In ‘secular’ Western societies, religious topics permeate media texts of books, films, series and games and such texts even inform several religious-spiritual movements. Critically expanding on theories about ‘fiction-based religion’, ‘invented religion’ or ‘hyper-real religion’, this article studies if, how and why players of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft reflect on religious narratives in the game world and what influence it has on their personal perspective on religion. Based on interviews with 22 international players, three forms of ‘religious reflexivity’ are distinguished: (1) religious performance, an acting out of offline experiences with religion through online role-playing; (2) religious relativism, a shift from dogmatic atheism to a tolerant attitude towards religion; and (3) religious quests, an increased interest in religion and active ‘bricolage’ of online religion and official religion to create personal systems of meaning. Online games, it is concluded, can serve as laboratories where youngsters freely experiment with religion outside the established churches.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Digital games, massively multiplayer online role-playing game, play, religion, spirituality, World of Warcraft
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1177/1461444816642421, hdl.handle.net/1765/102513
Journal New Media & Society
Citation
Schaap, J.C.F, & Aupers, S.D. (2017). ‘Gods in World of Warcraft exist’: Religious reflexivity and the quest for meaning in online computer games. New Media & Society, 19(11), 1744–1760. doi:10.1177/1461444816642421