This year’s incarnation of the annual Game Design Challenge, at GDC in San Francisco last week, tasked its panellists with creating games that were a religion. The winner, Jason Rohrer, used Mojang’s enormously successful Minecraft as a sort of tribute to his late grandfather.
Fascinated by the stories, images and places his grandfather left behind, Rohrer’s game was based on the idea that chains of meaning took on a sense of spirituality over time, saying: “We become gods to those who come after us.”
Rohrer’s Minecraft world exists only on a single USB stick. Players play Minecraft as usual until they die, at which point they must quit immediately and pass the stick on to someone else. Waiting to be “chosen” and waiting for delivery of a “holy object” gave the project religious connotations; being part of the chain, Rohrer believed, would give players a sense of legacy, travelling through a world built by virtual ancestors.
The winner was decided by which project received the biggest audience reaction, and while Rohrer was the ultimate victor, fellow participants Jenova Chen’s and John Romero’s designs were also well received.
Romero’s game, Messiah6502, saw 12 audience members selected as apostles, tasked with converting as many fellow attendees as possible, those who agreed holding coloured post-it notes. The winner was the one who “performed the most miracles” – those whose followers’ post-its bore small gold stars. The winning apostle’s task? “Kill John Romero.”
Chen’s work focused on the two core human issues addressed by religion: lack of purpose, and fear of death. Believing one of the most core elements of human purpose to be propogation – not just on a physical level, but the propogation of ideas. She revealed a variety of ways to make TED talks more dynamic, gamifying them with social features to enable viewers to give better, more visible and measurable feedback on how they were affected by the talks.