[NetBehaviour] Converting Video Games Into Instruments of God.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Wed Jun 7 12:07:46 CEST 2006

Converting Video Games Into Instruments of God.

A title based on the 'Left Behind' books embraces the medium's violent 
style. It may reach a new audience, but can it impart spiritual values?

By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Times Staff Writer
May 10, 2006

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

As the video game industry gathers at the Los Angeles Convention Center 
this week for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, a devout group 
of publishers is praying for a direct strike on their elusive target: 
the eternal souls of game players.

One game, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," which debuts today at the expo, 
features plenty of biblical smiting, albeit with high-tech weaponry as 
players battle the forces of the Antichrist in a smoldering world 
approaching Armageddon.

The creators hope the game packs enough action to appeal to a generation 
of kids reared on such titles as "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" and 
subtly coax them to consider their own spirituality.

"Eternal Forces" is part of a new wave of religious games coming out at 
a time when the mainstream industry faces increasing criticism that its 
products celebrate misogynistic mayhem. Another publisher is marketing 
games based on the "Veggie Tales" series of Christian videos for 
children. Another is pitching "Bibleman: A Fight for Faith," about a 
superhero who stands up for the word of God with his sidekicks Cypher 
and Biblegirl.

Games "will be a new tool to get the two-minute generation to think 
about matters of eternal importance in a way that isn't religious," said 
Troy A. Lyndon, one of the "Left Behind" game's creators.

Christian-themed games historically have had limited appeal. Developer 
Digital Praise has sold a reported 30,000 copies of its most popular 
product, a Christian title called "Dance Praise." By contrast, "Grand 
Theft Auto: San Andreas" has sold 5.1 million copies worldwide.

" 'Left Behind' has the Antichrist, the end of the world, the 
apocalypse," said co-creator Jeffrey S. Frichner. "It's got all the 
Christian stuff, and it's still got all the cool stuff."

That's why industry watchers predict that titles like "Eternal Forces" 
will find a broader audience in the same way Christian houses of worship 
like Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest have 
attracted followers — in part by not being overly doctrinaire.

"The reason that I think this game has a chance is that it's not 
particularly preachy," said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush 
Morgan Securities. "I will say some of the dialogue is pretty lame — 
people saying, 'Praise the Lord' after they blow away the bad guys. I 
think they're overdoing it a bit. But the message is OK."


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