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May 22, 2007

After the hype: Thoughts on ’Left Behind,’ the game

Leftbehindgame Way back near the dawn of time -- well, a few months ago, anyway -- we got a review copy of the Left Behind video game for research purposes. That was the easy part. The hard part was playing the game.

Turned out this thing requires massive amounts of memory. After it failed to load on my home computer, and then failed to load on a borrowed laptop, it then spent several weeks failing to load on our office computers, at which point our longsuffering IT guys had to order special equipment to force it to cooperate. (Sorry, guys.)

By this time I was beginning to think that researching the game might be a pointless exercise, since it seemed unlikely that any gamer would have had the perseverance and fortitude to go through all this. Nonetheless, there it finally was, all loaded and ready to go, so one day Faith Schwartz and I sat down to give it a try.

All I can say is thank God for Faith, because without her I would probably still be wandering helplessly around the tutorial screen, flummoxed by acres of menu options that never seemed to lead where I wanted or expected them to. She went at it like a pro, corralling our protagonist -- we had only one for the duration, not being able to figure out how to try out others -- and making him do more or less what he was told, including get into fistfights with the bad guys and be careful to avoid "the evil musicians" (I'm not kidding).

Besides said fistfights, we never saw any of the violence that made the game so controversial when it came out, as even with Faith's skills we were unable to get to the higher levels of the game. We did, however, see something that bothered both of us.

It manifested itself in several ways: The "Praise the Lord!" or other related expression our little guy blurted out every time we tried to make him walk somewhere. The way his spirit level went automatically up if we pushed the "pray" button and down if we neglected to do so. (A few times he literally keeled over and died on us, usually in the middle of the street.) The way you can instantly recruit a disciple for Christ by pushing a button or two.

In short, both of us were troubled by the superficial view of Christianity that the game seemed to be selling. I realize that a video game isn't meant to be (and shouldn't be) a sermon, and can't get into the nuances of Christian worldview. All the same, if you're an unchurched -- or perhaps even a churched teenager -- playing this game, and your most intense experience with Christianity involves this sort of push-the-button-for-instant-results deal, that's bound to color your views of it, and not, I think, in a good way.

Although, as I said, our protagonist never underwent or committed any heavy violence, such a pragmatic and literal-minded viewpoint lends some credibility to those who were worried that some might take away a "convert or die" view of Christianity.

Faith, please feel free to jump in here with any other impressions you'd like to share. And those of you out there who've played the game, what did you think? Are we overreacting, or do we have a point?

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Michael Snow

Seems to me that Left Behind, the game is a bust, and that that is good news!

It is nice that Christians can provide a good, clean alternative to the world's entertainment with the fiction of Left Behind, the book and the movie.

But the key issue in all of this is that it IS fiction and not Biblical.

Too many Christians still confuse Darby with the Bible.

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