Gaming Maimonides at HUC

November 16, 2016

Source: The Jewish Week


As gaming culture continues to proliferate and innovations are constantly being made in the field, Rabbi Owen Gottlieb, an assistant professor of interactive games and media at the Rochester Institute of Technology, found a unique purpose for his latest project: teaching Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah through gaming.

During the second day of the two-day conference this week organized by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on “Crafting Jewish Life in a Complex Religious Landscape,” Gottlieb hosted a session exploring the implication of contemporary and near-future digital and analog technologies for the rediscovery, transformation and extension of various pathways for Jewish learning.

Gottlieb, who is considered a “visionary Jewish educator, bringing cutting-edge technologies to bear on classrooms, retreats and teachers’ workshops” by Isa Aron, a professor of Jewish education at HUC, spent his two-hour long session on Monday afternoon exploring the relationship between games and religion, focusing on “Playing with Judaism in the Digital Age.”

“Lost and Found,” Gottlieb and his team’s latest game, teaches Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. The game is set in North Africa in the 12th century, and players assume the roles of villagers. As villagers, the players must balance their needs with their family’s needs and their community’s needs, all while navigating the law. While maintaining historical accuracy, the game also highlights some of religion’s pro-social aspects, such as collaboration and cooperation when resources are scarce.

In the future, Gottlieb plans to bring Muslim law into focus in the game, since Maimonides and Muslim scholars learned from one another at the time.

Regardless of the religion being discussed, Gottlieb seeks to use games to shift people’s black and white thinking to a more nuanced approach to legality.

Read more at The Jewish Week.

Updated: Dec. 08, 2016