Computer Games for Social and Spiritual Development
Summary of the "HEJERA GAMES”
Dr. Yitzḥaq (Isaac) Hayut-Man
In this paper, a complex and sophisticated game (the HEJERA Game), constructed largely as an allegory of the Hebrew Bible, is presented in the light of its narrative background (the HEJERA Plot) and the immediate aims of the game (to enter the New Jerusalem).
An extensive outline of the rules and the use of co-operation and collaboration is given, and its future as both a research tool, and a device to assist worldwide interpersonal understanding through its implementation as multiuser games on the Internet (its "real" aim and value) is explained. (This is the sense of the words "social and spiritual" in the title.)
The game is characterized as operating on several levels in several aspects (e.g., the local rules and aims may be changed as well as the plays within the rules).
This paper illustrates a use of computer games for social and spiritual development. It outlines a Games System called "The HEJERA GAMES" in the context of a S.F. story "the HEJERA PLOT". These games might, however, be developed as commercial computer games and in other contexts discussed below.
In "The HEJERA PLOT", the HEJERA games are described as training facilities for "The HEJERA" - the Heavenly Jerusalem Association - to advance its "P.L.O.T", namely, inducing the PLO to undergo a Transformation into a sister Zionist agency.
In that story, game performances are meshed with a fantasy sequence which reproduces the journey of Abraham and Isaac, together with Ishmael, Eliẹzer, the donkey and a mysterious stranger, towards Mount Moriah. At each stage of that journey, the members of that party may come to other disagreements or agreements, and these set the parameters for the design of the next game. (A similar two-tier structure is employed in Pask, Glanville and Robinson's (1980) games book, and the concept of two-tier structure is explained by Robinson in this volume).
The principle illustrated by this arrangement is that a games system can serve a complete reconstructive, or redemptive, curriculum. New understandings reached at each game enable graduation to the next one. As a result, the environment is also reconstructed in an evolutionary manner into the pattern of the ideal city, the New Jerusalem. The contending visions about ideals are also reconstructed in the course of the games sequence.
2 - Redemptive Scenarios of the HEJERA Games:
"HEJERA" (or Hejirah) implies a journey of transformation. This theme underlies all hero myths and sustains most adventure stories and their current mutation, the "Adventure Games". Ancient mysteries and initiation ceremonies used the mythical hero's journey as the framework for the spiritual development of the initiate. For the HEJERA PLOT and HEJERA Games, the Bible (and the Koran) are the primary source of their mythos. The games employ elements of myth where the actor goes through inner changes in the course of his adventures.
Various such images of redemption were selected and these were grouped into four a-priori distinct "Redemptive Scenarios" (Khayutman, 1981). The HEJERA Games use an elementary notion of such scenarios as ordered sets of stages-games whose names follow the sequence of the alphabet from A to M. Their four goals are:
points to "alchemical" transmutations, where the material world is changed - and with it the mental world. In the J-JEJERA Games, the original material- "the Materia Confusa" - is in the shape of the remnants of the garbled "Library of Babel". These are subjected to various alchemical processes: Calcination, Dissolution, etc., in order to yield the Philosopher's Stones, with which to build the Heavenly Jerusalem.
pertains to Kabbalistic transformations, concerned both with the celestial worlds and with combinatorial aspects of Hebrew letters and words, whereby a person can become a Merkavah, a vehicle to the divine.
In the HEJERA PLOT, the first idea is to build a vehicle for reaching the Heavenly Jerusalem. If this is "the City of Understandings", this Merkavah is an "inter-space ship" shuttling between personal spaces through reconstructions of their conceptual worlds.
The agent of the ultimate transformation for both Jews and Christians is the Messiah, and there are mystical intimations of collective Messianic movements and vehicles.
Noting the combination "Mess-Iah", the English word Messiah implies "God's Mess" - the ultimate transformation transforming the Mess into Divine realm. This was recognized by Jewish Midrashim and by Christian Alchemists for whom the "Stone" paralleled the Christ. The HEJERA Games are offered as training media for becoming Messianic initiates in this sense.
In Hebrew, Moriah has to do with 1) Vision - Mar'eh; 2) Awe - Morah; and 3) Teacher - Moreh. Moriah is destined to bring the Vision of God, the Awe of God and the Teachings of God, and this is the site of Solomon's Temple - the Miqdash - and of the Future Miqdash.
For the HEJERA PLOT and Games, Moriah and Jerusalem are also spiritual goals which may be conceived as "the opening of the Third Eye" for "the Global Brain", with its location marked by the cube of the Temple / the New Jerusalem. The alleged "third eye" can reveal the subtle workings of the worlds, from atoms to galaxies. The future Miqdash could be an "Exploratorium" for experiencing the unity of all creation - including the observer.
The interplay between the redemptive scenarios
It is likely that any idealist will insist that his ideal should be followed by all to bring the redemption, and the resistance that this entails annuls its gains. In the HEJERA Games, all four goals can ultimately be one and the same, but it is more likely that they will lead in different ways. There are four players and each selects his final goal, and with this he is aligned with a redemptive scenario of twelve stages to this goal. All players must engage in the same one game for that stage. The next game to be selected would be the outcome of the previous game. One payoff of each game may be that the winner can name the next game, the settings and context for their next episode. It is even conceivable that players would co-operate and synthesize the next game as a combination of several of the a-priory distinct alternatives they are faced with.
3 - Formal Description:
A round of the HEJERA GAME consists of an ordered sequence of twelve different game-stages, each can be selected from a choice of four different games. Thus there would be 4^12, or over 16 million, different possible sequences of the games.
1 Alchemy Alphabet Adventure Aqedah
2 Bubble Board Babel Babble
3 Cell Counter Crystal Christ
4 Dendrite Discovery Division Direction
5 Ecology Echo-logy Earth Environment
6 Form Polk Futures Fire
7 Geometry Golem Gematria Generation
8 Hejera Havannah Hermetic Heavenly
9 Identity Islam Imitation Individual
10 Jihad Jerusalem Judgment Jailbreak
11 Khayut Keywords Kabbalah Kodesh
12 Letter Labyrinth Language Liberation
Aim: Metamorphosis Merkavah Moriah/Miqdash MESSIAH
A typical sequence is marked above, its beginning and end underlined. It has alternative intermediate steps and there seem millions of different options, but it may become apparent during the sequence that they converge, and whatever route one takes, eventually leads to the same place, while procedures and ways of relating to other entities may recur. The point, moreover, is to make Yiḥudim (integrations), to try at each stage to integrate some or all of the four concepts into one coherent story. The players may thus get extra grades for having enacted well two, three or four concepts together. Traditions associate the Heavenly Jerusalem with twelve, seven, and fifty gates. In the HEJERA Games, if you win and have your way each time, you could make up to 12 on your own. If out of these fifty gates you have entered 7 then you can get into the Heavenly Jerusalem. Played by several players, there may be a combination of competition and co-operation. If one manages to have the others play his game for 7 out of the 12 stages, no other player has a chance to gain 7 and enter as well Since it is unlikely that anyone will gain 7 gates and will win a full entry, a more likely course is to co-operate with other players and enter more complex, combined games, in which each of the participants gains one gate.
4 Players in the HEJERA Games:
There are four principal players in the games:
1) "Yitzḥaq" (Isaac) and:
2) "Yishmael" (Ishmael).
Each one hopes that he would gain the "Yerusha", the legacy left by/promised to their father Abraham. They are accompanied by:
3) Eliezer (literally - God's help), their father's helper, who would also inherit it in case they do not. They have another helper with them in the (initial) form of:
4) A donkey (Hebrew Ḥamor, related, phonetically and traditionally to Ḥomer, matter) who also has a will of its own.
In some sense the donkey - Ḥamor -, and ḥomer which is matter, represents also the Adamah, the earth and her fertility and living powers which show through landscapes, through fauna and flora. The donkey may seem like the worst role for any player with a competitive ego. But the donkey has an advantage by having affinity with all of the sides - and whoever will win would enter the city riding his donkey as the Messiah. Earlier, it is the transforming donkey that carries the anima - the female spirits of the story.
There are also other feminine and masculine characters (see below), often of archetypal character. These may re-enter the games as a lingering impressions and forms of relating.
All players aspire to gain "the World's Capital", which they conceive of as an ideal city, but they take different and individualized goals and stages. The rules, however, are that players must collaborate at each stage, by "sharing the same reality" of the same game settings.
If Isaac is resurrected or the Aqedah is somehow canceled, then he is the winner, the inheritor, and whoever had sided with him might co-inherit, in coalition with him. The Messiah entering the city riding his donkey is such a. collaboration, allowing the donkey itself to enter the City of God. There are other ways of collaborating: of Isaac with Eliezer or of Isaac with Ishmael (implying a Christian-Jewish or Moslem /Arab-Jewish co-operation) as ways to enter. On the other hand, of course any of these actors may hope that Isaac will be eliminated through the Aqedah and he will be sale heir to Abraham.
The outcome of this game is an entity called "Israel" - it might be an Islamic Israel, or a Christian Israel, or a Jewish one or a combination of them. Materialistic and animistic tendencies could also have their share in Israel.
Leading Feminine Roles for the HEJERA Games:
Some figures are: Lilith, Adam's First Mate who rebelled; Dinah, the 13th Tribe of Israel; Judith, non-Israelite wife of Ishmael. Other figures may be based on characteristics of Hagar, Le'ah, Sarah, Rivqah, Tamar, Ruth and others.
Since the Messiah desires to enter Jerusalem, a desire which has strong sexual connotations, then a productive outcome is to produce "the Daughters of Jerusalem". It is thus possible that a procreation and production of heirs of tribes within the large assembly comes through such a union of a player and an Anima. The drama of the game is a turning or changing, from a seductive figure like Lilith at first, to the sacred figure of a mother, through the transformation of becoming a wife.
Actors names as Procedures:
The names of the protagonists are really redemptive programs. Yishmael (Ishmael) literally means "will listen to" and Yitzḥaq (Isaac) means "will laugh". The games should give special payoffs for listening (tuning in) and for laughing (turning a threatening situation into a joyful one; editing inhibitors), presented as concrete operations in the game settings. Likewise, the name Eli'ezer, which has to do with assistance, meaning "God's help" or "towards help", represents "model Christian traits" of selfless service to others which would be rewarded accordingly in the game settings. Since the Hebrew word Homer also means "severity", the donkey, and matter-Homer, as actor in the game introduces constraints that, through interactions, give rise to structures.
5 Structure and Procedures of the Games:
We intend to structure the HEJERA Game System in accordance with Pask's rules of multi-aim conversations (Pask, 1975) and for two-tier Conversational Domains (Pask et at 1975). The latter include task structures which employ Program Building and Program Description procedures, generally as Languages for handling Objects and for describing Objects. Pask's approach has also a predilection for tessellation/ cellular automata models.
The "Paschal" (or redemptive) motive discussed above may add types of implicate Divine Ordering Influence and motivating Power, and also the notion of "Passing Over" as explicit procedures. Such influences are common in fantasy games and are easy to model.
The Territory of the Games: The above list of sub-games is the higher lever map of the game. This map underlies a territory in which the game characters journey in the form of some 50 loci. These loci may contain geographical sites associated with a historical sequence starting from Genesis or from Abraham, going to the present and the future. The games will have moves between these loci which, together, add up to a "redemptive curriculum".
Verbal Domains: The HEJERA Came tries to build understandings between people with divergent or opposing positions. These understandings are generally semantic - there are some words which they agree upon, or which symbolize the same for them. As such words are acquired, they extend a coherent territory of understandings. Thus underlying the geographic-historic territory of the game is a more fundamental verbal domain.
Words may be constructed, allowing more words of agreements and of understanding to be constructed. Words which are common to several players would have a bigger yield; co-operation in meaning would yield a higher payoff than an esoteric meaning which is right for one and wrong or meaningless for another.
What is important is that there are words which stand for painful experiences, for traumas, and these make the terrain far more intricate and problematic. All together, words, and their constituent letters, are the real stuff, the very material with which the games deal and much of the molding and modeling in the games is linguistic.
Modeling Facilities for the specific games
The terrain / board / map of the game resolve into a network of nodes which are really addresses of operations, of tasks to be performed. We may note here just some early indications along a single line in the structure displayed above:
A: A search in the labyrinth of sand dunes becomes, after finding its goal, a search for a meaningful expression in an endless chaotic library of shattered tablets of unknown alphabet.
B: Mechanical and microbiological processes are undertaken to transform the engravings into bubbles in a murky medium. The actors try to incorporate themselves into bubbles assemblies.
C: Bubble assemblies stabilize as self-organizing cells, struggle is rife and many types of cells can be attempted, of which few can become tissues and the coveted type is a "Temple Cell".
D: Cells become packed together and effects of cellular automata become prominent, the superior ones become those that enrich their neighbor relations by sending searching dendrites.
E: In a brain-like cellular environment, the developing entities are stable, and productive, echoes in reverberating circuits. The constructive and destructive interferences form an “echology”.
F: A plastic environment for the interplay of sounds and forms. Sounds create forms, and forms sustain reverberations. Coalitions of elaborate sounds and intricate knot-forms form.
G: A geometrical playground for constructing living forms and spiritual entities, using geometric forms as generators of many alphabets, especially our HEJERA Cube.
H: The HEJERA Cube resolves into an immense heavenly mansion where souls find their true position in a 3-D tessellation where they can communicate harmoniously with their neighbours.
I: Action shifts back to within the human brain where some of the idealised forms are internalised within its noisy environment.
J: Modelling of various movements within "the societies of mind".
We could go on, but this may give enough flavors. We are in a realm where "we encounter... topology, knots and weaves, fractal and recursive forms, infinity, curvature and imaginary numbers. a panoply of fundamental mathematical and physical ideas relating directly to the central turn of self-reference" (Kauffman, 1987).
"Pass-Over" and "Under-Standing" as Procedures:
It is important to specify the procedures whereby people "Pass-Over" and understand each other. Perhaps paradoxically - by understanding someone on the same plot, you inherit it: if both understand each other then naturally they both inherit it. "Over-passing", on the other hand, is by assuming the other's viewpoint and returning back to one's own (Dunne, (1972). Under-Standings give more of the inheritance; while Passing-Over is a redemptive act, which opens a new path.
The game may consist of various tasks, but these may be emotionally difficult to perform. The Under and the Over aspects of these operations have to do with Under-going into the realm of emotions and Over-stepping outside them to some new cognitive insights – to reaching thoughts which are not held by one's ego. The HEJERA Game might build the terrain to become increasingly more beneficial for the parties by transforming the sites of deep buried bad memories into more favorable fruitful domain of understanding. Perhaps I can Under-Stand you when I stand in the place of your pain and feel it; whereas I "Pass-Over" when I can get high on what makes you fly, or rather, when 1 can fly with what makes you high.
The gaming board is thus three-dimensional: it has tunnels of Under-Standing and airways of Pass-Overs. So even if the positions themselves may seem impassable, separated niches and closed cells that allow only slow and difficult passage, the game builds a system of communications between them. By playing such a game on a computer, every connection being made is marked as a graph connecting these positions. It can then be stored by the computer and next time you are over there your connections from this point can be displayed to you, and arc much more productive.
6 Extensions of the game:
The finite games referred here might be developed into an open-ended game, where actors can explore and form additional understandings of further relevant related concepts. Such understandings would be coded and stored in the growing game as additional nodes of the coherent network of topics which comprises the map of the territory upon which the game is played. By networking, people can play such a game world-wide. A game system with marvelous-yet-serious contents and backed by computer networking can be a framework for building new types of communities and "Reform Clubs", the very "Heavenly Jerusalem Association". Striving for a more universal and spiritual reformation of Zionism, the games are conceived to have appeal in the Middle East as well as in the US Midwest and "Bible Belt", from where new varieties of Christian Zionism are emerging.
Much of what has been discussed here could be applied in different forms. The exploratorium notion mentioned above could be used in an exhibition hall for a large audience, using media unavailable on home computers. In particular, making a "New Jerusalem Pavilion" at Disney World would attract both adherents of Bible resurgence and of "New Age" lore. Another development under way is as guide-package for "spiritual safari" to Israel.
7 Current Status of HEJERA Games:
Beside work on the HEJERA PLOT story, work is underway to develop the games as a project of Computer Medialed Co-operative Work. A EBS (Bulletin Board System) with a data base has been developed for assisting various social innovations in Israel, and the HEJERA Games is offered on it as a project. This network will operate free of charge, so that bright, young, and poor computer wizkids may join the work. It is intended to make copies of transactions and programmes developed available on EARN, BitNet etc. to offer participation to the academic community. We plan to prepare a project proposal with a bl.dget and a feasibility study for the I-IEJERA Carnes as commercial compUter games with animation.
Dunne, J (1972), “The Way of All Earth". New York, MacMillan.
KhayutMan, YI. (1981) "Cybernetic Basis for Human Reconstruction: An application for the Middle East". Unpublished Ph. Dissertation. Brunei University, England.
Kauffman, L.B. (1987), "Self-reference and recursive forms". J. Social Biol. Struct. 10, 53-72.
Pask, G. (1975): "Conversation, Cognition and Learning", New York, Elsevier.
Pask, G., D. Kallikourdis and B.C.E. Scott, (1975), "Representation of Knowables". Int. J. of Man-Machine Studies 7, 15-134.
Pask, G., R. Glanville and M. Robinson, (1980), "Calculator Saturnalia", New Your, Vintage Books, and London, Wildhouse.
Yates, F, (966), "The Art of Memory"Londol1, Routledge & Kegan Paul.
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