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July 6, 2005

Filed under: gaming»society»religion

God Mode

So they are making a Left Behind game. They are making a Left Behind game. They are making a Left Behind game.

No matter how I say that, it still reaches my ears like great Cthulhu ripping his way through the subcontinental shelf. The End is Near.

They Are Making A Left Behind Game.

of course, the usual suspects are thrilled. I think we all know how I feel about it. But you know, I'm a good Liberal and I support the right to to make crazed religious games based on fundamentalist misconceptions. Just don't expect me to leave it unmocked. We should note, first of all, that as much as Left Behind Games wants it to be the case, this is not the first "god game." That honor would have to go to Populous, followed by a long line of great sacreligious entertainment. There's also tongue-in-cheek variants on the theme--I remember enjoying 3DO's buggy FPS "Requiem: Avenging Angel" in high school, which featured abilities like "turn enemies into pillars of salt" and "summon plague of locusts." Every time it crashed to the desktop, you could blame Satan--or DirectX, which at version 6 was just starting to act like an actual API and not a hideous collection of error messages ("I am Legion, General Protection Fault at 0x000800A3.").

There's been an issue bothering me since I read the New Gamer's review of God of War. It points out that GoW is a dark game about an anti-hero, and as such contains atrocities committed by the main character. Movies and books are filled with that kind of theme, but in games, where you control the hero... well, that makes me think. At what point would I be unwilling to do what a game asks me to do? I couldn't bring myself to watch Kill Bill 2 after the first one nearly made me sick--would it be possible for me to reach a point in a game where I would be unable to advance because of my own ethical concerns? The Garth Ennis-scripted Punisher game comes to mind, with its graphic torture mini-games. I just don't know if I could play that, personally, and I'm a heathen commie who hates freedom.

Imagine the difficulties facing an ultraconservative Christian who sits down to play Left Behind. First, don't make it run on a Mac. They use that "Darwin" kernel, and we all know how sinful evolution is. Then, to fulfill your "family values" the game can't contain violence or sex. It can't ask you to make choices that would lead away from dogma--after all, surely the designers shouldn't be placing temptation in your path. In fact, given the behavior of Christians like James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, we might ask what kind of difficulty curve the game should have. Is it possible to fail in a game based on immutable prophesy? Does that imply the fallibility of God?

If you play from a typical RTS view, are you taking the role of God? How do you think He feels about that, kids?

I am assuming, asking these questions, that the intended audience will even think for a moment about the implications of their faith, and of course they won't. Part of the fundamentalist faith is a belief that questions themselves are bad. The unexamined life is thereby made worth living--indeed, it's exalted.

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