It is amazing sometimes to witness how fast and uncritical e-hysteria can spread bad information. In this instance, an anti-Christian right website claimed that the new video game based on the popular Left Behind books has players trying to impose a Christian theocracy in New York by armed force. Also, the leftist site claims that "You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians."
Pretty frightening stuff, if true. The CADRE, disclaimer not withstanding, would harshly condemn any such video game or endorsement of a "convert or kill" mentality. Fortunately, the story is not true. In fact, it is a lie. Here is the truth.
Left Behind is a popular Christian novel series about the end times. Under the author's theology, Christians and babies/children are raptured into heaven, leaving behind a world in chaos. Most turn to the anti-Christ for comfort and security as he becomes a powerful political-religious figure. Some turn to Christianity and become a persecuted minority. The anti-Christ establishes a global government that outlaws Christianity and beings hunting them down and killing them.
There have also been a few movies made, starring Kirk Cameron. I have seen a couple of the movies but not read the books. I actually do not ascribe to their particular theology of the end times.
A video game based on these stories is forthcoming. Contrary to the rather hysterical claims, it does not include scoring points for killing unbelievers. In fact, the player loses points even when killing in self-defense. And that is what is going on, as the "Tribulation Force" (post-Rapture Christian converts) are defending themselves against the anti-Christ's "Global Community Forces." (The "Global Community" having replaced the United Nations).
It is true that the player scores points by converting non-Christians, but that is hardly surprising since the game comes from evangelicals. No one kills people for not converting, although Christians are depicted as fighting anti-Christ security forces who are trying to kill them. Even when killing in self-defense, the Christian loses points.
One of the commentors on the anti-Christian right hit piece actually posted some of the facts about the game, but has largely been ignored during all the hysteria. He directed readers to a gaming site that has several reviews from people who have actually played the game. The reviews make it clear that the leftist-article referred to above is a paranoid fantasy.
Here are excerpts from different reviews:
Players aren't competing to kill the enemy army -- rather, they're trying to save them, and each person killed represents a failure rather than a success. "We found that adhering closely to Biblical philosophies made the game more interesting rather than less," Lyndon said. "One of the key elements of that is to make sure that the player sees that every life is important and precious."
As you'd expect, you'll be encouraged to do good while playing the game, but you may also do evil, as well. Like many real-time strategy games, Eternal Forces features a variety of resources that you need to accumulate to build units. One of these resources is your spiritual rating, which measures how good or evil you are. If your troops kill civilians and innocents, your spiritual rating drops, and if it drops too much, you may see your units defect (each unit has his or her own spiritual rating), and if drops too far, demons will show up.
Killing civilians will definitely make you a friend of the devil.
The forces of evil mirror the forces of good, with the notable difference that the abilities of evil will decrease spirit, while those of good raise spirit (except for killing, which lowers spirit, no matter what).
No flags were raised about Christian murderers in the six or so secular reviews I read. Interestingly, some of the reviews thought the game was pretty good, though these are preliminary reviews of an unfinished product.
So, the hysteria is misplaced. The game does not advocate killing people who do not convert and even portrays killing in self-defense and war as costing you a portion of your soul.
What is more interesting is how quickly this hysteria has been uncritically accepted by other bloggers and commentators on discussion boards. I did a Technorati search and found more than a dozen credulous bloggers accepting the story hook, line, and sinker. How they must despise Christians, especially conservative ones, to believe that some well-known Christian leaders would actually endorse the massacring of non-Christians because they did not convert.
Provided below are some additional resources about the game:
Here is a statement from the author of the books.
Here is the website for the game itself, with preview clips.
Here is a report by ABC News on the game.
Edited to clarify the nature of the reviews as to quality.
Update: Rather than issue a retraction or correction, Talk2Action has defended all of its statements and attacked my response to them. I address their defense/attack here.