I’m more than willing to admit that I find much of the Catholic kitsch available today to be quite amusing, albeit completely unnecessary. (See plush Mass kit.) It seems many retailers know that, as global, diverse community, the church offers not only a huge network of spiritual support, but a large consumer market, as well. Apparently SGR Games, LLC, hopes to tap into that market with a new online game called Vatican Wars. According to the press release:
[Vatican Wars] is a revolutionary social game that exists at the intersection of religion, politics and social issues. Players are divided into two teams based on their opinions on topics including abortion, same sex marriage, the ordination of women and the use of birth control. [Married priests is another one.] Each team then works to ensure that a player from the other team is not elected Pope.
Perhaps, if the aim of this game was to unite the two sides of this virtual church, I could get on board. But it seems the only point is to defeat the other side and to elect a pope who believes in your personal interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. You are meant to use your “Self esteem,” “energy,” “brainpower,” and “experience” to defeat others. In this virtual church—fueled by statistics and status—prayer, compassion, and listening to others don’t seem to play a role. Not to mention the fact that the concept of choosing sides within the church runs contrary to the point of the Church and the unifying love of Christ. (Plus, the team names—the Templars (Conservative) and the Crusaders (Liberal)—make little sense.)
Yes, it’s just a game. But at a time when the real-life church sometimes seems divided beyond repair, this game hits just a bit too close to home for me to find it funny. The labels we, as Catholics, are willing to throw around or hide behind, and the sometimes vitriolic arguments that surround the most controversial issues in the Church are, to me, heartbreaking not humorous.
According to the SGR Games founder, the company did some sort of “extensive surveying” in which they discovered that “80 percent of Catholics surveyed supported creating a game where they could debate these topics.” But, as far as I can tell, the game creates a world in which Catholics with differing interpretations of church teachings should view each other as opponents to be persuaded rather than fellow believers with whom one might engage in dialogue. Perhaps this sort of manipulation leads to an eventual champion in the game’s virtual world, but in real life, when we reduce an ancient, beautiful, nuanced church to a series of endless arguments about a few hot-button issues, nobody wins.
You can watch the Vatican Wars "tutorial" below: