Thinking Allowed

A blog to detail my work at QU.

The Religion Game

Posted By admin on October 5, 2009

I have been mulling over a thought for the past two weeks after reading the excerpt from C.C. Abt’s Serious Games in which he writes about the origins of games. In it he mentions that “political and social situations can often be viewed as games” — including religion. Being raised Roman Catholic; I have never considered being Catholic a game. However, while digesting the readings in this module, I have come to realize that my faith has many game-like qualities.

The “Rule Book”

Let’s start with the huge book of rules called the Holy Bible which, for Catholics, contains not only the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament, but also the later writings of the New Testament (which for this paper I will call an upgrade of the game.) In the Holy Bible, we learn what we should and should not do in life, as well as the dire repercussions if we do not follow the instructions. Making it to the ultimate finish line for Catholics -Heaven- depends on how well you follow those rules throughout your life.

Let’s Start Again

Catholics can reset the “game” and restart at any point with the Sacrament of Penance, commonly called Confession. By confessing your sins, the “faithful can be freed from any sins” committed since the last Confession. In the paper “Welcome to the Experience Economy,” B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore talk about staging experiences that sell. They say that “Before a company can charge admission, it must design an experience that customers judge to be worth the price.” While Catholic Churches do not charge admission, they do take collections from parishioners which support the Church’s operations. You could consider that voluntary admission charges. Pine and Gilmore go on to say,”Experiences, like goods and services, have to meet a customers need, they have to work, and they have to be deliverable.” For the faithful, what experience is greater than forgiveness?

The Sacramental Levels

Catholics have seven sacraments, or ceremonies, which help them experience God’s presence. They are Baptism, Eucharist (or Communion), Penance, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.

Most Catholics won’t experience all of the seven sacraments. For instance, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is the “sacrament by which a man is made a bishop, priest, or a deacon, and thus dedicated to be an image of Christ.” One could argue that these sacraments are individual missions of this religious game which are achieved by being diligent, playing and learning the levels before it, and successfully completing each relevant Sacrament.

The Most Important Game of All

One might say the choosing a Pope is one the greatest games of all. As Abt also stated in his book, “Every election is a game.” He goes on to say,”Whether these contest of politics, war, economics, and interpersonal relations are played with resources of power, skill, knowledge, or luck, they always have the common characteristics of reciprocal decisions among independent actors with at least partly conflicting objectives.” The Pope is chosen in an election by the Sacred College of Cardinals.

When Pope John Paul II died in 2005 the Sacred College of Cardinals convened at the Vatican. “Upon entering the Conclave, the cardinals must take an oath that they will follow the rules set down by the Pope and they will maintain absolute secrecy about the voting and deliberations,” according to

The Papal conclave of 2005 “began on April 18th and ended on the following day after four ballots.” The members elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope. Ratzinger chose the name Pope Benedict XVI.

The world knew the decision of the conclave by the color of smoke which rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. “White smoke emerged in the afternoon but the fact that initially the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica did not ring left some uncertainty as to what this meant. Shortly after 6 p.m. Rome time, they did begin pealing, thus confirming that a new pope had been elected,” states. Most games have bells and whistles, Catholics have bells and white or black smoke.

So, while Catholicism may not be a person’s typical idea of a game, when you break out many of the elements of the religion you can see how they could be considered games unto themselves. However, the faithful will only find out if they “win” this game when they no longer can communicate the outcome to the living.

About The Author



Comments are closed.