Armageddon Outta Here!

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spiritualiy Forum on September 25, 2006.  It also headlined the religion section on UPI’s main page that day.


In Southern California, the marketing empire that has arisen to promote Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ wildly successful Left Behind books has found a way to earn money by packaging religious bloodshed as entertainment in the form of a video game due out in November, just in time to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Over the weekend I played a demo version of the forthcoming game. It was, in a word, cheesy.

Not that I’m in a position to judge. I haven’t been anything like a serious consumer of video games since the days when I was dropping quarters into the bowels of Tron while my mother shopped at the supermarket, but I played Left Behind: Eternal Forces with a friend who makes a living in the gaming industry, and his assessment of the game was no better than mine: boring, but at least the graphics were lame.

Based on the Left Behind books, the game is set in New York City, after the rapture has taken most of the world’s Christians to heaven in advance of the great Tribulation. A remnant of Christians remains, however, and the job of the person playing the game is to convert and/or kill as many non-Christians as possible.

Although it is not particularly gory, the game is violent, and as much as any one of us might decry the idea of killing in the name of the Lord, most of us would agree that, in the context of a video game, a little religious warfare is a lot more fun than, say, witnessing on the streets of post-apocalyptic Manhattan, which is the game’s other option for interaction with the unredeemed.

Sometimes warfare and witness go hand in hand. At one point in the game we found ourselves defending a church building by singing praises to God while the Forces of Evil attacked with machine guns. And, glory be, it worked. After enduring that kind of silliness, who is not going to want to pick up an electronic Glock and start popping caps into heathen backsides? All in the love of Jesus, of course.

Journeying deeper into the Left Behind: Eternal Forces’ surreal gamescape, my friend and I lost several games when our character joined the forces of darkness after coming under the influence of “screaming guitars” and the rhythms of rap. Interestingly, a similar fate awaited our man after he shot an unoffending civilian. That in the game’s twisted paradigm secular music and cold-blooded murder seem to have the same effect upon the soul is shocking.

Startling too, is the role assigned to women in Left Behind: Eternal Forces. As the game progresses, players must train converts in strategically useful occupations. These include “disciples,” who evangelize, “soldiers,” who fight, “musicians,” whose hymn singing is better than firearms in combat, “builders,” who remodel buildings so that they serve the needs of the Lord’s army, and “medics,” who keep everyone healthy. It is only in this latter capacity that the sisters may serve, and when they convert their appearance changes such that they lose all sex appeal.

Regardless of production value and theological content, Left Behind: Eternal Forcces will sell a lot of copies. Left Behind authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have sold some sixty-two million books, and the strength of the Left Behind brand means that the game will makes its way into a significant number of American households. Oddly, the game’s market is comprised primarily of American Evangelical Christians, a group of folks who are quick to speak of Islam as a violent and misogynistic religion. This irony doubtless will be lost on most of the game’s consumers, and that is a shame.

Violence against unbelievers and the subjugation of women are not evils particular to any one religion. They are human problems that are made manifest in religion with tragic regularity, and no religious tradition is exempt. The glorification of religious warfare played out in Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a painful reminder that Christianity has much within itself that must be purged before it can claim to manifest the Biblical vision of God’s peaceable Kingdom.

After some time being alternately bored and offended by Left Behind’s demo game, we quit the application on my friend’s PC, but before the program would let us go we were shown a split screen depicting images of two armies, the forces of good and the forces of evil. We were asked to make a choice between the two. After playing the game, I’m not sure which is which.

P.S. For a haiku review of Left Behind: Eternal Forces click here.

9 thoughts on “Armageddon Outta Here!

  1. I am intrigued by the video game. I can’t wait to see how it is marketed.
    Don’t let your children be “Left Behind” this Christmas! Buy now before you’re raptured!
    I’m not keeping up with the Jones’ but with the Bob Jones’.

  2. 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 http://www.leftbehindgames.com/pages/controversy.htm

    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.

  3. Dear Sandi (on behalf of Troy Lyndon),

    Thanks for the note.

    You need to know that I did play the demo of “Left Behind:Eternal Forces.” For several hours I played the game with someone who has worked in the computer gaming industry for almost as long as there has been such an industry. We analysed the game from every angle (he covered the technical aspects, I payed more attention to theological content), and I stand by everything I said in my post. I found the game boring and offensive.

    Incidentally, it so happens that I had dinner with my friend this evening. At the table we talked about the game, and I know he would stand behind everything I’ve said here as well.

    The “Left Behind” website mentions that there is a technically updated version of the game. Great. As of September, when I played the game, it needed a lot of tweaking. I also hope the game was fixed so that women were given more respect, and so that a person couln’t lose his or her salvation by listening to hiphop or rock and roll.

    I confess to being astounded by your assertion that “there is no killing in the name of God” in the game. Of course there is (or was in September). It’s a good-guy/bad guy game, the forces of light versus the forces of evil. The good guys are trying to establish God’s kingdom in advance of the final return of Christ. I know the story. I’ve read the Book (the Good Book, not the the Left Behind Series). It most definitely is killing on God’s behalf and in the service of God’s kingdom, and it is disingenuous to say otherwise.

    I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be concerning yourself with my blog if your game were a smashing success, and I’m sorry its not selling well. But look. If the game isn’t doing as well as your company wished, please don’t blame “Pacifist Christians” or biased bloggers. Pacifist Chrsitians wield exactly no influence over the gaming industry, and if gaming bloggers haven’t been kind to your product it’s because, as a game, it left much to be desired. Please don’t blame the bloggers for that.

    I Bid You Peace,

    Ben

    P.S. This just in: my friend in the industry sent me links to independent reviews of the game. He tells me that “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” has received some of the worst ratings in the industry. See for yourself. Then look again.

  4. Pingback: Left Behind Redux at Ben Daniel's Left Coast Lions' Den

  5. Quote:

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

    There are many things that positively affect my life. The list does not include video games.

    Bill

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