7/24/2006                                                                                       View Comments

Kids Kill In Violent Christian Videogame

By Zack Pelta-Heller, AlterNet

The Rapture is headed for New York City, and just in time for Christmas. In Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a Christian-themed videogame due out this October, the New York skyline smolders during the End of Days, the faithful have been called up to heaven, and the remaining New Yorkers are engaged in an epic clash between the Tribulation Forces and the Antichrist's army of Global Community Peacekeepers (aka UN Peacekeepers).

Evangelical videogame makers are praying that Eternal Forces will finally enable them to tap into the $25 billion global videogame market. They hope their "Christian" values-themed game will capture the same audience that has made bestsellers out of violent standards like Grand Theft Auto and Halo 2.

The Left Behind: Eternal Forces videogame is based upon the wildly profitable "Left Behind" series, written by Rev. Timothy LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The "Left Behind" books have sold roughly 65 million copies and are second only to the Bible in sales of Christian texts. The series revolves around an eccentric interpretation of the Bible that sets the Armageddon in Iraq and refers to Saddam Hussein as a servant of Satan. President Bush is a big fan of Rev. LaHaye's brand of dominionism. Prior to the 2000 election, Bush met with LaHaye and other Christian fundamentalist leaders to cultivate the support of the religious right.

Game point, spirit point

Eternal Forces is a real-time strategy videogame, meaning that a player manipulates an entire army simultaneously, as opposed to the common first-person shooter games in which a player controls only one character. In essence, the player becomes the commander of a virtual army, deciding when to unleash weapons from an arsenal of guns, tanks and helicopters. Of course, since this is an evangelical game, soldiers lose "spirit points" each time they kill an opponent, leaving them prey to the Antichrist's forces and in dire need of replenishment through prayer. To top it off, each time a soldier slays one of the Antichrist's soldiers (who are UN Peacekeepers, remember), he triumphantly cries, "Praise the Lord!"

Eternal Forces caught the media's attention in May, when it premiered at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The Los Angeles Times reported that in order to foster buzz for the videogame, the game's co-creators, Troy Lyndon and Jeffrey Frichner, plan to issue a million advanced copies to churches nationwide. That announcement galvanized Jonathan Hutson of Talk To Action, a forum for discussing the religious right, into action. Hutson, who identifies himself as a Christian and a patriot, said by phone, "I'm offended by a game that allows children to rehearse mass killing in the name of Christ or the Antichrist."

In several lengthy blog posts, Hutson charged that Left Behind: Eternal Forces usurps the now iconic imagery of 9/11 because it is set in a post-apocalyptic New York. "Why are the ambulances patrolling the streets with '911' written on their roofs instead of a normal paramedic star or cross?" Hutson questioned. "It's outrageous to exploit September 11th to make a buck!" Hutson also alleged the game's "Praise the Lord!" battle cry is not far from the "God is great!" words of the World Trade Center terrorists. (Left Behind Games was formed in October 2001.)

Hutson's primary objection to Eternal Forces is Left Behind's proposed marketing campaign. The strategy of advanced distribution through mega-churches and pastoral networks has been employed in the past few years with resounding results. Both The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia were screened in churches throughout the country before theatrical release. A more notable example is The Purpose-Driven Life, the bestseller by evangelical pastor Rick Warren. Prior to publication in 2002, Warren distributed a million copies through his Purpose Driven Network of mega-churches with congregations in 162 countries worldwide. The book went on to sell over 22 million copies to become the all-time best-selling nonfiction hardback.

While Left Behind's decision to follow a proven business model isn't particularly surprising, Hutchinson discovered a startling level of collusion between Left Behind and Rick Warren.

Mark Carver, the executive director of Purpose Driven Ministries in every region except North America, turned out to be the business advisor to Left Behind Games. Hutson was incensed by this apparent conflict of interest, which he termed "endorsement by association." He challenged, "Where is the pastoral leadership while a bigoted videogame is being networked and marketed through mega-churches?" After two heated posts on Talk To Action that echoed across the blogosphere from the Huffington Post to BlondeSense to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, Mark Carver resigned on June 5. A day later, Hutson received official word from Purpose Driven notifying him of Carver's resignation and declaring that Warren and Purpose Driven had no plans to endorse Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

Pop-culture sewage

Hutson isn't the only one outraged by Left Behind: Eternal Forces. When Jack Thompson, an attorney and crusader against videogame violence, learned that Tyndale Publishers permitted Left Behind Games to adapt the Left Behind series, he dissolved his relationship with the publishing company. In addition to the Left Behind books, Tyndale also publishes James Dobson and Thompson's own manifesto on the dangers of videogames, Out of Harm's Way.

Thompson said he hadn't read the "Left Behind" series, but says there is a difference between the books, which are targeted toward adults, and the book-based videogame for adolescents. "[Left Behind Games] is taking adult-themed violence and marketing directly to kids," Thompson said from his Miami office. "It's a perfect example of how we're exporting pop-culture sewage to the rest of the world."

Thompson cited brain scan studies by Harvard and Indiana University that he claimed illustrate a link between witnessing videogame violence and copycat crimes. "There's an inherent, emotion-driven impulse in juveniles," he said. "Every parent knows that what kids get in their heads has behavioral consequences." Thompson said Left Behind's decision to distribute a million advance copies of their videogame to mega-churches nationwide is "a dangerous, hypocritical, non-Christian thing to do, and an example of how pop culture is transforming the church."

Level of violence

Jonathan Hutson says he wasn't opposed to videogame violence per se. "The level of violence in this videogame is not at issue," he said. "Rather, it's the indoctrination in Christian supremacy because the game rehearses and instructs children in the mass killing of New Yorkers for the sake of Christ and that is an abomination." He also said he was appalled that in Eternal Forces, corpses are left on the streets. "It's outrageous that this game has a feature to allow cold corpses of New Yorkers to pile up on the streets. No one gives them a decent burial."

While Left Behind denied repeated requests for an interview, it did issue a formal statement. The company dismissed Hutson's remarks, insisting that he was unqualified to comment on the game because he hadn't played it. Left Behind did, however, verify that LaHaye's anti-government philosophy had found its way into the videogame. "The Antichrist's forces are on the warpath, actively hunting down and exterminating all resistance to his one-world government. This includes the good guys -- the Tribulation Force -- defending themselves against Satan."

Left Behind maintained that while there is violence in the game, it's not bloody or graphic, and it anticipates getting a Teen (T) rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

The question remains whether Left Behind can justify its videogame violence with the Bible. If a player's only penalty for killing New Yorkers is a loss in spiritual points, then violence actually goes less punished in Eternal Forces than in seemingly more violent competition like Grand Theft Auto, in which homicide results in being pursued and arrested by the police. And in Grand Theft Auto, bodies disappear shortly after being killed.

Evangelical Gamers fire back

Although Left Behind wasn't eager to discuss its videogame, other evangelical videogame developers regard Eternal Forces as the breakthrough they've been waiting for to bring Christian games into the mainstream. Ralph Bagley, the godfather of Christian gaming, runs Christian Game Developers Foundation. Until now, its titles Catechumen and Ominous Horizons have been the darlings of the Christian videogame industry, having sold about 80,000 and 70,000 copies, respectively. "We've fought the perception that if it's a Christian videogame," Bagley said, "then it has to be cheesy with sub-par graphics."

Bagley hopes Left Behind: Eternal Forces will prove that Christian videogames can be both high-quality tools to reach people through ministry and entertaining alternatives to current videogame hits. He is not alone. Greg Schumsky, CEO of Covenant Studios, knows there are not a lot of Christian games out there for older audiences. Following in the wake of Eternal Forces, Covenant plans to release a game next spring called Journey of the Time Pilots, which involves traveling through time to catch Nazis who have stolen religious artifacts for Hitler.

"I think this game is going to open the doors for other games to get into the mainstream market," Schumsky said of Eternal Forces. Like Schumsky, most Christian game developers covet the mainstream audience and feel the reason they haven't broken through is because videogame critics compare their games to more successful market standards like Grand Theft Auto. Christian game developers say the comparison is unfair because they believe their games are morally superior.

Neither Schumsky nor Bagley seem too worried about violence in videogames.

"'Revelations' is pretty darn violent to begin with," Schumsky said, "so how do you candycoat that?" In the past, however, Bagley has spoken out against violence in games like Grand Theft Auto and Narc. When I asked Bagley whether he would mind gamers playing as the Antichrist, he replied, "As long as Christ wins out in the end, I'm open as long as it doesn't go overboard, though the last thing I would want to see is people getting on there just to kill."

Bagley said there was a distinction between running street gangs in videogames and commanding the anti-Tribulation force in Left Behind. He thinks this violence can be portrayed in a "tasteful manner," if done within the storyline. Unlike Jack Thompson, Bagley doesn't believe that videogame violence invariably leads to enhanced aggression in game players. "I think maybe 99.9% of kids playing Grand Theft Auto and other games probably won't be affected. I pray the rest won't be affected by the violence."

"Used with the permission of AlterNet.org."

15 comments:

Ramen said...

I hate Jack Thomson as most as the rest of the gamers. But he even see's the hypcracy within the church.This is the first time that I ever agree with him on an issue.
This is almost like Nazism propganda this game is. The Christians are all about hate and power.This

Anonymous said...

Wasn´t there some man, some time ago, who alledgedly said something like

"And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves."

I dunno.

Anonymous said...

When the game hits stores, I'm going to buy it as one the most funniest games I have ever played!

Yaoi Huntress Earth said...

Games like this scare me. It's just hate propaganda that takes advantage of 9-11 and demonizes anyone who is different. I hate Jack Thomson as much as the next person, but I'm forced to agree with him on this one.

infidel666 said...

I don't see christian kids wanting to play this game. Not when there is "Grand theft auto" out there. Even for a christian youth this game has gay and fag boy written all over it.
They will be lucky to even be able to recoup the costs of creating this game.

Ian said...

Yuck. Can you imagine the possible effect a game like this may have on young, impressionable minds? The long term damage may be unrepairable.

For once, I am on the side of Jack Thompson with regards to this game.

freedy said...

My three sons will probably borrow and play it but,they definately won't waste one dime buying or renting it.(too many fundie friends to will have it).They'll
get a good laugh just like annonymous! Those little heathens,...Man I'm so proud!

Avie said...

Just sickening. Whoever made up this game is truly sick.

This is worse than Grand Theft Auto...at least people playing Grand Theft Auto know you can't really steal cars and kill hookers with no repercussions. The people playing this game actually think that this sort of thing (killing in the name of their god and all that crap) is actually going to happen! To them, it isn't make-believe; it's going to be a reality! (At least it is in their messed-up minds...)

That there can be people out there who claim to be loving but exhibit such hate is a frightening thing, indeed!

Deamond said...

My Dad told me an interesting story once. (He's a Freemason) Tjhere was a guy who published "The secret rituals of the Freemasons" afew centuries ago. The guy who wrote it thought people must hate the freemasons because allot of people baught it, but as it turned out, all the people who baught it were Freemasons themselves because, up untill then, there was no written set guide for the rituals.

I suspect that, when this game comes out, most of the people who buy it will be people like us, seeing what all the fuss is about. Most Christian children and teenagers are bored with Christianity, and even if they weren't, only the most insane fanatic mothers would allow young children to play a game with "M" on it.

Plus, it'll be yet another thing we can point at and say, "See! See! I TOLD you Christianity was violent and immoral!"

Deamond said...

"It's outrageous that this game has a feature to allow cold corpses of New Yorkers to pile up on the streets. No one gives them a decent burial."

Somehow, I suspect that when you've had your guts ripped out, "having a decent burial" is not your biggest problom.

Anonymous said...

teens are not as stupid as you think they are, even christian teens will see this game as gay!!!

there might be one or two brainwashed who might go into the sinful mall or secular school as a crazy christian and shoot us non-believers........

as a bigger thought...i find the whole fundimentalist movement no different from the 1% fundie muslims...........

kasey said...

the game might be bad and bloody but its better than war games people play, this fights for the good. yes im a christian, and everyone should hear the truth. so here it is, god is perfect, but people sin. thats why god sent his son jesus to earth to be a sacrifice and die for us, even though he 2 was perfect.then he came back to life on the third day now we have a coice. hevan or hell. god or satin. all we have 2 do is ask. if you want to go to hevnan and beleave what i just sad then pray this " dear god, i know im a sinner. please forgive me for my sins. i kow you died for me and came alive again. please come into my heart and make me a better person, amen" its that easy. if you say that our going to hevan. and yes, the tribulation will happen. how do i know? well many tings pridictied in te bible already have, like 1. Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed.
2. The Jews would be exiled.
3. Israel would become a wasteland.
4. The Jews would be scattered worldwide.
5. The Jews would be persecuted worldwide.
6. The Jews would have a worldwide impact.
7. The Jews, and their national identity, would be preserved.
8. The Jews would return to their ancient homeland.
9. Enemies of the Jews would also reside in their homeland.
10. The Jews would have Israel again as their own country.

if thats not anough to convince you, nothing will. I want all of you to feel the same joy and peace i do, becouse i kno w i have a porpose in life, to serve god and worship him.

Bentley said...

ok sew jezzis iz de answer! Alright Here's the problem kiddo...God created the whole universe in six daze, and it was perfect according to you, but there was a FLAW, a terrible FLAW, SATAN!!!!! God created the universe and it was perfect, but there was a FLAW, a terrible FLAW, SATAN!!!!!

Now god creates Man and a woman, but there is a FLAW in the GARDEN, a terrible FLAW, SATAN!!!!!

Now god being perfect and all, created the most beautiful angel the Heavens had ever seen, BUT!!! there was a, you guessed it!!!! A Terrible FLAW, SATAN!!!!!

How can a perfect creator allow an unperfect creature called SATAN!!!!!

Now after Adam and Eve disobeyed god, now would have been the (perfect time) to introduce jeezzis his only begotten son, well he had other sons, but this was his only begotten son, the one virgin whom god had the sperm transported all the way from heaven by an angel, and the angel inseminated her with the holy spirit, yeah that's right! God sent his sperm through billions and billions of light-years of space and it took approximately four thousand years to get here through freezing sub-zero temperatures and zero gravity through black-holes and galaxies and time warp space continuum and through the dave van allen radiation belt, through the Earth's atmosphere and through friction of 18,000 degrees dropped down through the skys and defy Earth's gravitational pull and have to pin-point the exact virgin girl called Mary and she bend over or something miraculous happened, she screamed and awoke the whole community, and said; I've been inseminated by an angel, I'm going to have a child and his name will be called Emmanual or Jeeezis or Beevis or Christ or Pee Wee or something, whatever Paul wrote, that is the way it happened.

Now what wuz that phreayer agin Help meh Jeezzis!!!

Now back 2 those prophesies Jews Jews and more juice.

1. Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed. Yes sir it waz destroyed, ok got that!
2. The Jews would be exiled. exiled out of the dsesert, ok got that!
3. Israel would become a wasteland. Isreal is a waist-dump, ok got that!
4. The Jews would be scattered worldwide.Damned Jews, give me that Jew swatter and Jew repellant spray, dam them!!!
5. The Jews would be persecuted worldwide. Jews, damn them to hell!! ok got that!
6. The Jews would have a worldwide impact. Jews are in the air, I smell Jews everywhere I go!!!!
7. The Jews, and their national identity, would be preserved. Jews are known world wide, I can got to town and spot a Jew a mile away can't you dam them Jews!!!!! They are hid in baseball stadiums I see them on the world series!!!! dam them!!!!!
8. The Jews would return to their ancient homeland. Jews returned to their homeland, what a miracle prophesy, glorious prophesy, praize bee to jeezzis!!!!!
9. Enemies of the Jews would also reside in their homeland. Yes Muslims are hidden in every home of a Jew, yes indeed another miracle, praise jeezzzis!!!!!
10. The Jews would have Israel again as their own country. Yes praise jeezzis the Jews will return to their homeland, yes indeed just like #8. praise jeezzis.

All those wonderful prophesies how could have anyone have know if it were not a pure miracle from god yes indeedy do.

Now how about the religious crusades, the witch trials, how about christians discover America, how about all the Indians killed by the christians, how about the civil war, how about the war between the states, how about, the invention of the airplane, automobile, telephone, all Satan devices, how about WWI and WWII and 6 mil. Jews killed, how about the Korean war, Kennedy assasionated, Vietnam war, Bosnia, Granada, Gulf War, 9/11, etc. etc. why did all the brilliant prophesies stop? God knows everything, well he used to so what happened to God?

God got destroyed by his nemesis
SATAN!!!!!!

There is no god or satin!!!!!

if thats not anough to convince you, nothing will. I want all of you to feel the same joy and peace i do, becouse i kno w i have a porpose in life, to serve god and worship him.

We have a porpose too, it's Flipper!!!!

We worship Flipper!!!!!

boomSLANG said...

kasey said: "thats why god sent his son jesus to earth to be a sacrifice and die for us, even though he 2 was perfect.."


Even tough "he 2" was perfect? Oh sh*t!....by ALL means, I will investigate this now......because "he 2", was perfect.

Kasey continues: "then he came back to life on the third day now we have a coice."

Good, I love coices......hmmm, which will I coose?....eternal bliss?...or eternal lake of fire? Boy, that's a hard one.

3rd grader continues: "hevan or hell. god or satin. all we have 2 do is ask. if you want to go to hevnan and beleave what i just sad then pray this " dear god, i know im a sinner. please forgive me for my sins. i kow you died for me and came alive again. please come into my heart and make me a better person, amen" its that easy."

Now, no one is saying that ALL Chistians are ignorant---only that most ignorant people are religious. BTW, "satin" feels good on my balls.....gotta love those "satin" undies.

kasey continues exploiting her own ignorance with: "if thats not anough to convince you, nothing will. I want all of you to feel the same joy and peace i do, becouse i kno w i have a porpose in life, to serve god and worship him."

Oh jesus, I'm convinced NOW....I have a "porpose" too....Eeeee, eeeee, eeeee!!! LMAO!!!!!!!!!!

Ben Finger said...

If anyone is interested there is a boycott against Tyndale House for producing this atrocity. Anyone who wants to participate can sign the petition at http://theology.dawncaller.org/