The Application of Religious Devotion and Video Game Fandoms to Public Relations

By: Demi Estrada, Kevin Huang, Mason Kao, and Nicole Porter

Religious devotion, video game fandoms, and public relations; one would think that all three subjects are unrelated. Though a study done by Professor Cylor Spaulding says otherwise. Spaulding’s 2016 journal article called “Applying the devotional–promotional model to the video game Faithful” theorizes how public relations can adopt the ideas of religious devotion and video game fandoms. Religious devotion’s foundation is made up of an idea shared amongst a group of people. Fandoms are a result of a community’s devotion, where individuals can express their dedication to a cause. Public relations can take these ideas and build up brands by developing relationships with their audience, creating a sense of trust and involvement. Collectively as a group, we found this topic eye-opening as it teaches us to recognize old yet effective models of the past that can be applicable now. Additionally, showing how subjects with no explicit relation are correspondent with one another.

Cylor Spaulding is an assistant Communications professor at California State University, Fullerton. At CSUF, he teaches both undergraduate and graduate public relations courses. Much of his research is about public relations and its connections to history, religion, and the LGBTQ community.

Before CSUF, Spaulding was Georgetown University’s faculty director for their public relations program, where he oversaw the program’s development and taught various courses. Spaulding was also in the public relations industry for a decade, working for firms like Rogers & Cowan and Weber Shandwick. Under these firms, he managed analyst relations, media relations, and consumer relations campaigns at regional, national, and international scales for companies such as Activision, Razer, and Microsoft.

Spaulding received his Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Miami, an M.A. degree in Strategic Public Relations from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. degree in Journalism from Arizona State University. He was also named PRSA-Maryland’s Educator of the Year in 2015.


The word devotion can be described as having a great love for something and showing loyalty towards a particular thing. Religious devotion is the same thing. When you are religiously devoted, you are actively loyal to a particular practice or ritual. In Professor Cyler Spaulding’s article, “Applying the devotional-promotional model to the video game Faithful,” he often brings up religious devotion and how it is seen throughout modern society. As modern society develops, we see technology grow more and more each day. As technology grows, we see people put their faith into more secular and worldly things, and this is what Spaulding touches on in his article. Spaulding talks about religious devotion as a following. He specifically uses the term “congregants” to describe the individuals that follow a certain thing. Spaulding goes on to talk about continuing to grow those congregants and keep them around by continuing to produce ideas and topics, so there is always something to work towards. The article Spaulding wrote was intended to compare the framework of religious devotion to the framework of worldly fandoms, and he did indeed go into that. How Spaulding saw religious devotion was already previously outlined, but how he views fandoms today is not much different. Spaulding believes that if a company or an organization continues to release new things, like books or music, then the fans will continue to follow. This is where Spaulding goes into talks about the similarities the world sees when it comes to devotion towards a secular thing, like video games. Fans will continue to follow the creator as the creator releases more and more. It is a never-ending cycle between the creator and its followers. 


We can apply devotion to video games because, according to Spaulding, players play games for many reasons, for entertainment, an attempt to escape reality, in search of a challenge, to find a sense of self/control, emotional coping, etc., Though some of these reasons might not be the same as for why people follow their religions, they both have people devoted to it for a sense of self/control and a way to cope with their emotions, thus fulfill the need to categorize video games as an object of devotion. The fan base strongly influences the video game industry, and the industry “cannot survive if they do not develop meaningful relationships with their many and diverse publics.” This idea can be compared with other entertainment industries where they rely on their fans to purchase their products or attend their events, but what persuades these fans to support the creator or industry in such a way? Spaulding uses a software developing company called “Id Software” to show how/slash why their fans are so devoted to them. Id Software, primarily known for three-game franchises, DOOM, QUAKE, and Wolfenstein, understood the importance of having a good relationship with their fanbase, setting up websites, and even annual conventions to interact with fans directly. The conventions were a way to celebrate the game and the people who played them. They are often used to make major announcements and receive feedback from fans. With the dedication of a company caring so much for its fans they return the favor and go further. According to Spaulding, “For example, the DOOM franchise has inspired the creation of its own wiki, fan-created mods, and movies, and fanfiction, as well as several websites (e.g. DOOMWorld) dedicated to the game that was set up by media outlets and enthusiasts of DOOM.” This takes devotion to a whole other level, which is something people in public relations (PR) can learn from. 


As we mentioned earlier Spaulding spent a decade working in the public relations field for companies like Rogers & Cowan and Weber Shandwick. He oversaw campaigns for corporations like Activision, Razer, and Microsoft on a regional, national, and worldwide level when employed by these firms. Spaulding really knows how to captivate an audience, especially when it comes to promoting video games. In Spaulding’s article, he mentions that compared to certain more established businesses, such as filmed entertainment, which witnessed revenues fall from 2011 to 2014 with U.S. box office sales reaching $10.35 billion in 2014, the video game industry is expanding at a substantially faster rate. Additionally, the music business stated that it made $6.97 billion in sales in the United States in 2014. Additionally, this expansion has increased the demand for public relations specialists, both internally and at the many organizations that claim to specialize in “video game PR.” Also, Gaming firms frequently target fans with multidimensional marketing strategies in an effort to directly engage them due to the growing popularity of video games. These “core gamers” are frequently seen as essential to the industry for their consistency in purchasing games on a regular basis. They may also be lovers of many games, which may cause them to spend even more money on games. It’s important to understand that the art of game design has always been extended through public relations for video games. To sell audiences on interactive games and experiences that meet their demands, PR specialists employ innovative language and creative concepts. In order to encourage fans to develop their own gaming culture, the businesses committed whole teams of PR professionals to engaging fans directly through invites to VIP events and the distribution of hand-picked game previews.

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