular signifiers, such as architectural style, use of images, and expected protocols of behavior (Jacobs, 2007). Eliade (1959) further suggests that ‘‘for a believer, the church shares in a different space from the street in which it stands’’. Religious buildings act as architectural signifiers of sacred space, and according to Jones (2000), ‘‘constitute inexhaustible funds of otherness.’’ Sacred architecture has its own specific style that facilitates what Jones terms ritual-architectural events, which he understands in terms of the specific interplay between worshippers and buildings. Jones further suggests that ritual-architectural events can be conceived in terms of hermeneutical games or hermeneutical conversations that involve activity (the ritual occasion) which brings participants (both building and human) together (Jones, 2000).

Tække (2002) argues that cyberspace or virtual worlds is a real parallel to geographical space, as it is a space ‘‘where we do not only see and listen to broadcast communication, but also participate in communication, create things and satisfy needs’’. Tække further argues that there is an additional parallel between cyberspace and geographical space that derives from Platonic notions of space. In The Timaeus, Plato suggests that space is not directly perceptible by the senses, yet provides a sort of empty receptacle in which things exist:

“Space is eternal, and admits not of destruction and provides a home for all created things, and is apprehended without the help of sense, by a kind of spurious reason, and is hardly real.” (Plato, 360 BC) Add the term ‘‘cyber’’ in front of the first word of this quote from the 4th century BCE and change the word ‘‘created’’ to ‘‘virtual,’’ and we have a very accurate description of how the Internet is conceived (Jacobs, 2007). What important is that cyberspace is not merely a store of information, but primarily a space of ‘‘social interaction and communication’’(Wertheim, 1999). Thus, it is possible to ‘‘create things and satisfy needs’’(Tække, 2002).

Several researches have done in the use of cyberspace as a place for spiritual journey. This spiritual journey called pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a long time practice for people to strengthen their faith. Many of religious people have included pilgrimage as a part of their spiritual discipline. It has been a long tradition for centuries that Muslims have journeyed to Mecca and Jews to Jerusalem. After the time of Jesus, Christians go pilgrimages to the Holy Land, to walk where Jesus walked. Pilgrimage itself can be defined as:

“A pilgrimage is a journey inward as well as outward. Pilgrims seek to strengthen and renew their faith through travel. That makes being a pilgrim is different from being a tourist. For a tourist, travel is an end in itself, but for a pilgrim, travel is a means to an end. Pilgrims travel with a clear intention, to draw closer to God. Pilgrimage is sacred travel, travel as a sacrament. And thus we expect to return transformed or changed or converted from the person we were when we began our journey. We will not return the same as we were when we left. Pilgrims return from their journey with a “boon,” something good that will enrich their lives in the everyday world back at home. We’ll experience life differently upon returning.” (Pilgrimage, 2010)

As the 3D virtual environment technology growing, there is a possibility to design a site for pilgrimage inside virtual worlds. There are several sites which could be used for pilgrimage inside Second Life® as seen below:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1-1. The Holy Land site in Second Life

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Fig. 1-2. The Devine Mother site in Second Life; meditation place for Sai Baba’s followers

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Fig. 1-3. The Garden for Our Lady of Lourdes site in Second Life

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Fig. 1-4. The Buddha Center site in Second Life

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Fig. 1-5. The Virtual Hajj by IslamOnline.net in Second Life

Pilgrimage in cyberspace has the understanding of spiritual journey in massive of technology. Campbell (2001) states that online pilgrims often have more fluid aims, focusing on the process rather than a final destination, to see what the virtual environment might offer. Taking pilgrimage online can involve the altering and reformulating of ancient traditions or the creation of new forums for spiritual pursuit (Campbell, 2001). Hill-Smith (2009) uses the term “cyberpilgrimage” to specify pilgrimages performed online. Cyberpilgrimage might best be viewed as a form of virtual pilgrimage, itself a form of pilgrimage (Hill-Smith, 2009). In her research, she concluded that cyberpilgrimages are a new phenomenon; this “newness” both stymies attempts to predict the degree to which technologisation may alter perceptions of how “spiritual benefit” occurs or is ratifiable, and also raises exciting possibilities for researchers: from elucidating cyberpilgrimage - specific typologies from participant accounts, to analyses of the responses of faith groups to increasing representation, including self-representation, in cyberspace, to analyzing the relationship between meaning and media (Hill-Smith, 2009).

1.4 Research Question

Doing pilgrimage inside the Second Life® has several challenges. Users’ spiritual journey in connection to the design of “religious site” in virtual worlds will explore in this study. This research will answer several questions such as:

1. What are the significance features of Second Life for spiritual enlightenment to its users?
2. What are the design principles of the “religious site” (the site as mentioned in RQ1)?

1.5 Research Scope

This study is limited to “religious site” which belongs to Christianity belief. It focuses on Second Life platform as MMORPGs where users generate the environment. The design of the site will be limited to the Second Life features and platform. Thus, this research it limited to people who are in Second Life. This study implements "Design - Implementation - Evaluation" of a religious site in Second Life.

1.4 Research Framework

This study is based on Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) as game study and Christian theology as the foundation. Huizinga, one of the early scholars in game and play defines game as:

“Summing up the formal characteristics of play we might call it a free activity standing quite consciously outside 'ordinary' life as being not serious, but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. It promotes the formation of social groupings which tend to surround themselves with secrecy and to stress their difference from the common world by disguise or other means.” (Huizinga, 1971)

Huizinga mentions two types of play: 1. ludus, referring to activities that thrive on competition and that require a lot of discipline and mastery of predefined rules (for example, a game of chess) and 2. paidia, referring to activities that thrive on spontaneous action and on uncontrolled excitement (for example, children’s running games or riding a roller coaster). Later on there are some of Huizinga’s conceptualisation that have been revised (e.g. proposes a more detailed elaboration of both types of play (Caillois, 2001); or the experience of fun is more important than the investigation of rules (Goffman, 1972). However, Huizinga’s general framework has remained very influential up to this moment.

There are two main theories used in game study; narratology and ludology. Narratology refers to set theories on narrative and narrations. Narrative could be defined as:

. . the representation of an event or a series of events.

. . . when we read a narrative, we are aware of, on the one hand, the time of reading and the order in which things are read, and on the other hand, the time the story events are supposed to take and the order in which they are supposed to occur (Abbott, 2002).

The other theory is called ludology. The term ludology is a neologism resulting from the combination of two words, one derived from the Latin word ludus (ludere) - ‘to play’ which was used in ancient Rome to cover the entire, large area of games and playing, and the other - Greek word - logos referring to reason and science (Surdyk, 2008).

Both theories have been used in game study; however there is a debate between ludology vs. narratology (Mateas & Stern, 2005). Some questions in the debate such as: can gameplay and narrative combine, and to what extent do games and narrative overlap? (Mateas & Stern, 2005). Among the game scholars, often referred to as ludologists, there is a sense of malaise about this question (Juul, 2004 ; Montfort, 2004), or claims that the debate never took place (Frasca, 2003a).

This study uses both theories in Virtual Pilgrimage. The research framework will be:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1-6. Research Framework

This study uses Narratology (which emphasized on story and sequence) and Ludology (which emphasized on game and play) in the religious site on Second Life®. There are many video games which are in line with Christian theme and genre. Video game that emphasized the story such as: King of Kings (1991); developed by Wisdom Tree (RoyalRanger, 1991). This game deals with Christmas story; the first game on this cart is "The Wise Men," in which you must play a wise man on his camel, heading to the manger where Jesus is supposed to be born. The second game is "Flight to Egypt," where you play the donkey carrying Joseph/Mary/Baby as they travel to Egypt to escape King Herod, who is after the kid. In the third game, "Jesus and the Temple," your job is to play Joseph as you search for 12 year-old Jesus, who has been left out in a temple somewhere (RoyalRanger, 1991).

Another Christian theme video game called “The Bible Game” from Crave Entertainment (2005). The critic upon this game is that it lost connection with Bible’s story, especially for people who never read the Bible (Castro, 2005; Colayco, 2006). Wagner, a scholar in religion and culture study, conducted a research on passion of Jesus message on video game. She looked through five Christian theme games; Station of the Cross, Bible Fight, Roma Victor, Christ Killa and Bible Champions: The Resurrection. She found that game is not suitable for portrayal of the passion of Jesus precisely because they disrupt the linear view of sacred time, inject the possibility of other outcomes, invite immersion with the characters in a sacred story line and stray far from the fixed narrative of the Bible (Wagner, 2010). Thus, this research will adopt particular theme in Christian theology which could be adopted for the design of the site. The theme will be described further in methodology.


Video game has become a part of our daily life. As the need and growing industry in this area arise, there are also growing academic disciplines in game studies. Previous research shown that MMORPGs users had tendencies of playing 8 (eight) hours continuously, losing sleep because of playing, and had been told they spend too much time playing (Ng & Wiemer-Hastings, 2005). Yee in his research mentioned that MMORPGs players motivation is in line with three components; Achievement, Social, and Immersion (Yee, 2006b). MMORPGs are uniquely social environments. Some users participate in the environment to make friends and form supportive social networks while others use the environment to become powerful through the achievement of goals. Not only are a substantial portion of users emotionally invested in these online environments, they also derive salient experiences from them, and the relationships they form in these environments are comparable to their real-life relationships (Yee, 2006a).

Playing computer game is becoming one of the factors to determine the quality of life (QoL) (Leung & Lee, 2005). This study shows that playing computer games gives positive correlation to QoL. Game-based interaction shows how gamers negotiate aspects of their identities as respected members of technical communities (Lange, 2011). Lange discovered as players move from one to another game, they learn consequences cause by a different game. As more and more teenagers play video games, MMORPGs gives possibilities to be modified to a very interesting and educationally environment (Riegle & Matejka, 2006). Nevertheless, MMORPGs in its history and development had been changed and customized in its feature to accommodate its players (Achtebosch, Pierce, & Simmons, 2008).

Salen and Zimmerman studied games upon three different primary game design schemas (rules, play and culture) which they described as follows:
- RULES is a formal primary schema, and focuses on the intrinsic mathematical structures of games.
- PLAY is an experiential primary schema, and emphasizes the player's
interaction with the game and other players.
- CULTURE is a contextual primary schema, and highlights the cultural contexts into which any game is embedded (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 2-1. Primary Scheme (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004)

These schemas are also at the origin of Juulʼs approach to game ontology: the game as formal system, the player, the game and the rest of the world (Jasper Juul, 2005). Frasca argued that the act of play is naturally framed within CULTURE. The players’ experience has at its core the game system (RULES)(Frasca, 2007).

Aarseth also identifies three categories in games, two of which are similar to the previous model:

- Gameplay (the player’s actions, strategies and motives)
- Game-Structure (the rules of the game, including the simulation rules)
- Game-world (fictional content, topology/level design, textures etc.) Aarseth connects these three categories to three different types of game research perspectives:
- Gameplay: sociological, ethnological, psychological etc.
- Game-rules: game design, business, law, computer science/AI
- Game-world: art, aesthetics, history, cultural/media studies, economics (Aarseth, 2003).

The main difference between Salen & Zimmerman and Aarsethʼs approach is that the latter does not necessary see the categories as concentric. However, they all agree that the perspectives overlap (Frasca, 2007). Game and Play have to be in its world or culture context. It has to follow the rules set by the game system.

2.1 Ludology

Ludology is the most popular term use for computer game study. According to research performed by Jesper Juul, the term was used as early as in 1982, albeit scarcely and with a different meaning. However, the expression seems to have started gaining acceptance around 1999 (Frasca, 1999), which was followed in the year 2000 by Jesper Juul (Jesper Juul, 2000).

Some related works of ludology included:

- Malliet is using ludology principle to analyze the programmed text of mature-rated video games. He found that within the context of video game studies, the issue of the interpretative position of the researcher is even more relevant than it already was in the context of traditional text analysis. Within interactive texts such as electronic games, a researcher not only makes an interpretation of the audiovisual output that appears on the computer or console screen, but also contributes actively to the messages that are conveyed (Malliet, 2007a, 2007b).
- Nacke uses term “affective ludology” for scientific measurement of user experience in interactive entertainment (Nacke, 2009). The term affective ludology is proposed here for referring to the field of research, which investigates the affective interaction of players and games (with the goal of understanding emotional and cognitive experiences created by this interaction). Therefore, the study of games as systems of rules and processes (ludology) should be informed by the affective reaction of the biological entity engaging with it (players). Nacke divided his thesis into 9 research papers. These papers answer two main questions; "What makes playing games engaging and fun?" and "How can this engaging experience of players be measured empirically?”. Major findings in his research include; some empirical data for supporting some high-level conclusions about engagement in games and the use of subjective and objective assessment techniques for player experience evaluation, which builds upon and extends prior work in the affective ludology area (Nacke, 2009).
- Another person who claimed himself as a ludologist is Jasper Juul. He clearly states that: 1) Games and stories actually do not translate to each other in the way that novels and movies do. 2) There is an inherent conflict between the now of the interaction and the past or "prior" of the narrative. You can't have narration and interactivity at the same time; there is no such thing as a continuously interactive story. 3) The relations between reader/story and player/game are completely different - the player inhabits a twilight zone where he/she is both an empirical subject outside the game and undertakes a role inside the game (Jesper Juul, 2001; Jasper Juul, 2005).
- Aki Järvinen, a Finnish game scholar, had introduced a set of concepts, categorizations, and analysis methods deduced from the above sample. The concepts can be used in trying to understand games from the perspectives of design and consumption as a particular form of entertainment. Järvinen's study is multi-displinary, as it draws and applies theories from psychology, aesthetics, communication, cognitive science, etc. Besides a wealth of observations regarding games and play, the main results of the work are analysis methods aimed for practical applications in game studies and development (Järvinen, 2008). Järvinen also claimed himself as a ludologist.

As it has mentioned before, ludology focuses on game and play. In a game, players have an ability to behave in a certain degree of freedom. The key words are "all" and "tolerate" (Frasca, 2007). As Salen and Zimmerman affirm, play is the ability to behave with a certain degree of freedom within a rigid structure (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004). Having freedom to behave means that a player can decide to perform any allowed activity or not.

Games have a goal which set by rules and culture contexts. There are multiple scholarly definitions of a game:

“A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in quantifiable outcome”(Salen & Zimmerman, 2004) “A game is a rule-based system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable.”(Jasper Juul, 2005)

As Salen & Zimmerman and Juul mentioned about games have system, there are also games that have no system. One of the cases is SimCity (1989) which Salen & Zimmerman and Juul acknowledge as problematic. The city-building simulator fails to fully fit inside any of both models. Because there are no preset goals -the player can decide what to build according to his/her personal motivations- no standard quantifiable outcome is generated (Frasca, 2007). Juul describes it as a “borderline” case (Jasper Juul, 2005) and Salen & Zimmerman as a “limit” case, that can either be framed as a play or a game activity (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004). This case will be similar with Second Life where the environment generated by users.

Ludologists analyze games as play activities -including games and videogamesconvey meaning that can lead to changing the player’s views on subjects and/or induce her to perform certain actions (Frasca, 2007). It uses rhetoric as a discipline to understand play and game in videogames. Rhetoric according to Davidson is “the study of techniques and rules for effectively using communication to convey meaning”, while he adapts rhetorical theory to game analysis. He mentions:

“The rhetorical elements are how the mechanics show players how to play. This is the suble distinction between the rhetoric of the gameplay and the gameplay itself. But this disctinction can blur. I believe when gameplay mechanics are well integrated within the overall game design, the rhetorical elements become a seamless part of the game and it’s hard to separate the two. If the overall game design is a unified whole in which the gameplay mechanics are incorporated, then the rhetorical elements are just a part of playing the game, as opposed to an obvious technique or rule to be understood in order to play. Good gameplay makes for good rhetoric, which makes for a good game.”(Davidson, 2003)

Another game scholar named Walz, also proposed the idea of rhetoric in game study. He defines rhetoric as scientific discipline concerned with symbolic action, identification, persuasive operations, strategic communication, and proper (cross-medial) expression and present its technical core, persuasion, as well as the latter’s relevance for digital games (Walz, 2004). He uses Aristotle’s rhetoric as the process of persuasion influences the choice-making of others in that it, naturally, persuades them to change their status of “unplaying” to playing in the instance of playing games. Rhetoric approach is used to persuade players to play the game as conveying the meaning called play rhetoric.

Sutton-Smith frames this activity within seven categories of play rhetorics. Rather than being understood as persuasive techniques, these rhetorics are “part of the multiple broad symbolic systems -political, religious, social, and educational- through which we construct the meaning of the cultures in which we live.” (Sutton-Smith, 2001) In other words, these rhetorics should be understood as different ways of viewing games and play, through different lenses that include them within a group with a global meaning that goes beyond the meaning of its signs, rules and performances. These categories are certainly overlapping, since a particular activity could belong to several groups. These rhetorics include:

- The rhetoric of play as progress is the idea that young children and animals learn through play. It frames children’s imitative play as a form of practicing the activities that they will later perform in adult life.
- The rhetoric of play as fate is connected to a deterministic view of life, arguing that human activities are controlled through fate rather than through free will. This rhetoric applies mainly to games of chance, including gambling games.
- The rhetoric of play as power frames play as a conflict or combat, where the victors become heroes as if they had won a war.
- The rhetoric of play as identity deals with how a community of players identifies itself. It is particularly present in communal play such as festivals like carnival and also in traditional games and toys.
- The rhetoric of play as the imaginary is generally applied to make-believe, improvisation based games.
- The rhetoric of self mainly deals with play as a source of individualistic satisfaction, generally within single player, solitary play.
- The rhetoric of play as frivolous currently frames play as a non-productive activity, as opposed to work. Originally, it was more closely related to the view of play as idle and foolish activities (Sutton-Smith, 2001).

Frasca concludes “gameplay rhetoric” is mainly concerned on how to create games with great gameplay, while “play rhetoric” aims at the more general issue of meaning construction in play and games (Frasca, 2007).

The persuasive use of technology has been developed by Fogg. He focuses on computer technology in general and that also includes the use of videogames and simulations. He introduces the concept of captology, an acronym based on the phrase “computers as persuasive technologies”(Fogg, 2002). According to Fogg, this new discipline focuses on “the design, research, and analysis of interactive computing products created for the purpose of changing peopleʼs attitudes or behaviors”(Fogg, 2002). Foggʼs framework is based on approaching technology from three complementary perspectives: computers as tools (as enhancers of actions), as media (in order to provide experiences) and as social actors (creating a relationship with the user).

Frasca called it “simulation rhetoric” which focuses on the differences between goal-oriented (ludus) and open-ended (paidea) games (Frasca, 2003). It also points out the rhetorical differences between argumentation done through simulations and narrative. This rule typology works on four different levels; the first level is the one that simulation (such as toys and games) share with storytelling: texts, graphics, sounds, backgrounds, characters, cut-scenes. The second level includes manipulation rules, which state what is allowed for the player to do within the simulated model. The third level focuses on the goal rules: what the player must do in order to win. The last, fourth level, is the one of metarules (Frasca, 2003).

2.2 Narratology

As it is mentioned in the research framework; narratology theory on game study focused at the story and sequence. Early developments were firmly in motion as early as the mid-1970s, during the industry’s embryonic era, in the form of multiuser dungeons (MUDs), as popularized by titles such as Adventure and Zork, designed to allow users to engage in fantasy worlds purely via textual descriptions and conversations with other players and game characters (Aarseth, 1997, 2004; Murray, 1997).

Some related works in narratology include:

- Heliö in her study of The Sims mentions that in games active players are taking part into those actions, but the actions are still only the building blocks of the story, not stories themselves. Also, the temporal structure in games is results from the present, whereas in stories it is constructed from the events that have already happened (Heliö, 2005).
- Crawford and Gosling in their paper argue that ludic (ludology) approaches are limited in that they often isolate gameplay from everyday life, and also fail to recognize that games narratives can extend, and have life, beyond the games screen. They highlight on how sports-themed games facilitate the development of gamer narratives, and also often act as a resource in social narratives constructed around both video games and wider sports-related themes(Crawford & Gosling, 2009).
- Kücklich mentions that philological approaches have often been dubbed "narratologist" in the past; thereby reducing the discipline to just one area of research, recent work in this field suggests that there is more to literary theory than just narratology. He thinks it is necessary to keep in mind that the theoretical work between narratology vs ludology in this field is far from completed and key issues still remain unresolved. These issues cannot be tackled by one discipline alone, but must be dealt with in an interdisciplinary effort. Literary studies can supply some of the building blocks of such a theory, but they must be integrated into a framework that spans all the disciplines involved in the study of computer games (Kücklich, 2003).
- Another study by Mallon and Webb in computer game design suggests that we need to understand the changing nature of narrative form before it can make its full contribution to good game experiences. There are potential clashes between the game, interaction, hyper-structure, and narrative; but these elements need to be reconciled and solutions to conflicts must be found (Mallon & Webb, 2005).
- Ip has conducted a long term research on narrative structure in a computer game. In the first part of his article, he highlights some of the salient elementary aspects of game narrative, including the allocation of time, the means of depicting narrative such as back stories, cut scenes, text, prompts, and game structure (Ip, 2010). In part two, Ip found that there are prevailing areas should take precedence: the temporal nature of narrative, the depth of narrative, and how narrative is depicted to the audience (Ip, 2011).

Studying game as a narrative storytelling has been quite sometimes. Most of the games are telling stories. One of narrative techniques in game study is called an interactive narrative. An interactive narrative has in recent years been the subject of notable attention and scrutiny for games theorists and industry professionals. Such levels of interest are perhaps not surprising considering the historical yet rapid development of interactive narrative in commercial games (Ip, 2010). Early developments were firmly in motion as early as the mid-1970s, during the industry’s embryonic era, in the form of multiuser dungeons (MUDs), as popularized by titles such as Adventure and Zork, designed to allow users to engage in fantasy worlds purely via textual descriptions and conversations with other players and game characters (Aarseth, 1997, 2004; Murray, 1997).

The growing sophistication of interactive storytelling demonstrated how game content and narrative may be expanded to provide a greater sense of meaning and immersion to the tasks performed by the player, even for relatively simple forms of interaction typified in early games machines (Madej, 2003; Rollings & Adams, 2003; Tavinor, 2005). In comparison, modern story-driven games combine complex narrative with sophisticated forms of interaction, often resulting in many tens (and possibly up to hundreds) of hours of gameplay (Ip, 2010). Such this storytelling is the appeal and popularity of story-based games, highly elaborate and descriptive narratives are now being incorporated into genres with traditionally vacuous storylines, particularly those among the action, fighting, and shooting categories.

Further extensive debates are also available on the role, representation, and potential direction of storytelling in emerging fields of game studies such as narratology, ludology, interactivity, and related communities. Some literatures include, among numerous others, the examination of general storytelling via electronic media (Aarseth, 1997; Murray, 1997; Ryan, 2001, 2006), reflection on a selection of popular games (Atkins, 2003), insight and critique (Jesper Juul, 1999; Jasper Juul, 2005) and into narrative techniques (Sheldon, 2004), and the collection of essays on interactive storytelling (Wardrip-Fruin & Harrigan, 2004).

Jenkins introduces narrative architects. He argues that game designers less as storytellers and more as narrative architects (H. Jenkins, 2004). Game designers don't simply tell stories; they design worlds and sculpt spaces. It is no accident, for example, that game design documents have historically been more interested in issues of level design than plotting or character motivation. A prehistory of video and computer games might take us through the evolution of paper mazes or board games, both preoccupied with the design of spaces, even where they also provided some narrative context. Monopoly, for example, may tell a narrative about how fortunes are won and lost; the individual Chance cards may provide some story pretext for our gaining or losing a certain number of places; but ultimately, what we remember is the experience of moving around the board and landing on someone's real estate (H. Jenkins, 2004).

Don Carson, who worked as a Senior Show Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, has argued that game designers can learn a great deal by studying techniques of "environmental storytelling" which Disney employs in designing amusement park attractions. Carson explains, "The story element is infused into the physical space a guest walks or rides through. It is the physical space that does much of the work of conveying the story the designers are trying to tell Armed only with their own knowledge of the world, and those visions collected from movies and books, the audience is ripe to be dropped into your adventure. The trick is to play on those memories and expectations to heighten the thrill of venturing into your created universe” (Carson, 2000). Thus, environmental storytelling could be applied in 3D Virtual Worlds. It creates the preconditions for an immersive narrative experience in at least one of four ways: spatial stories can evoke pre-existing narrative associations; they can provide a staging ground where narrative events are enacted; they may embed narrative information within their mise-en-scene; or they provide resources for emergent narratives (H. Jenkins, 2004).

2.3 Spiritual Experience

The word spirituality originates from the Latin spiritus meaning ‘spirit’, the opposite of the material. In other words, spirituality is concerned with making sense of things (Zijderveld, 2008). Today, spirituality is seen as a spiritual journey to make sense of life and seek the ‘inner self’. A very important part of spirituality is experience. This experience, often mediated by meditation, is perceived as communication between the self and the divine, nature, or another holistic concept (Zijderveld, 2008).

According to Mariasusai Dhavamony, an Indian Catholic theologian, identifying with many religious and spiritual traditions offers an excellent perspective on spirituality.

“It is true that all basic human spiritual traditions are open, clear and direct expressions of the manner in which humans have structured their personal and social life in order to give it a higher, transcendent significance. In fact, spirit, spiritual, spirituality can be described as the belief in some reality in human beings and the universe beyond the physical or material or biological which is related to the Supreme Reality and which is required to explain and justify certain human capacities, aspirations and ideals. It is that which explains, validates and makes it possible for humans to rise beyond all aspects of their physical material and selfish selves. It is spiritual reality, which accounts for human selftranscendence and world-transcendence. It is its relation to the Supreme Reality, which is at the basis of human religious experience.”(Dhavamony, 2002)

Spiritual experience, on the other hand remains in mystery. Highland and Yu (2008) called it “inner experience”, that cultivates into “inner peace”. This experience traditionally includes religions and culture which are communicated and preserved through time via mythology (e.g., textual scriptures), art (e.g., symbolism), and ritual (e.g., ceremony). Meanings are communicated largely through metaphor. The stories communicate experiences and their consequences through the use of narrative and poetry (Highland & Yu, 2008).

Many Eastern religions including sects of Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism have developed meditative practices (considered a form of ritual) that cultivate inner experiences which can be named, duplicated, and verified physiologically using modern instruments and techniques (Austin, 2006). Studies of epileptics have identified potential neurological correlates to behaviors typically associated with deep ‘spiritual experience’ (Ramachandran, Hirstein, Armel, Tecoma, & Iragui, 1997). New fields of psychology including transpersonal psychology recognize the relevance and importance of spiritual experience in personal development (Grof, 1985).

Virtual Hajj is an example of the site in Second Life which has been a mediated experience since its inception. It is a simulation (sims) which sponsored by IslamOnline.net (IOL). IOL representatives maintain that the SL Hajj is a tool, and not just for Muslims, but for non-Muslims to learn about Islam. Despite the clear difference between the real and virtually mediated Hajj, Mohammad Yahia has referred to it as the "full Hajj experience," one that he felt was "awe-inspiring," and as close as one could get to the real thing. Sacredness here is in one part determined by the designs of the authors of this space, and in another part by the experiences of users moving through and interacting with it in accord with how the Hajj is meant to be experienced (for example, by wearing the appropriate ihram clothing). The sheer importance of Mecca to Muslims is another factor that influences how the Mecca sims is likely perceived, and visits to the sims increase during Ramadan and the Hajj season. Nonetheless, the Mecca sims is just that: a simulation. This suggests an interesting form of discord between the referent, in this case Mecca, and the representation being used to symbolize it (Derrickson, 2008a).

Art is a way of arranging and manipulating physical materials to communicate inner experience. Religious artwork such as early Christian paintings and Buddhist iconography are rich in symbolism that reinforces the meaning of the related scriptures (Highland & Yu, 2008). Dewey (1934) makes a case that esthetic experiences (such as those who derived from engaging art) are important because they help believers to illuminate ordinary experience. Artists in this way expand the ‘inner landscape’ and create the language used to reference this landscape. This language forms commonalities among people and ‘culture’ emerges. In addition to the role of the ‘artist’ and ‘experiencer’ of art, the medium of expression is also as important if not more important than the message as pointed out in McLuhan’s theory (McLuhan, 1964).

Highland and Yu (2008) in their research purposed that ‘inner experience” is impacted by upon the modality and the quality of the presentation of myth, art, and ritual. In this case, video games represent an entirely new medium for communicating experience that combine the strengths of traditional media forms with natural and intuitive practices of play and interaction/relationship with others (Highland & Yu, 2008). Video games according to Highland and Yu has all three elements (story, art and ritual) which could be used to communicate ‘inner experience’ to its users (Highland & Yu, 2008).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig.2-2. Communicating Inner Experience (Highland & Yu, 2008)


This study adopts one of Sir Christopher Frayling’s three-fold identification of the key areas of design research (Frayling, 1993). It uses “research through design” by "Design-Implementation-Evaluation" of a religious site in Second Life. This method suggests that design researchers focus on making the right things. It allows designers to make research contributions that take advantage of the real skill designers possess—reframing problems through a process of making the right thing (Zimmerman, Forlizzi, & Evenson, 2007; Zimmerman, Stolterman, & Forlizzi, 2010). The religious site is designed according to the theory and research framework. Then, it follows by the implementation to users and site evaluation. The improvement is made to adjust the users’ experience.

3.1. Design Process

The design process follows the common design flow as seen through the graph below:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig.3-1. The Flow for Design Process

3.1.1 Define

The first step is to define which religion or belief and which part of the ‘story’ that a designer wants to develop.


Excerpt out of 112 pages


Spiritual Enlightenment in Virtual Worlds. Designing a Religion Site in Second Life
National Cheng Kung University  (Institute of Creative Industry Design)
Media & Interaction Design
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ISBN (Book)
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4972 KB
spiritual, enlightenment, virtual, worlds, designing, religion, site, second, life
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Emil Kaburuan (Author), 2012, Spiritual Enlightenment in Virtual Worlds. Designing a Religion Site in Second Life, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/282313


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