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Initiative in Religion, Culture, and Policy @ MAGIC


Led by Professor Owen Gottlieb, the MAGIC Center Initiative in Religion, Culture, and Policy, cultivates new research and design, focused on games, religious literacy, the acquisition of cultural practices, and the implications for policy.

How can game systems and interactive media provide insight into religious studies, learning, and cultural production? And how can the study of religion and culture illuminate game design and the learning sciences? How might discoveries gained in the pursuit of these questions help to promote religious literacy, improved dialogue, discourse, and policy? The initiative seeks to unlock answers to these questions through original design and field research in games and simulations as well as through scholarly gatherings, discussions, and publications.


About the Initiative

The Initiative in Religion, Culture & Policy was established in January of 2015 and is managed by Owen Gottlieb, Ph.D., affiliate of the MAGIC Center and Assistant Professor of Interactive Games & Media. Gottlieb’s scholarship in digital media and games for learning crosses the fields of the learning sciences, religious studies, educational technology, Jewish studies and education, cultural anthropology, communication studies, and social studies education.

He is the founder and director of ConverJent: Jewish Games for Learning (www.converjent.org). His mobile augmented reality game Jewish Time Jump: NY was nominated for Most Innovative Game at the 2013 Games for Change Festival and has been featured in The AtlanticThe Village Voice, and Kill Screen.

Gottlieb is an ordained Reform rabbi (HUC-JIR) with industry experience in software project management for large corporate and non-profit clients. He has written screen and teleplays for Paramount and Universal, and worked for over twelve years as a director’s liaison for the Telluride Film Festival. He is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; the Writers Guild of America, West; and the International Game Developers Association.

RCP@MAGIC Projects

Lost & Found: A Series of Games teaching Medieval Religious Legal Systems

Lost & Found is a strategy card-to-mobile game system that teaches medieval religious legal systems with attention to period accuracy and cultural and historical context.  The game emphasizes the pro-social aspects of religious legal systems including collaboration and cooperation.

The purpose of the Lost & Found project is to expand the discourse around religious legal systems, to enrich public conversations in a variety of communities, and to promote greater understanding of the religious traditions that build the fabric of the United States. Comparative religious literacy can build bridges between and within communities and prepare learners to be responsible citizens in our pluralist democracy.

In the game, players take on the role of villagers who must balance family needs with communal needs.  They must balance cooperative actions even while addressing individual needs.

Set in Fustat (Old Cairo) in the 12th Century, a crossroads of religions, the initial module teaches elements of Mishneh Torah, the Jewish legal code written by Moses Maimonides.  Maimonides was influenced by Islamic legal scholars and philosophers such as Averroes and Al Ghazahli; he also influenced Islamic scholars.  The upcoming expansion draws from sources such as the Averroes’ (Ibn Rushd) The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer and Al-Hidayah by Burhan al-Din al-Marghinani.  The Islamic law expansion will allow players to learn about the shared relationship between Jewish and Islamic legal systems.

Generous Support for RCP Design and Research

The Lost & Found card game has been graciously supported by seed funding from the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing & Information Sciences, the Office of the Vice President for Research, RIT, and matching funds from MAGIC.

The digital prototype based on the card game is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this paper do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.