Right Behind March 5, 2006Posted by joshg in Christianity.
Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon, whose company went public in February, says the game’s Christian themes will grab the audience that didn’t mind gore in “The Passion of the Christ.” “We’ve thought through how the Christian right and the liberal left will slam us,” says Lyndon. “But megachurches are very likely to embrace this game.” Though it will be marketed directly to congregations, Forces will also have a secular ad campaign in gaming magazines.
I have a hard time being optimistic about this game, but I’ve never been a fan of the Left Behind phenomenon. It heavily promotes a particular interpretation of prophetic Scripture to a higher level of precision and detail than seems supported by the text. I have no problem with someone believing in a pre-trib rapture, but when a massive marketing machine forces that view to the public without even acknowledging that it’s debated amongst Christian scholars, it just makes me uncomfortable.
Plus, I’m a natural cynic when it comes to Christian commercialism. I love my local Christian bookstore as much as the next cheesy evangelical, but maybe that’s why it bothers me when I see a wall of sequels churned out from the Left Behind crew so quickly. I keep telling myself that maybe they’re just that sincere and passionate about what they write, and maybe that passion for their story is why they’re starting a games offshoot.
The problem is, Left Behind Games’ company website isn’t really helping me stay on the positive side. Here’s what the website has to say about their upcoming title’s gameplay:
LBG intends to develop games so as to include the same types of elements that have made interactive games popular for years and yet offer a less graphic experience to the sexual themes and gratuitous violence currently found in many games. We plan to make all games visually and kinetically appealing.
Not a whole lot to go on. However, the site does have marketing analysis on Left Behind brand awareness (on a page labelled “The Stories”, ironically), as well as a long list of facts about how much money is in the gaming industry. I’ll stop there before I start to sound really nitpicky, but let’s just say this isn’t helping my outlook here.
The screenshots and genre choice have me both curious and worried. Real-time strategy games can tell a good story, but the gameplay mechanics are (generally) focused on combat. I’m sure Eternal Forces will have an evangelizing message, but is the gameplay itself going to add to that message somehow, or will it be relegated to cutscenes and non-interactive sequences? Or worse, if the storyline doesn’t find time to justify paramilitary resistance as the morally correct line of action for a Christian remnant to take, will the gameplay actually end up detracting from the message?
Also, there’s a “Spirit” stat shown in the top status bar – is this something more ludologically creative (and theologically sound) than a mana bar for special powers? Trying to convey Christian spirituality through a game mechanic is a big question on my mind these days, so I’d like to see what approach the game takes. (Hopefully it doesn’t reduce spiritual warfare to just a thinly-veiled magic system.)
Criticism and doubts aside, it is interesting to see a big-budget, adult-oriented Christian game on the way. While I may not be the biggest fan, I’ll be on the lookout for a demo in the upcoming months.