crucial problem of the purposes (or non- conducting ethnographic research replete purposes) of play in our time. with interviews and surveys within guilds of World of Warcraft (2004) and com- —Patrick Jagoda, University of Chicago, munities of Second Life (2003). Geraci Chicago, IL balances quantitative and qualitative findings and observations with insight- ful anecdotes highlighting everyday occurrences of virtual-world residents. Virtually Sacred: and At times he openly acknowledges when Meaning in World of Warcraft the two approaches conflict or need not and Second Life express religious impulses exclusively. All Robert M. Geraci this teeming with an approachable style New York, NY: Oxford University Press, of writing and prose makes Geraci’s case 2014. Appendix, notes, references, index, equitable. He has also supplied ample and images. 348 pp. $35.00 cloth. endnotes and an invaluable appendix on ISBN: 9780199344697 his own methodologies and sources. Any scholar pursuing similar work will want Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in to consult this generous supplementary World of Warcraft and Second Life is in material. many ways a natural follow-up to Rob- Chapters 1 through 3 lay out Geraci’s ert W. Geraci’s 2011 book Apocalyptic AI: experiences in World of Warcraft and his Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial own efforts to acknowledge its strength Intelligence, and Virtual . His latest as a prefabricated mythos and lore-driven work is erudite, lucid, and a poignant and domain. As such, the first few chapters significant contribution to the flourish- reveal Geraci’s suggestive insights into ing multidisciplinary study of games and the discourse of myth and meaning as a virtual worlds. It also adds to the recent cohesive story and game world. He fur- body of scholarship examining the nexus ther develops a brief account of key pro- of virtual worlds, sacred traditions, mean- genitors of World of Warcraft and games ing making, and myth, including sociolo- with similar thematic and aesthetic ten- gist William Sims Bainbridge’s eGods: dencies toward myth making. Naturally, Faith Versus in Computer Gam- the of Tolkien and the ing and psychologist Nick Yee’s Proteus of stand out as canonical, Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual along with science fiction in general as Worlds Change Us—and How They Don’t . a model for “modern mythology” (pp. Virtually Sacred stands firmly alongside 28–31). These, alongside the highly such works, offering a theoretical premise influential table-top role-playing game derived from the social sciences in general Dungeons & Dragons, readily demon- and the sociology of religion in particular. strate content culturally transmitted with Beyond Geraci’s ambitious theo- an appeal for myth and magic. However, retical premises, he also spent extensive the operative and more deeply entrenched time in and out of virtual game worlds mythos, as Geraci suggests, may very well Book Reviews 263 be the players’ intervention with a cosmic Chidester’s concepts of “holy shit,” and struggle between good and evil, enabling “authentic fake,” tend to bleed into Gera- room for ethical concerns and reflections, ci’s own arguments in a way that may leave while yielding transcendent-like experi- the reader conflicted over the author’s ences within the major tides of this under- intents and uses of religious material. His lying mythos. treatment of scripture in light of the ludic Geraci dedicates chapters 4 through context may be off-putting to some read- 6 to analyzing Second Life ’s more opaque ers. Others may find that Geraci’s reflec- engagement with religious community tions merely shed light on the already building, social experiments with its open- pervasive tension between religious tradi- world reliance on user-generated content, tion and the virtual frontier. For example, and fabrication and identity construction. the Catholic Church’s resistance to allow- Much like World of Warcraft , Second Life ing the Eucharist in Second Life leads to also draws on the canonical texts of sci- potential—perhaps inescapable—theo- ence fiction and like William logical quandaries, such as the question Gibson’s (1984) and Neal of whether virtual wafer and virtual wine Stephenson’s (1992). As Ger- are authentic and efficacious? At other aci reveals, the porous world of Second Life times, he elevates behavior, is not so much lore driven (though lore- while potentially trivializing the miracles driven lands exist), but rather cosmo- and recounted in scripture. As the author asks, mytho-plastic. In other words, residents can “Is a character who can be either migrate or expand their traditional played, whose accomplishments are one’s religions and ideologies into the virtual own, any less real than an angelic resur- world, or create religions unique to the rection or a parted sea that can be neither world. Second Life , as Geraci demonstrates, seen nor felt in the here now?” (p. 99). can even serve as a compelling platform for However, this is perhaps the strength the seemingly spiritual aspirations of move- of virtual worlds, worlds into which play ments like . studies scholars can venture and expound Geraci relies mostly on the dominant, upon the Virtually Sacred : “[Virtual traditions of Judaism, Christian- Worlds] provide places for playing out ity, and Islam, though he does make efforts our religious thoughts and simultane- to reach beyond them. His correspondence ously are inscriptions of them” (p. 9). with Philip Rosedale, founder and creator Such remarks call to mind the potential of Second Life , reveal Rosedale’s own inspi- efficacy and transformative quality of rations from Hinduism and Buddhism. Johan Huizinga’s magic circle in Homo However, one may find Geraci’s reliance Ludens, formulated as an area within on David Chidester’s definition of religion, which no distinction exists between “the negotiation of what it means to be space marked for sacred purposes and human with respect to the superhuman space marked for sheer play. In his clos- and the subhuman” (p. 14), to be rather ing chapter, Geraci proposes that we restricting, albeit broad in its own impli- are, and perhaps always have been, the cations—there is room for contestation. conduits, couriers, players, and agents of 264 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF P L A Y ฀ ฀ WINTER 2015

the sacred. Now we are simply migrating are an endangered species: they rot away these tendencies to our virtual worlds. in dumps, corrode on beachfront board- As a concept and , the “spiri- walks, and succumb to the indignities of tual marketplace” is, of course, not at all a ceaseless tide of button mashing with- exclusive to contemporary life (consider out the care to keep them running. While the mercantile language of Paul or vener- threatened in the wild, some fortunate ated sites and activities of Hermes.) Its games have been removed from their pervasive access, however, has empow- natural habitats and placed into preserves ered practitioners to become deeply cre- ranging from museums, private collec- ative with their spiritual odysseys. tions, and historically minded arcades. Virtually Sacred poses questions By exploring and documenting the many worth serious consideration. Does tran- ways in which people and institutions pre- scendence and meaning come with a serve digital games, Guins challenges the cost? Is it transferrable via products of status quo of game history, surveys, and commerce? Or is it free-to-play? With underused artifacts and archives in the the sacred affordance given to our virtual United States, and invites others to follow and gaming worlds, along with religious in his footsteps to write a richer history of identity and community building, there is video gaming. Crucially, Guins’s project perhaps no better time than now to assert is not to engage with games-as-artifacts critical approaches and expound on the merely to recapture the authenticity of variety of those religious experiences and the play experience at the moment of its traditions represented or reassembled. release as a consumer product. Instead, he seeks to trace the path of games as they —Robert Guyker, Jr., Pacifica Graduate travel through time and space and in so Institute, Carpinteria, CA doing take on different meanings, cultural environs, values, and epistemologies. Following Erkki Huhtamo, Guins chides video game historians for not Game After: A Cultural Study of moving beyond the “chronicle era,” (p. Video Game Afterlife 22) characterized by collecting informa- Raiford Guins tion from written sources often provided Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014. by manufacturers or regurgitated by the Appendix, notes, bibliography, index. enthusiast press with little analysis or 376 pp. $35.00 cloth. theoretical motivation. In opposition to ISBN: 9780262019989 the written accounts of early game his- tory, Guins provides an overview of the A new generation of video game histori- collection and presentation of games in ans must preserve the medium’s heritage museums in chapter 1, using the remains before it disappears. In Raiford Guins’s of the Atari Pong prototype from 1972 compelling journey as an adventuring (the harbinger of the coin-operated video media archaeologist, arcade machines game industry) as an exemplary iconic from the heyday of arcade video games object and Ralph Baer’s fragile “Brown