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Thoughts from the Left Behind: EF demo January 6, 2007

Posted by joshg in Christianity, mainstream games, prayer.
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I’m back from a nice Christmas spent with family, and I finally tried out the Left Behind: Eternal Forces demo. I guess it felt like an obligation at this point to at least try it, but the demo didn’t seem to pull any surprises on my point of view.

The prayer mechanic worked as I’d heard, and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s a simple model of both prayer and the effects of prayer, which manages to convey some interesting messages. Units need to pray regularly to keep from falling away into neutrality, which expresses how a Christian needs to keep in active contact with God to maintain their faith. (I like this.) On the other hand, prayer never actually does anything external to the unit in question – ie. no healing prayer, no asking for divine intervention. Admittedly, this is hard to map into game rules without turning prayer into a magic-like guaranteed divine action.

(A whole lot more below the break.)

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The Pray Button April 13, 2006

Posted by joshg in Christianity, prayer.
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Associated Press’ ASAP has more coverage here on the upcoming Left Behind: Eternal Forces game. It discusses some apparent controversy on the game’s violence levels, which are interesting but not really my biggest concern. Sadly, they quote Jack Thompson about the issue, which has roughly the same effect on the debate as Godwin’s Law has on Usenet threads. So let’s just skip that part and continue near the end of the article.

However, enticing believers with movies, books or video games is only half the picture. Great sales or high numbers could mean people just like a good game.

“Whether it helps them actually live out their faith is a different question,” said Lynn Schofield Clark, an assistant research professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who wrote an upcoming book called “Religion, Media, and the Marketplace.”

Lyndon, the Left Behind Games CEO, said parents who have seen the game are thrilled. They say it will instill good Christian values in their children — and they’re especially excited about the “pray” button.

The “pray” button, part of the spiritual warfare aspect which I had been curious about earlier, is apparently used “to strengthen your troops in combat”. From the sounds of things, I guess this means I’ll be disappointed. It sounds roughly equivalent to the traditional CRPG “prayer of blessing” mechanic that’s been done in the past. Prayer becomes a generic bonus to skill rolls that gives you increased luck in doing whatever it is you happen to be doing, with no sign of actual communication and no chance that God might disapprove and withhold that +1 to attack.

Now, as much as I dislike the Rapture Wars theme, I’m not denying that prayer and combat come together in the Bible, or the stories where God would bless Israel’s forces to win. But nothing about the usual “blessing” mechanic captures, for me, the active role that God played in the Biblical stories. God didn’t just bless whatever David (and other notable O.T. warriors) felt like doing in battle – David waited until the Lord guided him, and David obeyed those plans even when they were counter-intuitive. (Who waits for a sound in the trees before charging into battle?) And in those times when Israel went to battle against God’s wishes, no amount of “Bless Troops” would help them.

This is still partial information, so who knows, maybe there’s more to it than it sounds. But I have my doubts that “pressing the ‘pray’ button makes young people feel closer to God,” as much as it could if it were given more meaning.

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A voice rings out: “Thou hast angered me.” March 14, 2006

Posted by joshg in divine NPCs, polytheism, prayer, retro games.
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So lately I’ve been playing this game with a built-in theological simulation system. It’s a fantasy turn-based action-RPG, with the stereotypical fantasy polytheistic worldview. However, this game goes into a lot more depth than your average D&D-style, “my god is a miracle vending machine and I get 8 quarters to spend,” sort of game mechanic.

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