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L, R, L, A, A, B, Jump (to conclusions) June 23, 2006

Posted by joshg in Christianity, morality & ethics.
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Kotaku, the game news blog of offensive colors (and often, language; don't say I didn't warn), points out news of what they refer to as "spyware" in Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

More after the break on why I think that's stretching the terminology a bit far. (more…)

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Rick Warren’s Left Behind: Kill Everyone June 14, 2006

Posted by joshg in Christianity.
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No, this post's headline doesn't make sense. But neither does this article, and yet for some reason it's migrated from blog to more-notable-blog as though it's actually sane. I had seen the original post come up on GameSetWatch, who realized that perhaps this article is jumping to some wacky conclusions. But that was weeks ago, so I was pretty surprised to see it continue to pop up unexpectedly.

I'm not sure why so many people are jumping on this bandwagon of claiming that LB:EF sets up a "convert or die" scenario. As far as I know, the game does encourage you to convert other citizens, and you also fight back against the Evil One World Order government's army, which is actively hunting you down to kill you. So, okay, you kill "infidels" (a term I'm pretty sure the game itself doesn't use), but basically in self-defense.

And from what I've heard, the game punishes you for killing civilians, which is a far cry from the "you might as well kill 'em, they're going to hell anyway" mentality that Hutson's article describes. And for what it's worth, most RTS games I've played simply ignore civilian casualties, so one could easily argue that they're going against genre conventions and placing a greater value on human life than many other games do.

And honestly, I don't even know what to say about the effort Hutson makes to associate Rick Warren with this game. Frankly, who cares? I'm not a fan of megachurches, I read The Purpose-Driven Life and didn't see why it was worth the hype, but I don't see any reason to demonize Warren to the point that some hazy connection-by-degrees-of-association merits writing about.

Catholic Catechism Educational Game June 6, 2006

Posted by joshg in Christianity.
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Via Serious Games Source:

Catholic publisher Silver Burdett Ginn Religion and Third Day Games announced that the companies will hold national training sessions to introduce Catholic educators to the The Gospel Champions series of educational computer games that use action adventure gameplay to educate children by recreating the Gospel stories they hear in Mass.

Gospel Champions is a series of 3D action / adventure style games that, apparently, recreates popular Bible stories. I'm grabbing the demo as we speak, so maybe I'll give it a mini-review later on. I think it's an excellent concept that has the potential to give kids a deeper awareness of the context and the emotional impact these stories have, which is easily missed when reading a writing style that seems terse and undescriptive to the modern ear. (more…)

A game to help cope with divorce June 2, 2006

Posted by joshg in morality & ethics.
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This is sort of borderline on-topic, but it felt relevant enough to be worth linking to.

A small group of child psychologists and therapists based in Israel have developed a new serious game called Earthquake in Zipland for the PC, a title which is specifically designed to help children aged 9-14 of separated and divorced parents to cope with the new reality in their lives.

Link.

That Old Time Pixel Religion June 1, 2006

Posted by joshg in fictional mythology, indie games, reincarnation.
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I just recently treated myself to Darwinia (almost too conveniently available via Steam), an amazing indie game developed by the self-proclaimed bedroom programmers at Introversion Software. While I had tried it out a year or so ago, I hadn't realized just how strong the religious themes are in the game until I played it through to the end.

In the game, you have entered into a digital world populated by self-aware digital beings known as Darwinians. Their creator, Dr. Sepulveda, has designed a self-contained world where the Darwinians can live, grow, and die, and their digital "souls" are reborn as new Darwinians. However, when you stumble across this pixellated land, it has been infested with a red virus which threatens to destroy the Darwinians and all that Dr. Sepulveda has worked to create. You are quickly put to work helping eliminate the virus and shepherding the Darwinians to safety.

Despite the supposed technological setting of a computer-based AI experiment, the game's plot plays out more like a Tron-inspired religious epic. The Darwinian's digital world is a virtual Eden, where they participate in religious pilgrimages and traditions that keep the system running to bring about reincarnation of past souls. The game is filled with concepts directly out of evolutionary computing (a standard computer science technique for machine learning), but gives them a strong religious flair.

(more after the break, with the mildest of spoilers)

(more…)