Afraid to get Left Behind? Game or Propaganda?

Matt Barton's picture

Left Behind: Good, wholesome entertainment. Yuck!Left Behind: Good, wholesome entertainment. Yuck!I bet everyone here has heard the news about the Left Behind games. These games are based on the best-selling Christian novels by the same name. The appeal of these novels isn't hard to fathom. They take place after the "Rapture," when all the good people are suddenly whisked away to heaven and only sinners are left to deal with the Antichrist and the Apocalypse. It's one of the most fascinating and compelling stories in the Bible, and even if you're a devout atheist, it's hard to deny the possibilities for really interesting stories set in this time period. Everyone finds diabolical and thoroughly evil figures like the "Antichrist" fun to think about! However--will any self-admittedly "Christian" game ever hope to succeed in the marketplace? Or will this game be another "Mama bought it for me" cull that you got instead of Grand Theft Auto?

There have been other attempts at Christian games. Probably the most well-known were a set of "illegal" games made for the NES by a company called Wisdom Tree. You can perhaps see why these games were so pathetic by checking out these hilarious reviews. Nintendo had a strict censorship policy against any Christian or religious themes in its games, but I guess they figured the PR would damage them too much if they went after Wisdom Tree. So, these games kinda stuck around like a drunk ex at your second wedding.

Will the Left Behind games be any different? Perhaps. For one thing, the game developers seem to realize that a good Christian game will be a good game first and foremost; the Christian propaganda should be gracefully and inobtrusively added in later. Furthermore, the player shouldn't be forced to read scriptures and such--again, it's there if he wants to, but he can also avoid it. I think that's a very wise decision on the part of the gamemaker. I doubt this game would sell many copies if you had to sit through Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "cutscenes" every few minutes. Yikes!

Still, though, there is the larger question of whether any sort of videogame would really help these Left Behind folks reach their agenda--and, come on, we know what it is: Get more young people into church ranting against homosexuals and evolution while "voting moral," which loosely translated means, voting Republican.

The scary thing is, I actually grew up attending some very rural churches in Louisiana that were basically the Christian equivalent of Muslim fundamentalists. No TV, no "rock music," no makeup for women, no this, no that. Heck, one of my teachers in grade school earned her Ph.D. and was told (by the preacher during a service) that this was sinful; a woman's place was in the home taking care of her family. She quit her job the next day and did just that. Is that devotion? No, friends, that's gullibility. This story still makes me sad everytime I think about it.

What worries me about this game and this whole "Left Behind" movement is that this is precisely the part of the Bible that really galvanizes fundamentalist types. It encourages extremist views by insisting that the end is near--you've got NOTHING to lose by chucking everything and taking the extremist position. It also encourages people to see the devil and the "antichrist" in everything and see "signs of the coming apocalypse" in everything from UPC codes to social security numbers. Sigh.

At any rate, it IS an interesting subject for videogame historians to contemplate. My question is, could any game developer make a "Christian" game that everyone would want to play, or will these games always be limited to the already "converted" like most Christian Music? And to what extent are these games merely "propaganda" that utilize various tricks and techniques to lure people into joining the Moral Majority?

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Bill Loguidice
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Direct Political or Religous Messages vs Underlying or Hidden

The Simpsons did a pretty good spoof on the whole "Left Behind" concept, but I digress... I think it would be tough to ask any specifically themed and "controversial" game, be it a political, religous or social one, to have wider appeal than to the target audience, no matter how good the game. Obviously the better the game, the more chance there is, but any reasonably preachy message will turn off the majority of people who don't already believe in that message. The best way to use teachings or concepts from Political, social or religous avenues is to hide it very well, for instance with Anti-communism/socialism in George Orwell's "Animal Farm" or Christian Biblical themes with "Chronicles of Narnia". While the specific messages are there under the surface, the works stand on their own and can be enjoyed despite the underlying message, since there are multiple levels in the execution.

The Christian music thing is a good example, Matt. While I am Christian for all intents and purposes, the over-the-top lyrics in Christian Rock for instance makes it very unappealing to me. It may even be cleverly written and have a great beat and accompanying vocals, but I have that sticking point. It also doesn't help that the commercials often show entranced audience members testifying and whipped up into a religous frenzy. It just seems a bit much. I think that's what the problem is with directly messaged games versus those that are more subtle, like the examples I gave.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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Bill Loguidice
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The Simpsons Left Behind Spoof

Here is that The Simpsons episode that spoofs "Left Behind" in full: http://www.allsimps.com/index.php?id=19&season=16

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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Matt Barton
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Left Behind Review

Wow, I didn't realize it at the time, but my friend Zach over at Gameology has posted an extensive review of this game. Apparently, once you "convert" someone to the right-way of thinking, they lose all their diversity and become a sweater-wearing dork. :-)

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Bill Loguidice
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Very well done review of the

Very well done review of the demo. Obviously this game is flawed on many varied levels.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
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[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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davyK
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Given that Nintendo censor

Given that Nintendo censor religous overtones, it is interesting to check out the NES game Devil World (Nintendo 1984). You are a creature in a scrolling maze controlled by the devil and you clear each level by picking up dots as in Pacman. You can only pick up dots after picking up one of many crosses littered throughout the maze. After picking one up you can also shoot fireballs at the enemies roaming around the maze - shooting them allows you to pick up their soul for extra points!

After clearing the 1st maze, you then play a 2nd maze game where you must pick up bibles and push them into a structure at the centre of the maze - defeating the devil. After a bonus level you return to a harder version of the 1st maze game.

Check it out - its pretty easy to find on the web.

SJR
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This statement is posted

This statement is posted from an employee of Left Behind Games on behalf of Troy Lyndon, our Chief Executive Officer.

There has been in incredible amount of MISINFORMATION published in the media and in online blogs here and elsewhere.

Pacifist Christians and other groups are taking the game material out of context to support their own causes. There is NO “killing in the name of God” and NO “convert or die”. There are NO “negative portrayals of Muslims” and there are NO “points for killing”.

Please play the game demo for yourself (to at least level 5 of 40) to get an accurate perspective, or listen to what CREDIBLE unbiased experts are saying after reviewing the game at www.leftbehindgames.com/pages/controversy.com

Then, we’d love to hear your feedback as an informed player.

The reality is that we’re receiving reports everyday of how this game is positively affecting lives by all who play it.

Thank you for taking the time to be a responsible blogger.

SJR
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There has been alot of

There has been alot of misleading information spun throughout the public and media regarding Left Behind Eternal Forces game. I encourage you to visit www.menofgod.us & download a trial version. I believe the first hand experience will allow you the opportunity to judge for yourself and put these rumors to a rest.
Here is a statement from the CEO, Troy Lyndon, to clarify some of the misconceptions and propaganda:
LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces
A PC Game

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY endorses our game. Read below to find out why!
Our game DOES NOT encourage killing.
Our game is NOT anti-Semitic.
Our game is NOT anti-Muslim or anti-Islamic.

It is anti-EVIL! The ultimate bad-guy is the Antichrist who wants to eliminate all faiths and all religions, except his and he is deceiving the entire world.

Our game does NOT teach the pre-tribulation theology of the book series, except that this worldview is utilized as a FICTIONAL backdrop of the game.

In the past several days, numerous people have been and continue to spread misinformation about the game.

Our game is the first game ever to encourage the use of PRAYER and WORSHIP as the most effective means to resolve conflict.

Physical warfare is discouraged as the LEAST EFFECTIVE means for resolving conflict…and a gamer loses points for using a gun.

This is the world’s first high-quality inspirational game which intends to model positive behavior by discouraging physical warfare.

Please play the game for yourself and help us to get out the TRUTH.

In an industry which creates so much gratuitous violence and gore, LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces presents a healthy alternative. We need your help to get the word out!

PLAY THE GAME and find out for yourself that this game is about the battle of good versus evil.

Here are a few things said by others:
- The Anti-Defamation League, although they speak out against the book theology, says “Conversion to Christianity in the game is not depicted as forcible in nature, and violence is not rewarded in the game.”
- AOL says it is a “Positive Moral Message”
- Focus on the Family says “Finally! A game Mom and Dad can play with Junior”
- Concerned Women for America says “A game we can wholeheartedly recommend!”
- Wired Magazine “Few are as ambitious and polished as this PC title.”
- ArsTechnica.com “This is a game that Christian parents can buy their kids, and one that Christian kids can play themselves without any guilt about "questionable content."”
- Women of Faith says “In an industry that is full of destruction with no hope, the LEFT BEHIND game
- Clint Thomas from Chaos Theory says “For years we’ve been telling kids what to run from and not what to run to, until now!”

Should you have any concerns about this game, please go to the contact us page on our website at www.leftbehindgames.com and we’ll do our best to connect with you.

Sincerely,
Troy Lyndon
CEO, Left Behind Games Inc.

Bill Loguidice
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Good job with the cut and

Good job with the cut and paste rebuttal, Sandi. I believe I can safely assume you are in a type of PR role at Left Behind Games, right? It's nice that our site finally came up after all this time in the undoubtedly long queue in your routine searches for antagonistic views against your product. In any case, as purveyors of niche religious product, surely your company expected general criticism of the "poetic license" that admittedly necessarily had to be taken by your developers in order to get your very direct and very specific faith-based message across, no?

Unfortunately, all of the salient points for/against your product have already been made. It is common for company reps to be surprised by unbiased (meaning those who are not already drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid) product reactions and perhaps even consider it "blasphemous". Nevertheless, if a game is released to the general public as yours was, it will more often than not be reviewed for what it is - a game like any other - not for the message that will likely only appeal to the already converted (thus no slack cutting). For a game for the already converted, I'm sure they're enjoying it, so your company has nothing to worry about in that regard. For the rest of us, we'll take the product for what it is, warts included, and likely pass, since the overall premise is unappealing to non-believers and a difficult fantasy to immerse oneself in.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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Matt Barton
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Yes, but a "cut and paste"

Yes, but a "cut and paste" rebuttal doesn't seem to be the best approach to engage critics in the discussion. Might I suggest sending us a free copy for us to review, not a demo link? The reason I don't review games from demos is that I'm not sure whether the demo accurately reflects the product. This is especially true when demos are "stripped down" to the point where the player only gets a gist of the game in question. It'd be like reviewing a movie just by watching the trailers.

On the other hand, I do admit to not having played the full game, and getting my info from people who have played the demo. I do trust these folks immensely (particularly this one), but I won't argue with you on these points because I haven't played the game myself.

Anyway, in some ways the criticism is very much unfair, because my post is NOT a review of the game (note the absence of the word 'review' in the title) and merely a speculative piece that pertains to some relevant issues surrounding games of this type. Indeed, what I've said above is just as relevant to the old Wisdom Tree games than Left Behind! Surely you don't object to a few critics waxing on about Christian-themed games in general? As someone deeply committed to moral values and religious study, I can't imagine any sincere Christians working to keep people silent on these topics. Why not use your game as a springboard to get more people talking about Christianity? That seems like the best thing that could happen.

However, the subject of the apocalypse or the rapture, i.e., the impending doom, does lend itself quite well to extremist and irresponsible actions on the point of believers. Just consider what Savonarola was able to accomplish in Florence, Italy during the highpoint of the Renaissance! Do we really want to promote that kind of close-minded, book-burning idiocy here in the US? It could happen!

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Bill Loguidice
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I disagree a bit on the demo

I disagree a bit on the demo points from both you and Sandi, Matt. I DO think it's valid to judge a game on a demo in the majority of cases. If a company releases a demo, then that company is acknowledging that they believe it is representative of the full product. It's like a contract with the player. If I have to go to level 10 or whatever later part of the game to get a proper feel for the game, then there's probably something wrong with the demo. However, that's not my concern, as for all I know the problem could be with the full game since the company is equating the demo with the full product. In a sea of neverending games, it's unrealistic to expect the player to look past a bad demo.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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