Sunday, November 12, 2006

Video Game Where Jews and Atheists Must Be Killed or Converted Due for Christmas

If the heathen won't convert, the player can kill them.

A video game about a Christian militia slaughtering Jewish and atheist New Yorkers who won't be converted in the name of a particular brand of Christianity will be on the shelves of more than 10,000 American retailers in time for the Christmas season, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, Circuit City, GameStop, EB Games, CompUSA,, Costco and numerous others. The video game is a spinoff of the wildly successful collaborative novels about "the rapture" by conservative fundamentalist minister Tim Lahaye.

In Left Behind: Eternal Forces, kids will assume the role of a member of a "Christian" gang wandering the streets of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, killing or converting as many Jews, Atheists, and other unsavory types in the employ of the Anti-Christ as possible to get to the next level. If the heathen won't convert, the character can kill them.



Allyson said...

I find it highly ironic that many "Christians" call Islam a violent religion and then release a video game like this.

anomalous4 said...

This game has generated a lot of dicussion over at Talk to Action, a forum dedicated to exposing the twisted insanities of "dominionist" quasi-Christianity. T2A's regular contributors include politically savvy secular commentators, mainstream Christians and followers of other faiths (or of no faith at all), and former members of dominionist churches (some of whom use pseudonyms for fear of retaliation from their former co-religionists). Some of them appear with some regularity on other forums including Daily Kos. (I highly recommend T2A; IMO it's the best place around for intelligent discussion of the subject from a variety of POVs.)

For those readers unfamiliar with the term "dominionism," it refers to an unholy alliance of religion and politics based on [1] a literal interpretation of God's directive in Genesis that humans are to rule or "have dominion over" everything on earth, and [2] a belief that Christians are literally supposed to rule or "have dominion over" a sinful world, for its own good. It's rigidly hierarchical (literally so in this case, since "hierarchy" originally meant rule by priests - or pastors in dominionism) and authoritarian, and in the case of Christian Identity, the neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist organizations it crosses the line into fascistic totalitarianism.

The term isn't synonymous with "fundamentalism." While both are based on a literal reading of certain specific parts of the Bible (generally the most oppressive parts they can find), it is possible to be a fundamentalist without being a dominionist per se, although these days it's uncommon. (There are a few fundamentalist groups that avoid politics as "the devil's tool on earth.") But all dominionists are fundamentalists.

Dominionists are truly "quasi" Christian, and barely so at that. The "Christianity" they profess is in name only; it discards God's grace and love, and the example of Christ's own life, in favor of (again quasi) "Old Testament" wrath and retribution taken to extremes.

It's certainly nothing like the Christianity this Baptist preacher's kid grew up with. They give all of us Christians (yes, I still am one, but of a very different stripe; I call myself a "Zen Baptist Existentialist Agnostic" and am a hardcore liberal who'd much rather hang out with atheists and agnostics than with most "believers" because the conversation is far more intelligent) a bad name.

In a review in Wired Magazine, Clive Thompson says the game is surprisingly good, given its premise:

"I confess I did not expect much of the game. The history of Christian computer entertainment is not particularly, uh, blessed. The games have tended to be numbingly boring side-scrollers in which the action serves merely as a clumsy deus ex machina to entice kids to reading dollops of in-game scripture. [...]

"Play is an incredibly precious thing, and an extremely difficult thing to craft. Forcing it to serve moral instruction is like dipping it in formaldehyde."

(I love that analogy.)

"So the great surprise of Left Behind: Eternal Forces is that it actually kind of rocks. It's a classic real-time strategy game: Starting with a single "recruiter," your job is to proselytize followers, level them up into an army of soldiers, medics and "spirit warriors," then bring a hard rain down on the forces of the Antichrist [...]."

(I've read that the game's designers originally intended to give players a choice of which side to fight on, but they took that out, probably to avoid a backlash from their intended audience. Don't quote me on that; I'm not sure whether it's true or not. It certainly would have made things interesting, though.)

"But what's particularly intriguing is how the developers incorporated prayer as a central game mechanic. Each of your team members has a "spirit" ranking. If you let them get too fatigued or hurt, their spirit drops into "neutral" territory and you lose them. [...] And if your forces accidentally kill neutral innocents, their spirit drops further: The act of murder actually has a moral dimension in this game.

"Yet as I clicked away on my spirit warriors, and the glowing balls of spirit shot through my team members, the gameplay began to feel oddly familiar: It was rather like casting an endurance-boost spell on fellow guild members in
World of Warcraft. Traditional elves-and-sorcery video games are pagan, of course. But the worldview neatly overlaps with Christianity: In both cases, the world is controlled by magical, invisible forces that only potentates can understand."

(Any proper dominionist would probably curse him to hell and back for making that observation, but it's true, for dominionists at any rate.)

Thompson's next comment is worrisome, though:

"That's the paradox of making a really good Christian strategy game. If you pull it off, it'll have more in common with other strategy games than with the official message of Christianity. Gameplay always overshadows cultural content. In the thick of a really hectic Left Behind battle, I'd click the prayer button so instinctually that I pretty much forgot I was, well, praying."

I'm rather inclined to disagree with his assertion that gameplay "always overshadows cultural content." I wonder: If a well-informed, seasoned adult professional gameplayer (nice work if you can get it) can be so "intrigued" by the game's use of prayer as to "forget" he's praying in the context of the game, how will it affect younger players, for whom it's far easier to get wrapped up in games, and what will they "learn" from it in a culture where it's possible to identify with the corresponding supposed "good guys" in the purportedly "real" outside world?

A final note: In yesterday's T2A, one of the forum's founders reported:

"We recently received a 'legal notice' from Troy Lyndon, the president of Left Behind Games. This is the company that is releasing the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces this week. He threatened legal action unless Talk to Action remove the screenshots that writers here have used to illustrate their posts about the game, and apologize for violating their copyright. We agreed to do so, even though we feel that the uses of the screenshots are well within the legal doctrine of 'fair use,' and note that they are also being used to illustrate many other stories and reviews of the game."

Here, too, I wonder: How many other reviewers got similar notices? Not many, I'll bet.

Here ends way too many brass farthings' worth from a non-gameplayer who's nevertheless concerned about the message.