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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.

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Comments

1. Bruce Wilson - June 14, 2006

Images – from the game in play – released by “Left Behind Games” to promote their new videogame show soldiers aiming their weapons at civilians and the civilians dropping, apparently from being shot. Corpses – civilian – litter the streets. The Christian paramilitary forces exclaim “praise the lord!” after they kill people. One might jump to conclusions, yes.

2. jhutson - June 14, 2006

Well, you’ve gotten ahold of some misinformation there. The killing is not all “in self-defense,” as you say. And the point of the game, as is made clear on the FAQ page of Left Behind Games, is to convert or kill New Yorkers. “They cannot remain neutral,” say the game’s founders. And it is not accurate to state that the game “punishes you for killing civilians.” In fact, in order to complete your religious and military mission, you must maintain a certain resource measured in “spirit points.” If you kill a neutral unnecessarily, then your spirit points diminish temporarily, but this is easily fixed by a moment of prayer, which restores your spirituality level so that you can go on converting or killing.

3. jhutson - June 14, 2006

joshg: “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.”

This is not hazy; the link is direct. Mark Carver, Executive Director of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church, just resigned from his role giving business advice to Left Behind Games because of pressure from Talk to Action. Read about it in “Revelation and Resignation,” Part 3 of Talk to Action’s series.

Although Talk to Action did not claim that Mr. Warren himself had developed, distributed, or endorsed the game, it held him accountable for the use of the Purpose Driven name brand in the game’s web-based marketing material, and asked whether his mega-church and global pastoral network planned to distribute the game. In response, Mr. Carver has requested that his name as well as the Purpose Driven name brand be removed from the Left Behind Games web site (which actions followed promptly), and Purpose Driven Ministries has promised not to distribute or promote the game. In its statement, Mr. Warren’s organization criticized Talk to Action’s approach, but did not rebut any of the facts or claims presented.

Talk to Action had argued that what was going on was an old-fashioned business practice, “endorsement by association.” By its actions, Purpose Driven Ministries showed its understanding of this argument, and acted accordingly.

4. joshg - June 15, 2006

I suppose you have a point. Well, I’ll be looking forward to your follow-up article exposing Mailboxes Etc.’s hidden agenda behind allowing their name to be associated with the game as well.

Honestly, you’ve taken the few available facts out there and stretched them to the most extreme interpretation possible. Your justification for the game being about aggressive Christians hunting down and killing unbelievers is from one sound bite where a reporter playing the game shot down a UN medical vehicle, as far as I could tell. For starters, multiplayer RTS games are much more devoid of narrative than the single player missions in the same games. From the description of the reporter playing against one of the game’s designers, it sounds like they were playing a multiplayer match. If there was a mission where an explicit goal for the ‘Tribulation Force’ was to hunt down medical personnel, I would indeed be offended. But if this was in the context of an open-ended multiplayer game, this was a player-initiated act and not (necessarily) something encouraged by the game itself.

Second, the UN in the fiction of Left Behind is not the UN we know today, but rather an aggressive military force which could be summed up as The Bad Guys. So phrasing what happened as Christian forces attacking a UN Peacekeeping medical team is misleading, since it completely ignores the context of the Left Behind fiction. Within that context, saying that a military medical vehicle is identical to bystanding civilians in terms of the morality of combat is, well, at the very least ignoring the complexity of the situation. What you’re amounting to as a message of death and destruction is more likely an accident of classification within the game’s design. For example: If the player is punished in some way for killing civilian units, but not for killing military units belong to The Bad Guys, then what do you classify a military medical or repair unit as? What if the medical or repair units have small firearms of their own? Should all unarmed units be classified as innocents? What if there’s an unarmed unit that can construct weapons or offensive buildings? Keep in mind that none of these questions are answered in any other RTS that I’ve played; the genre tends to assume that something is either Military or Neutral. For LB:EF to actually punish you when civilians get in the crossfire is already an innovation, to the best of my knowledge.

I feel ridiculous, because I’m not here to defend the Left Behind phenomenon. I don’t like its theology, and I think the size of the phenomenon has the effect of pushing its interpretation of Scripture into the average Christian’s mind as fact despite the fact that it’s highly debatable. But going on the warpath decrying the evils of a game which you haven’t even played yet is just, well, ridiculous.

Obviously if you’ve actually played it, you can correct me and I’ll digress. (At least until I get to play it as well.)

Oh, and, well, for future reference, it’s a lot easier to take your views on video game expression seriously if you don’t quote Jack Thompson. Pretty much everyone in the gaming world sees him as a complete nutjob, and for good reason. He basically doesn’t make any sense.

5. Nate Cull - July 9, 2006

I agree with JoshG on this one – though I’m not at all a fan of the sprawling Left Behind commercial-political-religion complex, from what little I’ve seen of the concept for the Left Behind game it’s not about ‘convert or kill’ as a mechanic. It sounds to me more like it’s adding a political component to a tactical shooter – you can align people with or against your cause, and win confrontations nonviolently. It’s a mechanic that lends itself to a semi-RPG civil war type scenario.

But it’s that underlying civil war meme that really bugs me about this game, combined with the anti-UN paranoia and the modern-day setting. (It bugs me about other modern and near-future setting civil-war games, too.)

Well, that and that the entire Left Behind apparatus just stinks of corruption and cheap exploitation, and I wouldn’t trust *anything* with that brand, or any group that chooses to associate itself with it.

6. sjrnyc - January 8, 2007

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.com

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.


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