The "controversial" video game Left Behind has arrived and claims of its violent, forced conversion, orientation seem proven flat. I responded here to some baseless charges that the game somehow trained young Christians to murder anyone who disagreed with their theology. I do not have any intention of getting the game myself. I am satisfied with getting Age of Empires III for Christmas. Nevertheless, here is the latest release from the folks at Left Behind:
A statement from Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon:
Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, Women of Faith, Outreach Magazine, National Network of Youth Ministers and Promise Keepers are just some of the organizations that support LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces, a PC game. Read below to find out why…
This is the world’s first high-quality inspirational game which intends to model positive behavior by discouraging physical warfare. 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.
In the past several days, numerous people have been and continue to spread misinformation about the game.
Our game does not encourage killing. Our game is not anti anything … it’s simply pro-Christian. The ultimate bad guy is the antichrist who wants to eliminate all faiths and all religions, except his. 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 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 is what some are saying about the game:
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 “The kind of 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 that in an industry that is full of destruction with no hope, the LEFT BEHIND game provides a healthy alternative.
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.
Left Behind Games Inc.
I checked out the ADL report on the game and found the usual objections to evangelical Christianity's exclusivity on issues of salvation, but it does indeed concede that the game does not glorify violence and does not depict conversion by force:
The game is designed to make force an option only used by players if necessary when their forces are attacked by those hunting them, and any characters that kill others in the game are penalized. Conversion to Christianity in the game is not depicted as forcible in nature, and violence is not rewarded in the game.
The game revolves around "spirit" - a low spirit leads a character to the side of the Antichrist, and players must continually watch their spirit levels to ensure they do not slide towards evil. Killing others in the game deeply affects the spirit levels, and players must have those characters pray to build themselves back up or risk turning evil.
One issue I had been curious about was how the "neutrals" in the game were described. The ADL report addresses that:
The neutral characters populating the game are often members of religions other than Christian or lapsed/not faithful Christians from various denominations. However, the particular religious and social backgrounds of characters in the game does not make them any more or less susceptible to conversion, nor is there any special benefit attributed to converting someone of a particular background (i.e. no “extra points” or “increased difficulties” when trying to convert a person from a specific group/belief).
The report ends by pinpointing "insidious" parts of the game, such as the promotion of evangelical belief, the playing and potential purchasing of Christian music, a link to a site that questions evolution, and -- the horror! -- "giving descriptions of historic Christian sites in Israel." Next thing you know, Christians might actually start taking tourist trips to Israel.
Overall, the ADL's response -- though critical -- is anemic in its criticism. There is no complaint about forced conversions of Jews or anyone else and the point -- highlighted from the beginning here and elsewhere -- that the game discourages violence is also conceded. If the best they can do is complain about insidious ploys to expose evangelical Christian youth to evanglical belief, music, and potential tourist destinations, there is not much to complain about.