Vatican Wars Reveals Borgias-Like Behavior From Players

Gamepolitics introduced us to ‘Vatican Wars,’ a Facebook game that allows players to become Catholic priests and, well, perform priest duties. As you can imagine, some of the duties call upon controversial subjects like abortion, and players are expected to take a stance on those issues.

There are many interesting statistics released regarding the game, which you can check out in the developer’s blog, but what caught my eye the most was something absent in the Gamepolitics writeup: the developer’s description of player behavior. Like in real life, Vatican Wars has a Pope–and players can pursue this role. And just like the infamous Borgia before them, the lengths that players will go to to claim the title is amazing.

The way it used to work is, players with high enough accrued points could become Cardinals (though there is no explanation of how the points system worked). The Cardinal with the most points would become Pope.* This setup didn’t quite work the way they wanted it to, though.

“It was horrifying.  We had three reports of a player being blackmailed into quitting the race for Pope in the game.  And the amount of player bullying we saw turned our stomachs.” states the development blog. It was ‘horrifying’ enough that they even considered ending the game at one point.

While they didn’t end up doing that, the development team decided to change the way attaining Popeship worked. Instead of being based on points, it’s now more of a popularity contest, as all players can vote on who becomes Pope. It’s impossible to bully or blackmail the entire player base, and so we think we’ve fixed this problem, said Ehrlich.  And since less than 2% of players ever became Cardinals, we don’t think it will have much impact on the other data we’ve collected here.

I’m going to bet that some ‘interesting’ player behavior arises from this system, too.

*No one Cardinal should have all that power, etc.