In today’s Tennessean Newspaper, an article was published concerning a new video game loosely based on the series of novels entitled “Left Behind.” This was an article written and carried by the Associated Press concerning objections to the game.
I was interviewed by the reporter for my views on the game. Although there is only one quotation carried, the interview lasted for about 15 minutes, and I was able to share my opinion on the theology behind the series, and how it is incorporated in the game.
The story was carried on page one and continued to page 8 A. Since we have blog readers from all of the United States and in several other nations, I am including the content of the article that was published December 13, 2006:
CHRISTIAN-themed video game assailed as violent, intolerant
By DAVID CRARY
NEW YORK — Targeted largely at conservative Christians, it’s a violent video game with a difference: Combatants on one side pause for prayer, and their favored interjection is “Praise the Lord.”
Critics say Left Behind: Eternal Forces glorifies religious violence against non-Christians. Some liberal groups have been urging a boycott, and on Tuesday they urged Wal-Mart to withdraw the game from its shelves.
However, Troy Lyndon, CEO of Left Behind Games Inc., defended the game as “inspirational entertainment” and said its critics were exaggerating.
Lyndon’s company, based in Murrieta, Calif., has a license to develop games based on the popular Left Behind novels, a Bible-based end-of-the-world saga that has sold more than 63 million copies.
Lyndon, in a telephone interview said Eternal Forces has been distributed to more than 10,000 retail locations over the past four weeks.
The real-time strategy game has received a T (for teen) rating, as its makers had hoped. It is more violent than an E-rated children’s game but less graphic than M (for mature) rated games that conservative Christian groups have criticized.
“If my children were small, I wouldn’t allow them to have such a game. There’s no spiritual basis for it, and there’s enough violence out there already,” said the Rev. E.C. McKinley, Tennessee state overseer, Church of God of Prophecy. (emphasis mine)
Story starts after rapture
The game’s story line begins after the rapture, when most Christians are transported to heaven. Earth’s remaining population is faced with a choice of joining or combating the Antichrist, as embodied by a force called the Global Community Peacekeepers that seeks to impose one-world government.
The game’s critics depict the ensuing struggle, set in New York City, as one fostering religious intolerance.
“Part of the object is to kill or convert the opposing forces,” said the Rev. Tim Simpson of Jacksonville, Fla., who heads the Christian Alliance for Progress. “It is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Simpson, whose group was formed last year to counter the influence of the religious right, joined in a news conference Tuesday at which he and other speakers urged Wal-Mart to discontinue sales of Eternal Forces.
Wal-Mart indicated it would continue selling the game online and in selected stores where it felt there was demand.
“The idea of the game is appaling. It seems to have nothing to do with Christianity or Scripture or prophecy. It may simply be about exploiting a best-selling book,” Vanderbilt University religion professor Volney Gay said.
The game’s makers contend that the violence from the good side – the Tribulation Force – is exclusively defensive and should not be seen as contrary to church teachings.
“Christians are quite clearly taught to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies,” the company web site says. “It is equally true that no one should forfeit their lives to an aggressor who is bent on inflicting death.”
Reviews are mixed
Simpson, a Presbyterian Church USA pastor, said he was dismayed by the concept in Eternal Forces of using prayer to restore a player’s “spirit points” after killing the enemy.
Another participant in the critics’ news conference, author Frederick Clarkson, argued that Eternal Forces – though less violent than many other video games-was more troubling in some ways.
“It becomes a tool of religious instruction,” he said. “The message is…there will be religious warfare, and you will target your fellow Americans, people from other faiths, people who you consider to be sinners.”
Clarkson faulted Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based Christian ministry often critical of violent video games, for publishing a positive review of Eternal Forces on one of its Web sites.
“Eternal Forces is the kind of gamee Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior and use to raise some interesting questions along the way,” wrote the reviewer, Bob Hoose.
Other online reviewers – writing for hard-core gamers – have been less impressed.
“Don’t mock Left Behind: Eternal Forces beecause it’s a Christian game. Mock it because it’s a very bad game,” wrote GameSpot reviewer Brent Todd.
John Boan for The Tennessean contributed to this report