Friday, December 15, 2006
Moral ambiguity in 'Left Behind' videogame.
The P.R. stunt to pressure Wal-Mart to stop carrying the "Left Behind" videogame — led by the anti-Christian Right watchdog group Talk2Action and the left-leaning Christian Alliance for Progress, whose leaders I met last summer at the Progressive Religious Blog Con — has brought the game itself back into the spotlight just in time for the war against the war against Christmas, but I wonder if the game's opponents are presenting it fairly.
Last month, the Boston Globe's technology reporter Hiawatha Bray reviewed the game and highlighted its moral ambiguity:
[In the game,] former Romanian president Nicolae Carpathia . . . finally gets the job he's always wanted — Antichrist. Now Carpathia's goons scour Manhattan, in an effort to wipe out the Bible-believing scum. For their part, the believers form an army of sorts — the Tribulation Force. Their goals are simple: Spread the gospel, and stay alive.
But staying alive may sometimes lead to the taking of life — "fighting hellfire with hellfire," as Corddry put it. And that raises a knotty moral conundrum for any game designer who worships Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Left Behind follows the classic real-time strategy format. Game characters explore the map, acquire resources, build and upgrade structures, tools , and weapons. But some of the weapons are unusual. Prayer, for instance. The game's most powerful character is a woman whose prayers can bring hordes of enemy forces over to the side of virtue.
"That really enters in this whole new dimension called spiritual warfare," said Troy Lyndon, CEO of Left Behind Games. "You can actually play the entire game without firing a shot."
Or you can create a band of soldiers who'll protect Tribulation Force territory from Carpathian incursions. But they're supposed to use minimal force. Every time they kill, even if it's justified, it weakens their moral fiber. Force them to kill too often, and they'll fall away from the faith and move to the Dark Side.
Bray asks Lyndon about the moral ambiguity of violence in the game, and Lyndon talks about his son's experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The game is also apparently cheesy and unlikely to convert gamers into Evangelicals. Its audience appears to be fundamentalists who wish they had a streetfighter game of their own. And although, like any card-carrying religious leftie, I'm able to work myself up into a righteous lather about the evils of religiously motivated violence, I have to say that our whole culture is dripping in militancy. Picking on the "Left Behind" videogame feels a lot more opportunistic than principled to me.
Happily, we'll soon get a review of the game from Chalicechick. My question: When can we have the "ChaliceFighter" videogame for UUs, in which players can capture people in an interdependent web of antioppression workshops and shoot flames from their chalices at homophobes?
("Moral choices are in play in faith-based Left Behind," Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe 11.11.06; "Groups urge chain to drop Christian game," Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe 12.13.06; see also "Action and adventure, by the Book," Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe 10.2.03)
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 15 December 2006 at 8:01 AM