Massively Multi-Agent Simulations of Religion

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture


Massively multiplayer online (MMO) games are not merely electronic communication systems based on computational databases, but also include artificial intelligence that possesses complex, dynamic structure. Each visible action taken by a component of the multi-agent system appears simple, but is supported by vastly more sophisticated invisible processes. A rough outline of the typical hierarchy has four levels: (1) interaction between two individuals, each either human or artificial, (2) conflict between teams of agents who cooperate with fellow team members, (3) enduring social-cultural groups that seek to accomplish shared goals, and (4) large-scale cultural traditions, often separated into virtual geographic regions. In many MMOs, both magic and religion are represented, in ways that harmonize with a social-scientific theory that defines them in terms of specific versus general psychological compensators. This article draws empirical examples from five diverse MMOs: Dark Age of Camelot, Dungeons and Dragons Online, World of Warcraft, A Tale in the Desert and Gods and Heroes.

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (1978). Satan’s Power: A deviant psychotherapy cult. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (1987). Sociology laboratory. Belmont, California: Wadsworth.

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (1995) “Neural network models of religious belief.” Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 38: 483–495.

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2006). God from the machine: Artificial intelligence models of religious cognition. Walnut Grove, California: AltaMira.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2010a). Online multiplayer games. San Rafael, California: Morgan and Claypool.

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2010b). The Warcraft civilization: Social science in a virtual world. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2013). eGods: Faith versus fantasy in computer gaming. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2015). Online ethnographic research: Avatars in virtual worlds. In S. Cheruvallil-Contractor & S. Shakkour (Eds.). Digital methodologies in the sociology of religion. (pp. 147–157). London: Bloomsbury.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2017a). Dynamic secularization: Information technology and the tension between religion and science. London: Springer.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2017b). Revival: Resurrecting the Process Church of the Final Judgement. Port Townsend, Washington: Feral House.

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2017c). The virtual conquest of death. In M. H. Jacobsen (Ed.), Postmortal society. (pp. 197–215). London: Taylor and Francis.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bartle, R. A. (1996). Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: players who suit MUDs. Journal of MUD Research, Vol. 1(1): 1–19.

  • Bloom, P. (2004). Descartes’ baby: How the science of child development explains what makes us human. New York: Basic Books.

  • Bostrom, N. (2003). Are you living in a computer simulation? Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 53: 243–255.

  • Descartes, R. (1912). A discourse on method. New York: Dutton.

  • Duriez, C. (2003). Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The gift of friendship. Mahwah, New Jersey: HiddenSpring.

  • Gygax, G. (1979). Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Dungeon masters guide. New York: TSR/Random House.

  • Heatwave Interactive. (2011). Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising. Austin, Texas: Heatwave Interactive.

  • Husserl, E. (1965). Cartesian meditations. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

  • Mylonas, E., & Howarth, R. (2005). Dark Age of Camelot epic edition. Roseville, California: Prima Games.

  • Nardi, B. (2010). My life as a Night Elf priest: An anthropological account of World of Warcraft. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stark, R., & Bainbridge, W. S. (1979). Of churches, sects, and cults: Preliminary concepts for a theory of religious movements. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 18: 117–131.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stark, R., & Bainbridge, W. S. (1980). Towards a theory of religion: Religious commitment. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 19: 114–128.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stark, R., & Bainbridge, W. S. (1987). A theory of religion. New York: Toronto/Lang.

  • Sturluson, S. (1916). The prose Edda. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Sukthankar, G., & Sycara, K. (2007). Policy recognition for multi-player tactical scenarios. In Proceedings of the 6th international conference on autonomous agents and multi-agent systems. (pp. 58–65). New York: ACM.

  • Underhill, E. (1930). Mysticism: A study in nature and development of spiritual consciousness. New York: Dutton.

  • Wagner, R. (1895). The art-work of the future, pp. 69–213 in Richard Wagner’s prose works. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner.

  • White, E. L. (1921). Andivius Hedulio: Adventures of a Roman nobleman in the days of the empire. New York: E. P. Dutton.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 146 82 8
Full Text Views 58 36 0
PDF Downloads 25 14 0