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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Matt Barton
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I sense a good topic for a

I sense a good topic for a post here--How accurately do demos really represent games? I can rememebr the history of the "demo" concept, and when the idea of a "playable demo" was really novel and exciting. I guess now they don't even put "playable" in front of it, but call the non-interactive ones "trailers" or some such. It's really a nice topic for research and reflection--the evolution of the game demo (have to keep it distinct from the Eurodemo and demoscene).

I've always disliked demos just because too many of the ones I've played are so stripped down and full of annoyances that it seems more intended to frustrate or antagonize you into buying the full product rather than enjoying a part of it. Not all demos are like that, of course, but the ones emanating from the "crippleware" market are the ones I'm most familiar with. We went from fully-functioning programs that you were ethically obligated to pay for (i.e., shareware), to freely-tradeable programs that wouldn't work very well if you didn't pay for the "full version" that wasn't legal to trade, and then finally to "crippleware" that would barely work at all if you didn't pay up. It's really noticeable if you start looking for some simple program, say one that will let you rename files in batches, or a simple tool to give you more control over screenshots. The net is full of really simple programs that are being hocked for $30 or more to unsuspecting customers; the idea being to irritate and annoy them into them paying for something that they could find in a freeware version if they just looked hard enough.

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Bill Loguidice
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Certainly a good topic. I

Certainly a good topic. I was thinking more from a console gaming standpoint. I think demos are invaluable, be they on a disc or downloadable. It can certainly minimize the need for rentals.

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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, the console demo is

Yes, the console demo is interesting for many reasons. They only seemed to become feasible after the introduction of CD-ROM technology. Do you know of any demos shipped on cartridges? My guess is that it wouldn't be economically viable, though I don't doubt that someone somewhere may have tried it.

I'm also wondering how the console demo will change as it becomes more and more common to have a game console connected to the internet (and broadband). People have long predicted that eventually the software market will move entirely online, and perhaps we're seeing the seeds of this in Xbox Live and the like. One day we may not see a "full version" of any game available for a one-time fee, but only get them via subscription or on some kind of installment plan as we complete linear games.

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Bill Loguidice
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Matt Barton wrote:Yes, the
Matt Barton wrote:

Yes, the console demo is interesting for many reasons. They only seemed to become feasible after the introduction of CD-ROM technology. Do you know of any demos shipped on cartridges? My guess is that it wouldn't be economically viable, though I don't doubt that someone somewhere may have tried it.

I'm also wondering how the console demo will change as it becomes more and more common to have a game console connected to the internet (and broadband). People have long predicted that eventually the software market will move entirely online, and perhaps we're seeing the seeds of this in Xbox Live and the like. One day we may not see a "full version" of any game available for a one-time fee, but only get them via subscription or on some kind of installment plan as we complete linear games.

The Metroid Prime DS demo for the Nintendo DS was bundled with some of the early Nintendo DS systems like mine. That's the only cartridge-like demo I can actually recall. Everything else was on some form of disk or disc. It's no doubt due to cost and convenience. Interestingly, the PSP has both downloadable and UMD disc demos. I point that out only because I wonder how cheap it is to press UMD discs to issue demos on them.

As for the console demo world, it's fascinating that Sony recently discontinued the long running "Official PlayStation Magazine", which was not only a quality mag, but had a demo disc since inception, first for the PS1 and later for the PS2. With the introduction of the PS3, Sony decided they no longer needed a magazine and no longer needed demo discs. Everything would be done online now. Of course Nintendo never issued demos with Nintendo Power, while Microsoft still continues to support the "Official Xbox Magazine" with a disc that is becoming increasingly geared exclusively to the 360 (it has been a disc that has worked on both Xbox and 360 at this point, with demos for each).

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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Mark Vergeer
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I don't think it is possible

I don't think it is possible to make a general remark on whether or not a game-demo is representative of the full game or not. On consoles often the game loading screens state that the demo is not truly representative of the full game. And on pc game demos sometimes the background music is left out so that quite a lot of the atmosphere can be lost. But often demos are just like the real thing, but only the first level or so and the experience might be representative of the full product. But it's clear that a general remark on 'game-demos' being representative of the full product or not cannot be made.

What can be made is a general statement on reviewing games: I say reviewing a game should be done from the full version, preferably by a reviewer who has played the game at length and if possible has finished the game. If the review is done from a demo I say state it clearly that it is a PREVIEW or REVIEW from DEMO.

My 2 cents.

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Mark Vergeer - Editor / Pixelator
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
Xboxlive gametag
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Bill Loguidice
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I agree, Mark, no reviews

I agree, Mark, no reviews should ever been done from a demo. Luckily, we've never done that or never will. Nevertheless, I stand by my statement that if the company who makes the game puts out a demo of it and the demo does not accurately reflect the product, that's not my fault, that's theirs. Tough luck on their part for making me not want their full version of the product.

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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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Bill wrote:I stand by my
Bill wrote:

I stand by my statement that if the company who makes the game puts out a demo of it and the demo does not accurately reflect the product, that's not my fault, that's theirs.

Indeed, truer words cannot be said. If the demo reeks, then we can't expect the game to be any better. I guess it's the opposite problem with movie trailers, where you end up seeing the funniest jokes or most incredible stunts in the trailer, then are left with all the mediocre bits when you sit down to watch the film.

My thought is that a demo should present a concentrated bit of the game experience, not stripped down in any way save a time or level limit. Ideally, the demo will be made after the game has been completed (or at least after the parts it presents have been finalized). Anything else is really fraudulent. I don't suppose anyone would care if the final version ended up being better all round than the demo, but again I come back to Bill's thought--if they're dumb enough to release a lackluster demo, then why should I trouble myself to "prove" the full version isn't that bad by buying it? Just seems silly to me.

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NYC
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Hey, with so many people

Hey, with so many people having an opinion about this game, how many have actually played it? And what credibility do they have? Focus on the Family has publications which can set the record straight for everyone…at http://www.pluggedinonline.com/thisweekonly/a0002989.cfm

Bill Loguidice
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NYC wrote:Hey, with so many
NYC wrote:

Hey, with so many people having an opinion about this game, how many have actually played it? And what credibility do they have? Focus on the Family has publications which can set the record straight for everyone…at http://www.pluggedinonline.com/thisweekonly/a0002989.cfm

Again, the point has been made, if you're already "converted", I'm sure you'll think it's a fine product regardless. At the same time, there's nothing wrong with treating the content like any other fantasy-like setting, where one can suspend their own beliefs and go around trying to convert people to a specific type of faith. After all, many games are in fact murder "simulations", yet most people who play them aren't murderers. It's funny how something overly religious, particularly in regards to a specific religion, can be "ickier" in many ways than a game that glorifies murder. Perhaps it's because the one with the religious slant is more "real" than the one with the murder slant, so that's what makes it more unappealing. In other words, the more something seems like a reality we may not believe in, the less likely we're to be interested in it. There's an article in there somewhere...

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