Morality and Meaning in Video Games: A New Approach to Christian Game Design



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A review of the history of video game design reveals an emphasis on themes of competition, survival, and combat. Game designers are now increasingly exploring other themes, including ethics, morality, and religious or spiritual subjects. This thesis analyzes the design of a 2D single-player computer game based on Christian principles, investigating morality, ethics, and meaning in video games. The game builds on previous games, examining the ethical relevance of certain video games as cultural artifacts and as personal inspiration, expounding on how games can be both inspirational and educational.

Though violent games can provide moral challenges and "ethically significant experiences," in this project, non-violent solutions are more conducive for a game based on Christian tenets. This thesis project reinterprets the idea of the "shmup" or scrolling shooter game by changing the game mechanics and win condition to express a non-violent process. The player takes on the role of an angel who has been sent to rescue birds from demons, presenting general subjects for wide audience appeal regardless of religious beliefs.

The thesis outlines the process used in the design, the philosophical approach, and the technical and artistic methods used to create the game. The game is evaluated subjectively with respect to the goals set forth in the design, based on informal player feedback. This thesis contributes to the exploration of games in a spiritual, artistic, moral, and emotional context and the process outlined herein provides a practical example to other independent game developers in the design of a game based on spiritual themes.