by Alphaville Herald on 15/10/10 at 12:26 pm
New-Media Strategy Makes Catholicism Hip Again
By Journey Yellowlist, Herald Religion
Even as His Holiness Pope Benedict launched a frontal assault against media in general and virtual worlds in particular, the Church has rolled out its own competitor to
once-heralded Second Life. soon to collapse
Ex Cathedratm will soon launch using a dedicated client bearing the imprimatur of Rome, with immersive simulations that include an interactive pilgrimage to medieval Canterbury, a dramatic game recreating Apostolic succession, real-time exegesis of ancient religious texts-on-a-prim, a vampire-hunt with “The Holy Inquisition 2.0” team of superheroes, and a humorous casual game for young men about the perils of altar-boy duties, “Who Dropped the Body of Christ?”
Catholic gamers are delighted that the Vatican will finally enter the 21st century.
“Dude, The Church has totally been like this really boring wine-and-cracker party that went on for like 2000 years,” said StXavrRulz, a respondent at the Holy Father’s blog, Nihil Obstat. “But being able 2 stake fag vampires and burn heretics at the stake completely rocks. ROCK ON Benny ROCK ON.”
Conclave of Developers To Do God’s Work
The Vatican has been quick to avoid the sorts of mistakes common at Linden Lab.
“From the start we intend to avoid doctrinal errors that, sadly, have led so many souls astray,” said His Eminence Bonaventure Ignatius Loyola Jeanbaptiste, Cardinal of the server-farm inside the Vatican. “We have constant supervision now of all coding and hardware acquisition, and we hold our team to the highest possible standards.”
The Cardinal is said to be a leading candidate to become the next Holy Father. He has been instrumental in several technology initiatives for the Vatican, notably increased security measures to protect The Church’s priceless treasures and key prelates. The Cardinal oversaw the purchase of several hundred Leopard III tanks and Eurofighter aircraft, a move that caused protests outside St. Peters by mobs of antiwar protestors. To quell the riots and “restore peace,” the Cardinal dispersed the crowd using the Pope’s personal bodyguard of fifty 800-series Swissguard2000 tm defensebots. Cardinal Jeanbaptiste personally designed these robots.
While His Eminence’s tactics may seem reactionary, his technical skills are impeccable. In leading development of the Ex Cathedra team, the Cardinal has made several noteworthy changes from the competition. All avatars will have their owners’ real names, “in order to avoid occasion for sin in this sacred space,” The Cardinal added. “Though in a moment of vanity, I made my own avatar to look a bit like His Eminence Jean du Plessis de Richelieu.”
“In fact, mine is the first virtual cardinalitial diocese.” He eyed the rows of hardware with pride. “There are thousands of souls in these boxes already. With my brothers in the faith we will maintain excellent stability and reliable service on our grid.”
Coders and customer-support clergy who prove poor at their jobs will be transferred by the College of Cardinals to remote parishes.
“Or we’ll sell them to the godless Turk to be his galley slaves,” Cardinal Jeanbaptiste said, with a wink. “Just kidding.”
All third-party viewers have been branded, in advance, as malefactus for Catholic gamers, known in Ex Cathedra as “brothers and sisters.” Those found using TPVs will be subject to excommunication. All non-Catholics are blocked from the virtual world, though potential converts may use a secondary grid, Purgatorio, until certified as ready for conversion.
“We want to give those bound for perdition a taste of what awaits them unless they convert. Though they will not feel the torments of hell itself, their avatars will not be glamorous, their activities banal, and the setting and company will test even the strongest of errant wills.”
a view inside the Purgatorio grid
User-generated content will be permitted in Ex Cathedra, but most will be subject to review by a panel of Bishops and theologians. Some unrestricted content will be allowed: cakes for church bake-sales, tracts against birth control and masturbation, baptismal fonts for parish churches, yard-sticks for nuns in Parochial School region, and implements of torture for the adults-only Torquemada sims.
Unholy Fail: Heretics Stumble in Attempt to Match Rome
Even before Benedict sat in the chair of St. Peter, plans were afoot for Catholic dominance of the gaming industry. John Paul II was particularly fond of St. Mariotm, an early PC game that he had planned to offer as an MMO teaching youth virtue and manual dexterity.
Had the pontiff lived longer, this project may have come out of beta into full release. Instead, after his death, the short-lived and unpopular Torments of the Martyrstm was released and quickly sank. Reviewers noted that the choice of soundtrack-hymns alienated many young gamers and modern Catholic parents were offended by images of disembowelment, flaying, boiling in oil, cutting off of noses and ears, all accompanied by violent lyrics that boomed from their children’s speakers:
O sacred head, surrounded
by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!
infallible beta-tester prefers Ex Cathedratm
Progress has continued unabated since that early gaff, and today the Holy See appears to be far ahead of The Archbishop of Canterbury, whose Anglican Lifetm virtual world was derived from an early version of Ex Cathedra released during a ecumenical thaw.
The stability of Anglican Life has been derided by some tech writers; pro-Catholic griefers recently attacked several regions, leaving the tags “Rome pwns CoE!” and “Henry8 burnz in Hell!” on the side of virtual Westminster Abbey, while a Sunday service at the virtual York Minster was interrupted by a particle attack featuring thousands of images of Queen Elizabeth I kneeling, in Gorean slavegirl attire, before Philip II of Spain.
“We deny these childish acts,” Cardinal Jeanbaptiste insisted. “If, however, some overly-zealous member of the One True Faithtm were culpable, desecration of once-Catholic, now heretical, virtual buildings would only merit a few years in Purgatory. Yet I think it more likely that the LutherSim codeset favored by Protestant virtual-world builders permitted the defacement of the English heretics’ places of worship. With such variation, all sorts of error creeps into the purity of what began as the One True Codetm.”
Whatever the faults of Anglican Life, it’s undeniable that other branches of the LutherSimulator client-and-server software are not only less stable than the Vatican’s platform but also grid owners running this software show no sign of reaching common standards.
A recent conclave of LutherSim developers broke down into ever-smaller factions, each with its “divinely approved” version of the source code. All of them united, however, to denounce the Roman Catholic software.
“That’s Open-Source theology for you,” Cardinal Jeanbaptise lamented, rolling his eyes heavenward.
Dark Powers Exploit Early Flaw in Code
His Eminence was less sanguine about a flaw that emerged during the closed-beta tests of the new world. Upon login for nearly a week, clergy found their Ex Cathedra avatars wearing altar-boy uniforms while trapped in the locked vestry of a church and unable to log off. The avatars were carnally violated by “Father Agrippa,” a malevolent figure whose face resembled an amalgam of many priests accused in recent sex scandals.
“This was the work of the Evil One and his minions,” Cardinal Jeanbaptiste noted, dryly. “We found a security hole in the login protocols, left by one of our brothers who had not yet taken his vows. He has been disciplined, though the fault lies with his listening to GWAR during an all-night coding session and we blame them for this possession by Satan.”
After the incident all servers were sprinkled with holy water, and one unrepentant CPU was buried with a titanium stake through its hard drive. Coding then resumed.
Interest in Ex Cathedra has been intense, with some companies already announcing plans. Among these efforts will be a Red Papal Bulltm in-world quest to see which sinners can be rounded up and brought before the Inquisition.
Microsoft’s Stained-Glass Windowstm marketplace will also open to provide virtual goods and services to brothers and sisters in Ex Cathedra.
Not to be outdone by the private sector, the Jesuits and Benedictines have formed in-world orders with intensive requirements for full group membership. For a weekly contribution, members of the public may join the orders as laity.
In other corporate news, The Church has denied that HP agreed to change its brand-name to “Heavenly Powers” or “Holy Pontiff,” in exchange to exclusive contracts for the entire Vatican server-farm and upgrades to the 800-series defensebots.
“That claim is false,” Cardinal Jeanbaptise confirmed. “The 1000-series Swiss Guards are being tested and produced with the assistance of several German firms. We’ll introduce them soon to the lapsed faithful in Europe before a full global deployment on The Holy Father’s next tour.”
The Vatican also reaffirmed that no Linux clients of any sort will be released for Ex Cathedra. As Cardinal Jeanbaptise put it “we do not accept this Unitarian-Universalist OS as legitimate for the salvation of souls. Steve Jobs and Steve Balmer, however, would have made excellent medieval cardinals, so we have embraced both Windows and the Mac OS. God’s will be done. See you in-world.”