So, last week I was at a conference that focused upon cultural competency with respect to social services.
Yeah, it was as exciting as it sounds.
The conference was in a hotel (right near O'Hare) that I knew I'd been in before. It took me a little while to realize that it was the home of WindyCon.
Anyway, one of the speakers at the conference was quite good. He was talking about the need for spirituality (not necessarily religion) in one's life and how it would be sought out by people who weren't getting what they needed spiritually. Part of the upshot was that gangs often provide youth with a sense of spiritual belonging - through initiations/rites of passage, a commitment to mutual support/defense, a shared identity that emphasizes respect and honor, and heavy use of symbolism.
My thoughts, of course, turned to gaming.
A number of games loosely base themselves on coming of age stories... even if it is the conceit of the peasant youth who takes up a sword to defend his village. Few of them have formal rites of passage. The only one that I can think of off the top of my head is Werewolf... and that was designed as an explicitly spiritual game (whether or not they pulled off that design goal or whether it was typically played in that mode is another story).
I know that I've created characters who have gone through rites of passage in their backgrounds, but it seems like something that could be a powerful tool for shaping your character's development in play.
I'll think more on this.