Conservative Evangelical Games Shipped to Iraq-Deployed Troops

Conservative Evangelical Games Shipped to Iraq-Deployed Troops

A right-wing evangelical group is shipping out "care" packages to American soldiers based in Iraq that include a controversial videogame.

Among the items the group, called OSU Tour, is shipping out is Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a videogame produced by Left Behind Games.

Left Behind is a real-time strategy title in which Christian believers are swept into heaven after taking out non-Christians, who endure a less pleasurable fate in the struggle to defeat the Antichrist.

It was generally panned by reviewers and was also condemned by Christian anti-game activist Jack Thompson as intolerant.

The rest of the package includes a pocket-sized bible, snacks and evangelical literature - including Arabic translation - all approved by the Department of Defense.

Source: Shacknews.com

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The controversy regarding this game is fabricated and based completely upon falsehoods. There is no "taking out non-Christians" (traditionally called "convert or kill" by the game's critics) offensively in the game. The game manual, the game itself, the game's website and the game's creators all vehemently deny this. In fact, the game promotes peaceful solutions to win the game over violent warfare. It's unfortunate that so many people have unquestioningly fallen for these falsehoods.

jinxmchue:
The controversy regarding this game is fabricated and based completely upon falsehoods. There is no "taking out non-Christians" (traditionally called "convert or kill" by the game's critics) offensively in the game. The game manual, the game itself, the game's website and the game's creators all vehemently deny this. In fact, the game promotes peaceful solutions to win the game over violent warfare. It's unfortunate that so many people have unquestioningly fallen for these falsehoods.

Having played the game - and reviewed it for this magazine - I feel it necessary to reject your version of reality, and substitute my own.

The website, manual and creators may deny it, but violence against non-Christians is a key element of the game play. At least from what I saw of it.

Russ Pitts:
Having played the game - and reviewed it for this magazine - I feel it necessary to reject your version of reality, and substitute my own.

My "version of reality" involves playing much more of the game than you, thus my version is superior to yours.

The website, manual and creators may deny it, but violence against non-Christians is a key element of the game play.

No, actually, it's not. There are many levels where violence makes you lose.

At least from what I saw of it.

Looks like you played only the demo, which is what? The tutorial and the first four levels of a game that has dozens and dozens of levels to play through? The first few levels are really simple and involve pretty much getting from Point A to Point B without losing too much Spirit or being killed. There is absolutely no violence against non-Christians in them, so I don't know how you came to the conclusion you did.

jinxmchue:
I don't know how you came to the conclusion you did.

I ... uh ... played the demo and wrote about it. Pretty transparent there.

If I missed something by not playing the full game, I'm willing to admit it. But to be honest, the demo itself - ideological leanings aside - didn't impress me enough to play the full version. It's just, underneath the hype and rhetoric, a pretty lousy game.

jinxmchue:

Russ Pitts:
Having played the game - and reviewed it for this magazine - I feel it necessary to reject your version of reality, and substitute my own.

My "version of reality" involves playing much more of the game than you, thus my version is superior to yours.

Technically, if you're asserting "There is no 'taking out non-Christians'" it doesn't matter how much more you played the game if at some point a 'non-Christian gets taken out'.

If you say "there is no" anything, for that to be true, there can't by any of whatever it is your talking about in a game. If the person played the game--however little--and saw it, well, then it's in the game.

Maybe it's not a major part of the game, but, no one's "version of reality" should differ if you both played one part where whatever it is you you two are talking about happened, no matter how little it may happen in the parts only you played.

I think the more relevant point here is that by all reports, Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a pretty half-assed game, but its inclusion in the care package is no more controversial or incendiary than the bible or other evangelical literature. The real tragedy here is that they didn't receive something decent to play.

But I find the "approved by the Department of Defense" bit interesting. Surely, given the nature of the conflict and the characterization of the war as a "crusade," the last thing anyone in the DoD or State Department or any other agency that doesn't transport its employees to work on a short bus would want is the official US of A seal of approval on blatantly evangelical material.

Russ Pitts:
I ... uh ... played the demo and wrote about it. Pretty transparent there.

Yes, I got that and I still don't know how you came to the conclusion that "violence against non-Christians is a key element of the game play." There's no violence against non-Christians in the demo. If you disagree, then please explain exactly where in the demo the violence against non-Christians is.

If I missed something by not playing the full game, I'm willing to admit it.

You always miss something or other about all games when you play just the demos.

But to be honest,

"But to be honest?" You're claiming that "violence against non-Christians is a key element of the game play" when it is not. How honest is that?

the demo itself - ideological leanings aside - didn't impress me enough to play the full version.

That's fine. I've played demos or the first few minutes of full versions of other games that didn't impress me, either. I don't really care if you liked the game or not. What I care about is the truth vs. the lies being spread about the game.

It's just, underneath the hype and rhetoric, a pretty lousy game.

It's certainly no big budget release by a huge, well-financed game company (which doesn't guarantee a game will be good), but they did a bang-up job anyway. I've seen worse RTS games produced by larger, older companies.

Cheeze_Pavilion:
Technically, if you're asserting "There is no 'taking out non-Christians'" it doesn't matter how much more you played the game if at some point a 'non-Christian gets taken out'.

Oh, you can certainly have the option of having the game characters be violent and attack non-Christians, but it doesn't get you anywhere in the game. In fact, violence results in an automatic loss of the game in some levels. Violence is clearly and repeatedly denounced in the game itself and everything else that has to do with the game.

If you say "there is no" anything, for that to be true, there can't by any of whatever it is your talking about in a game. If the person played the game--however little--and saw it, well, then it's in the game.

As I said, the option to do it is there, but it is not encouraged and is actually detrimental. But let's be clear here: it's not the simple existence of the option we're referring to. It's the deliberate "taking out non-Christians" as a way to win the game. That is not in the game at all. No "convert or kill" (meaning that you must kill everyone who doesn't convert) exists in the game.

Maybe it's not a major part of the game, but, no one's "version of reality" should differ if you both played one part where whatever it is you you two are talking about happened, no matter how little it may happen in the parts only you played.

I was actually making light of his silly "substitute my own [reality]" line (which was only funny the first time I heard it on "Mythbusters"). "Versions of reality" certainly don't differ, but people's experiences of reality do differ. I've had more experience with the game and I've not seen one iota of evidence that backs up any of the "convert or kill" descriptions of the game.

Malygris:
I think the more relevant point here is that by all reports, Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a pretty half-assed game,

No, actually it's not that "by all reports." It received mixed reviews, and from what I've seen of the negative reviews, many of them were more concerned with the theological aspects of the game (which they hated and were extremely biased against, of course) than anything else.

but its inclusion in the care package is no more controversial or incendiary than the bible or other evangelical literature.

True enough.

The real tragedy here is that they didn't receive something decent to play.

Some will like it and some won't. Why don't you let them decide if it's decent or not?

But I find the "approved by the Department of Defense" bit interesting. Surely, given the nature of the conflict and the characterization of the war as a "crusade," the last thing anyone in the DoD or State Department or any other agency that doesn't transport its employees to work on a short bus would want is the official US of A seal of approval on blatantly evangelical material.

The game promotes peaceful solutions to problems - even problems that involve violence. You'd think people would prefer that to the wanton and usual violence of the most popular games. Maybe you think the troops should've received Grand Theft Auto, where committing violent acts is how you win.

Okay, it's a slow night and I have a few minutes to kill before bed. Lucky you.

Let's look into this "mixed reviews" business.

Christ-Centered Game Reviews gave it an 80 - no surprise there. So did Game Vortex, which is a surprise because the reviewer spent most of his time going on about how half-assed it was and wrapped up by saying it might be useful if you know anyone who needs to hear about the apocalypse, but then threw a random 80 on it anyway. Okay.

GameShark and Just Adventure both give it a 70. Ace Gamez lays a 60 on it, and IGN follows closely with a 59. And then it starts to get ugly.

Gaming Age, the Onion, Wham Gaming, Game Chronicles, G4, Games Radar, Gamespy, PC Gamer, PC Gamer UK, GameSpot, GotNext, Worth Playing, PC Zone UK, Computer Games Mag, and Game Revolution all rate the game 50 or lower. (And only the first two are generous enough to give it a 50.)

Res ipsa loquitur.

To back up Maly's post, by the way, here's a site with ~20 reviews sampled and averaged (links to each individual review are also given): http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/928956.asp
The average comes out to 44.8%, so not a stellar game by any standards.

I think given the strong ideological background to the game (which, personally, makes me very unwilling to get within 100 feet of it), it would be more fair to say that the game does not have mainstream appeal. It would seem that its target audience (Christ-Centered Game Reviews = 80) liked it well enough. As did jinxmchue. So, we can hypothesize or opinionate that the target audience have bad taste, or just let it go and say that it didn't have wide appeal.

There are certain movies that I absolutely love, but get panned universally by the critics, and end up with a tomatometer of 20%. You could argue that the movie was just really bad (I would disagree), or you could say that it just wasn't for you, and then I'd have to take that at face value.

I think the REAL issue here, as Malygris pointed out, is the whole DoD approved stamp. Some of the religious minorities in the armed forces have enough problems co-existing with everyone else, and getting their own religious symbols on their military headstones. The last thing they need is a Christianity-based care package to warm their hearts. I'd say, at this point, (if it were me), an extra piece of body-armor plating for my empty kevlar vest would be a whole lot more appreciated than the NIV. They may say that there aren't any atheists in foxholes, but nobody can claim that they're all Christians.

Cheeze seems to have jumped ship, so can anyone else please point out EXACTLY where in the demo violence against non-Christians is encouraged?

It's an RTS. Each side has machine guns and medics. Do you need a diagram?

The demo may or may not say "go kill the heathens/believers!" but given the genre and the hardware the little minions receive, it's not exactly encouraging peaceful resolution either, is it?

Joe:
It's an RTS. Each side has machine guns and medics. Do you need a diagram?

The demo may or may not say "go kill the heathens/believers!" but given the genre and the hardware the little minions receive, it's not exactly encouraging peaceful resolution either, is it?

Have you played the game? No? Didn't think so. Nice cherry-picking, though.

Jaunty:
To back up Maly's post, by the way, here's a site with ~20 reviews sampled and averaged (links to each individual review are also given): http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/928956.asp
The average comes out to 44.8%, so not a stellar game by any standards.

Had this been some other story with no Christian underpinnings, the reviews would've been much more favorable.

Geoffrey42:
I think given the strong ideological background to the game (which, personally, makes me very unwilling to get within 100 feet of it), it would be more fair to say that the game does not have mainstream appeal. It would seem that its target audience (Christ-Centered Game Reviews = 80) liked it well enough. As did jinxmchue. So, we can hypothesize or opinionate that the target audience have bad taste, or just let it go and say that it didn't have wide appeal.

There are certain movies that I absolutely love, but get panned universally by the critics, and end up with a tomatometer of 20%. You could argue that the movie was just really bad (I would disagree), or you could say that it just wasn't for you, and then I'd have to take that at face value.

I personally don't care one bit whether or not people enjoyed the game. What I care about is them being honest about their criticism. Are they criticizing the game from first-hand experience? Usually not. Most people are parroting what people like Max Blumenthal or the Talk2Action website have said. Are they really upset about "convert or kill" supposedly being in the game? I seriously doubt it. It's just a convenient excuse to criticize the game without actually saying they hate it because it has a basis in Christianity.

I think the REAL issue here, as Malygris pointed out, is the whole DoD approved stamp.

The only "DoD approved stamp" was for Operation Straight Up to interact with the troops. The DoD certainly didn't hand-pick and probably didn't even review what was being planned for the care packages.

Some of the religious minorities in the armed forces have enough problems co-existing with everyone else, and getting their own religious symbols on their military headstones. The last thing they need is a Christianity-based care package to warm their hearts.

Then they can refuse the care packages, since there is no obligation for them to take them.

I'd say, at this point, (if it were me), an extra piece of body-armor plating for my empty kevlar vest would be a whole lot more appreciated than the NIV. They may say that there aren't any atheists in foxholes, but nobody can claim that they're all Christians.

Any atheist or religiously-neutral groups sending care packages to the troops? I've never heard of any. They're more concerned with condemning things like the "Eternal Forces" game than helping out the troops.

jinxmchue:

Jaunty:
To back up Maly's post, by the way, here's a site with ~20 reviews sampled and averaged (links to each individual review are also given): http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/928956.asp
The average comes out to 44.8%, so not a stellar game by any standards.

Had this been some other story with no Christian underpinnings, the reviews would've been much more favorable.

...because?

The only support you've provided for this assertion is in one of your earlier posts:

jinxmchue:
No, actually it's not that "by all reports." It received mixed reviews, and from what I've seen of the negative reviews, many of them were more concerned with the theological aspects of the game (which they hated and were extremely biased against, of course) than anything else.

But even here your reasoning includes an unsupported assumption: that a given game reviewer can be expected to "hate" and be "extremely biased against" Christian eschatology as presented by the game. On what do you base this expectation? Solely on your experience(s) with reviews of left Behind? Or on past reviews of other "Christian-themed" games?

Certainly, my own anecdotal experience differs from yours -- the middling or negative reviews of LBEF that I read were specifically lukewarm on the gameplay. The Ars Technica review I linked above is one example, though my link goes to the last page, which is specifically about Christian eschatology.

Added: You just did it again at the bottom of your last post. You haven't heard of any atheistic organizations (nevermind that atheism is not an organized religion) sending care packages to soldiers, so you assume that atheists don't send care packages to soldiers.

jinxmchue:

Joe:
It's an RTS. Each side has machine guns and medics. Do you need a diagram?

The demo may or may not say "go kill the heathens/believers!" but given the genre and the hardware the little minions receive, it's not exactly encouraging peaceful resolution either, is it?

Have you played the game? No? Didn't think so. Nice cherry-picking, though.

No, why would I play a game with such a terrible demo? I'm not a Christian in any appreciable way, so I don't have any emotional investment in subjugating rock stars and the UN just because the game is based on a wacky book series.

But good job dodging the point. I don't mind you frothing around and waving your arms in the name of a bad game (God knows I've done it), but the least you can do is attempt to respond to what's being addressed your way.

jinxmchue:
The only "DoD approved stamp" was for Operation Straight Up to interact with the troops. The DoD certainly didn't hand-pick and probably didn't even review what was being planned for the care packages.

But that's a big part of my point - the DoD did green-light this project. Regardless of whether they're card-carrying members of the Stormtroopers For Jesus club or if they did it out of pure ignorance, the inescapable fact is they approved it. How anyone in their right mind could fail to see the incredibly bad optics of such a decision, at a bare minimum, is beyond me. I'm not talking about you, either, I'm talking about the entire US Department of Defense. How is it possible they don't have one single guy working there who saw this and thought, wow, ya know, maybe this isn't such a hot idea?

Could it be that they hold to the government's apparent precedent that games cannot possibly carry under- or overtones to which an adult would be susceptible?

 

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