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Vatican Wars: Where gaming meets religion

In Games on 14 July, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Video games aren’t just for heathens it seems. Vatican Wars, a revolutionary new game based on the pilot prototype PreistVille, doesn’t just combine religious and social issues within a gaming universe, it seems to inspire players to become more spiritually active in real life.

Active is a good way to describe Vatican Wars‘ players both in-game and in real life. In-game, they just elected their first Pope in a very tight race while in real life 30 percent of players of the pilot PriestVille game reported that they now attend Mass more often.

In Vatican Wars (as is PriestVille), players simulate the role of Catholic Priests. Upon joining the game, the player chooses where to become a socially conservative Templar or a more progressively minded Crusader. (Does anyone else think those groups are misnamed, based on their historical role-models?) Higgins, the first Pope, ran on a platform supporting same-sex marriage, the use of birth control (and pro-choice rights), the ordination of women and an end to celibacy within the clergy. He defeated Templar Karolka Wojtyla by a margin of less than 3 percent. A new Pope is elected each week, so, while Higgins can now make changes to the Church’s policies, a series of Crusader Popes would actually need to be elected in order to reverse the Church’s positions in Vatican Wars.

“This is the first Papal election in which everyone gets a say in the outcome,” said Cheyenne Ehrlich, founder of SGR Games LLS, the developers of Vatican Wars. “We’re excited to see it embraced by so many people.”

Not everyone is embracing Vatican Wars, however. Leading voices in the Catholic media, including the National Catholic Register, America Magazine (the magazine of the Jesuits), the Catholic Herald (online) and others even tried discouraging Catholics from playing Vatican Wars.

The interesting thing is that the game seems to encourage Catholics to be more active.  The percentage of players who do Daily Readings at least once a week from 4 percent to 52 percent. Vatican Wars also has had a positive impact on the Catholic priesthood with 45 percent of young men reported that playing the game made them more interested in becoming a priest. Further, 47 percent of young men said they would be more understanding of a friend’s choice to become a priest as a result of playing the game. The developers are careful to point out they are not affiliated with the Catholic Church or the similarly names Mafia Wars social game.

The game itself is not complex. Players perform daily duties and debate each other to earn funds, experience and status. as their status increases so does their rank and position within the Church hierarchy, until, eventually they could be elected Pope as Higgins was.

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