Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Christian Groups Protest Left Behind, CEO Lyndon Responds

Joe Blancato | 30 Nov 2006 15:05
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From Jacksonville.com comes news that several Christian groups are protesting the tack the Left Behind game takes on numerous religious issues, claiming that the designers "misread biblical prophesies and reject accepted [Biblical] scholarship."

Numerous Christian groups have taken issue to some of the themes in Left Behind, notably the way the lines between Good and Evil are drawn.

What's most interesting, though, is the way Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon chose to respond to charges that the game misinterprets scripture. He's gone on record as saying, "The game is designed to be a classic battle between good and evil, but it does not gratuitously depict violence or death." He's right about what he says, but no one accused the game of being gratuitously violent, they accused the game of sending a bad message about Christian values to the world at large. I got on the phone to ask him directly: What's his response to Christians and others who feel the game doesn't represent scholarly interpretation of the Rapture?

While I couldn't get in touch with Lyndon directly, I was able to get a hold of a representative via email. She sent me this official statement:

Focus on the Family said it best. Those throwing rocks at our game simply haven't played it through. There is no 'convert or die' in the game. There is no blood, gore or gratuitous violence of any kind.

The Left Behind Games team has created a positive game teens and gamers want to play, but also a game that would encourage them with questions of eternal importance. We make sure actions within games reflect real-world consequences. It helps them understand the value of positive moral decisions and the consequences of making negative choices. We offer families an alternative choice - a game for their teens that represent a dramatic contrast to the dark and violent nature of many popular video games available today.

The game takes place just after the Rapture. The main characters in our game are also found in the Left Behind book series. From that point, LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces takes off on its own adventure. The objective is to "save" as many neutrals from the antichrist as possible - without killing anyone. LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces is rated Teen by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

Left Behind Games' desire is to have a positive impact on an industry that traditionally has had a dark influence on gamers and the world.

Unfortunately, that doesn't get us much closer to an answer. But it does give us a bit of insight as to what Left Behind Games hopes to achieve with Left Behind. Obviously, as a licensee of the Left Behind book series, they want to appeal to fans of the series - preaching to the converted, so to speak. But they also wish to make an impact on the game industry, an industry LBG considers to be a "dark" influence on the world.

Granted, there are a lot of games out there that don't preach Christian views or ideals - Max Payne, God of War and Xenogears all come to mind as distinctly blasphemous, if not aggressive toward the Christian religion. But the industry isn't all bad. Everything by Peter Molyneux, even if not expressly Christian, puts gamers in the position to choose to be good, to treat others around them as they'd be treated. The entire Ultima series urges players to aspire to eight virtues - honesty, compassion, valor, justice, sacrifice, honor, spirituality and humility - that are pretty Christian in terms of ideology. Even Metal Gear Solid gives players rewards for not going on ultraviolent killing sprees.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not the guy you want to defend gaming in front of a Congressional hearing. But to call it a traditionally dark influence is definitely going overboard, when numerous legendary designers have produced games with strict moral codes that closely mirror Christian ones.

As far as Left Behind goes, it's a pretty dark game itself. While it's not gory, players are in control of a highly patriarchic society that's going to war with U.N. peacekeeping forces who listen to rock 'n' roll and summon demons from Hell to fight their battles. Additionally, some of the values within the game aren't entirely noble. Once you convert a female "neutral" - someone who hasn't yet chosen whether or not to be good or evil - the only role she can take in the game is as a medic. Men are able to work as soldiers, builders, medics and so on.

Speaking as a gamer and a member of the world, I'm not sure that's something I want the industry to be impacted by.

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