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Many video games have explicit reference to religion both as narrative and symbolic content. Take, for instance, the Prince of Persia (Ubisoft 2008), where the player must defeat an evil Zoroastrian deity, and Tomb Raider (Square Enix 2013) whose final boss is a shamanistic Sun Queen. Other games, such as Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft 2007), which is set in the Third Crusade, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda 2011), which centers around a civil war sparked by the worship of the god Talos, use both real and fictive religious events and places. It is interesting, however, that while game designers place religious el- ements in games, which are easy for researchers to excavate and speculate about, players themselves seem least interested in the religious aspects of games (Grieve, Radde-Antwei- ler, and Zeiler 2020). How should scholars of religion deal with the fact that player discussions of religion and engagement with religion are avoided, forbidden, and most of the time simply ignored? If not the category of religion, how should scholars of digital media theorize such religious elements? We argue that a more accurate concept would be the analytic category of value formations (see Grieve, Radde-Antweiler and Zeiler 2020). Using the performance of music in Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) as a touchstone, the authors define value as a second-order category used to theorize what actors find worthy or unworthy, and value formations as the collections and systematization of interdependent and entangled values. To be clear, we are not arguing for any type of preexisting good, beautiful, or typical (or bad, ugly, or deviant) values. Instead, we view value formations from a social-constructivist approach (Grieve, Radde-Antweiler and Zeiler 2020).

About the authors

Mike Farjam
Mike Farjam is a computational social scientist at Lund University (Sweden) with an interest in environmental and political behavior. He studied Psychology and Artificial Intelligence before receiving his PhD in Economics in 2016 as a fellow of the Max Planck Research School on Adapting Behavior in a Fundamentally Uncertain World. He taught more than 10 courses in statistics, text analysis, and research methodology at various universities and offers commercial advise on these matters since 2013.

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten
Anamaria Dutceac Segesten is Senior Lecturer in European Studies at Lund University. She holds a PhD in Political Science from the Univeristy of Maryland (USA) and has been a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Copenhagen. In 2021, she was a ZeMKI Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Bremen, Germany. Research – wise, Dr. Dutceac Segesten has written extensively on the topic of nationalism, collective identity and conflict.

Sara Schmitt
Sara Schmitt is a research assistant at the Institute of Social Sciences in the Computational Social Science Department. She is researching within the EU Horizon 2020 project “PROTECT – The Right to International Protection. A Pendulum between Globalization and Nativization?” Her research interests include migration and refugee policy as well as the impact of radical (right-wing) and populist parties on party competition and political communication. Methodologically, she is particularly focused on the field of quantitative text analysis.

Boris Mance
Boris Mance works as a researcher at the Social Communication Research Centre University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His fields of interest are in political communication, critical communication and scientific publishing through critical perspective. Although most of his methodological experience lays on quantitative text and network analysis, he does not discriminate between different data collection methods.