SGR Games has been quietly testing a game called Vatican Wars (formerly codenamed Priestville) that challenges players to serve as Catholic Priests and performing duties that Priests perform. The social game for Facebook tests the intersection of religion, politics, and social issues by challenging players to take strong positions on issues important to the church such as capital punishment and abortion. The game launched last week as Vatican Wars but prior to its official launch developer SGR gave it a nine-month test under the moniker of Priestville.
Today the company announced the results of a survey of 461 of the 30,000 players that participated in the pilot program. The company claims that those players who identified themselves as "regular churchgoers" who played a few minutes a day for at least two weeks said that it increased their interest in attending Catholic Mass, daily readings, and an interest in the priesthood. We assume all of the respondents were male. The finding as provided by SGR can be found below:
The Impact of Playing the game on Practicing Catholics Who Attend Mass Less Than Once Per Week:
1. 30 percent of this group said that, since they started playing the game, they now attend Mass more often.
2. The percentage of this group who do Daily Readings at least once per week grew from 4 to 52.
The Impact of Playing the game on a Player’s Interest in Becoming a Priest:
1. 45 percent of young men (age 24 and younger and excluding Seminarians) said that playing the game made them more interested in becoming a Priest. 35 of these said, “Much More Interested.”
2. 23 percent of Seminarians surveyed said that playing the game made them more likely to actually become a Priest. 70 of these said, “Much More Likely.”
The Impact of Playing the game on a Player’s Understanding and Support of Someone Else’s Choice to Become a Priest:
1. 47 percent of young men (age 24 and younger and excluding Seminarians) said that they would be more understanding of a friend’s choice to become a Priest as a result of playing the game.
2. 54 percent of Seminarians surveyed said that playing the game could help their friends and families understand why they are considering the Priesthood.
“This data confirmed our belief that this is the most powerful and compelling tool we’ve ever seen for increasing Mass attendance, religious practice and interest in the Priesthood,” said Cheyenne Ehrlich, founder of SGR Games, LLC. “But we also had some problems. Players blackmailed and bullied each other to try to control the online Papacy. This required us to make changes to the game before we could roll it out on a larger scale."
The company stressed in its releases that it is not associated with Zynga, nor is it associated with the Roman Catholic Church.
Ultimately the game is seems to be about debating theology in a respectful and thoughtful way and non-Catholics are encouraged to join the game at apps.facebook.com/vaticanwars. It should be noted that in order to play the game you have to choose a calling - there is no option to play as another religion or as a non-believer. The differences in choices seem to be more about politics than religion.
More details on the study - including why the game was changed after the pilot program and what Clergy thought of the game - can be found here.