Praise the Lord and Pass the Joystick

Never forgoing the opportunity to wage war upon the evil empire of secular humanists and spread the “good word,” the Christian Fundamentalists have taken their pitch to new heights. Not so ironically it was in a secular setting. The folks responsible for the riveting Left Behind series of books debuted their latest attempt to “win” lost souls with the new video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. For those non-gamers the EE Expo is the NASCAR championship of computer game conventions. The convention drew a record crowd eager to see and experience the next level of cyber reality. This was a smart move on the part of Tyndale House Publish-ers, owners of the Left Behind trademark. God of War, Doom and Oblivion were just a few of the secular games on exhibit. Along with companies such as Alliance Distributors, Axis Animation and Empire Interactive the fundamentalists must have felt right at home. On the other hand the convention also included Darwin Dimensions, Evolved Games and Wizards of the Coast so the “Fundies” must have taken it as their duty to show.

The object of the Left Behind video game is to “Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about worldwide disappearances.” This is a direct quote from the company’s website.

All of those wonderfully heroic and holy characters, Rayford, Chole, Buck and Bruce from the novels are included in the game ready to do battle with nonbelievers. They lead the Tribulation Force against Nicolae Carpathia, the Anti-Christ who heads up the secular Global Community Peacekeepers [think U.N.]. Among the many levels and stratagems a gamer is able to experience include:

* Conducting physical and spiritual warfare using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat wan wield modern military weaponry

* Recover ancient scriptures and witness Angelic and Demonic activity as a direct consequence of your choice

* Command forces through intense battle across a breathtaking, authentic depiction of New York city

* Control more than 30 unit types including Prayer Warrior and Hellraiser to Spies, Special Forces and Battle Tanks

* Enjoy robust single player experience across dozens of NYC maps that include Chinatown, Soho, Uptown and more

* Play multiplayer games with up to eight players via the Internet.

Again, this copy is directly from the company website. No writer could come up with material like that on their own without heavy pharmaceutical assistance.

The game’s trailer breaks down humans into three separate categories:

1) Believers–those who seek a personal relationship with God

2) Unbelievers and Believers–those who don’t seek after God 3

) Faithless – those who chose to ignore God.

The first group was depicted in the promotional video as a husband and wife praying before going to bed. The Unbelievers and Believers who don’t seek after God were numerous, anonymous, unidentifiable figures bustling down a city street. The Faithless had the appearance of your average local militia group. Other than the earth shattering revelation that no one knows the exact time or place of the Apocalypse little else is to be gleaned from the pro-motional video with the exception that this is the mother of all battles and that those “left behind” are the ones who will wage it against the forces of darkness.

To say that the game’s characters are confusing is to say the least. The evilest characters are the Faithless. They ironically look exactly like the militia minded folk that flock to Fundamentalist religions by the drove. This will be only serve to befuddle most secular humanists whom the Fundies have aimed the game toward as a means of conversion. The fact that the secular characters (unbelievers and believers not seeking a relationship with the big guy) are depicted as an anonymous monolithic bunch speaks volumes as well. Another vexing point of the game’s characters is the fine distinction being made between “believers who don’t seek after God” and “those who chose to ignore God.” It may just be semantics but both groups sound like they have better things to do than sit around waiting for the Rapture just so they can leave their wardrobe behind. Using the term “Global Community Peacekeepers” is also odd when these are the evil folk the Tribula-tion Force is bent on defeating. The game must have been designed by Old Testament Fundies since “peace” was the main message of the New Testament. Even on the surface it is apparent that the folks behind the game and restructuring our Constitution have little interest in compassion, charity, love or peace, all basic tenants of the Christianity that the man from Galilee preached.

The hypocrisy of the self-appointed righteous continues to escalate when a closer look is given to their methods and manners. The Fundies consistently assail the entertainment industry as hedonistic and godless, yet it is exactly that very arena where they are cur-rently waging the battle to convert all those “other” folk to their side. When it comes to all things holy and sacred nothing says it better than Nintendo. Install Left Behind on a Gameboy and it’s better than a talking burning bush for spreading the “word.” Taking the simplistic approach of putting all things on a “You’re either with us or against us” level is dangerous at best and absolutely lethal at its worst. Just look at what it has done for Bos-nia. It is exactly that type of mentality that has gotten this country into yet another un-winnable war. When it comes to matters of religion and politics, as tenuous as it may be, we still do have a separation of Church and State in the U.S.

It is impossible to debate or discuss the need for such a separation with a Fundie. God is on their side and all else is part of Satan’s realm in their black and white world. Shades of gray simply don’t exist in a Fundie’s world. Even without all the pseudo proselytizing Left Behind is thankfully an abject failure as a video game. It is PG rated and prides itself on this fact at the company’s website. Such a rating creates a game that eschews the very things that attract gamers in the first place. Grand Theft Auto is a major seller not because its storyline was ripped from the pages of Tolstoy. It is popular because it has plenty of graphic violence, celebrates the criminal and also tosses in animated sex for good measure. Video games by their very nature are not meant to be on the level of a Kant dissertation. They are designed to be relatively simple in storyline and appeal to the masses. When you are talking about an American audience that means appealing to the lowest common denominator. Mediocrity is greatly rewarded in this country when it comes to the entertainment industry, how else to explain the success of Tom Cruise, Katie Couric and Justin Timberlake?

During the Middle Ages, what the Fundies like to call ‘the good old days,’ artists were not afraid to graphically depict the horrors of hell. Bruegel and Bosch are just two such artists who come to mind. While the first image in the game’s promo is a direct rip off of the Michelangelo Sistine Chapel paintings, obviously the game’s designers lacked the courage of their convictions to really allow the secular humanists a good look at what is in store for them come the Apocalypse. Possibly like Grand Theft Auto there is the “secret key” to open a “door” and get a real sense of the fiery future eternity holds for everyone except a Fundie, but that is doubtful.

As hypocritical as it is for the Fundies to criticize the entertainment industry on one hand, it is the only logical step for them to take if they expect to influence and win converts in the modern age of 3D graphics and DVDs. It also taps heavily into their extreme pro-war stance, another contradiction in the interpretation of Christian doctrine but then who is counting? The Fundies have co-opted the Republican Party and cozy up to Jewish Fundamentalist groups as well. This is understandable since all three are working overtime to see that Armageddon at least makes it to the Middle East if not the Western hemisphere.

The Fundies are probably the only group on the entire planet who actually look forward to a world wide apocalypse. It is the culmination of their belief system and for them it’s like winning the Grand Lotto. Unfortunately as with any war there are all those millions affected who didn’t sign on for the Rapture. By using a simple video game to set the stage for the real Armageddon the Fundies are once again lying. In a real war prayer does not miraculously restore powers to a wounded soldier whose leg has been blown off and allow him to reenter the battlefield. In a real war no one has the ability to bestow super powers that make a soldier invincible to the onslaught of an opposing army. This is brainwashing on the most simplistic level. In a real war one survives not by reaching for a joystick, but through cunning, craft and more than a little luck. If operating a joy stick was all it took there would be far fewer soldiers left behind on the battlefield and returning home unscathed. All that a game like Left Behind does is to further point out the hy-pocrisies of a group that breeds hate and intolerance and wraps itself in a flag while striving to undo the greatest political document ever written by modern man. In this case it is best to take the Fundies at their word and leave this game behind on the store shelf.