Thursday, August 31, 2006

TOPIC: Christian Video Games?
Check out this article on the new video game spawned from the popular "Left Behind" book and movie series:
God's army will begin battling the Antichrist and his minions in a video game version of post-apocalyptic New York City to be released on Friday. A beta version of Christian-based computer strategy game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" will be released aiming at the kind of mass-market success garnered by films such as "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "The Passion of The Christ." The game is based on the 15 "Left Behind" books by evangelical Christian authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which have logged sales in the tens of millions.
"Eternal Forces" is set at the Biblical end of time known as the Rapture, according to Dereck Wong of Left Behind Games in California. It pits "good" Tribulation Forces against "evil" Global Community Peacekeepers led by the anti-Christ. The key to the game is recruiting and sustaining people and winning inevitable, albeit bloodless, battles, between good and evil, according to Wong. The characters and storyline are from the first four "Left Behind" books.
"Rumors can be set to rest regarding the content," said Left Behind Games chief executive Troy Lyndon. "'Eternal Forces' has no blood, no gore, no call to jihad and no gratuitous sex or violence of any kind." For the Tribulation Force, prayer is a key strategy to build points. Another way is finding hidden scrolls bearing scripture verses left behind by loved ones already whisked into the afterlife. In contrast, the Antichrist forces get strength by swearing and wicked deeds, according to the game makers.
Players conduct "physical and spiritual warfare" and can trigger "spectacular angelic or demonic activity" with their choices. "We really are the alternative to a 'Grand Theft Auto'," Wong said, referring to the hit video game in which points are scored by carjacking, killings, and other malevolence. "What we are finding is violence doesn't make it a better game. Gamers are interested in the storyline and the challenge."
Winning play gets rewarded with "Christian theme songs" or tips about what will happen to a person during the Rapture, which evangelical Christians believe is the time that Jesus ushers all believers to heaven. But non-believers can skip the rewards and play the game too, Wong said. "We wanted it to be a great game first ... We are not here to preach to you. It is not a game to be Bible-thumping." Even so, players will be encouraged to seek out up to seven other friends to play together on line, according to Wong.
It remains to be seen whether a Christian-themed game can take off. "It is untested waters, but clearly there is potential," said analyst David Cole of DFC Intelligence, which tracks the computer game industry. "Look at the number of Christians out there." "If you asked people several years ago whether they would ever do a major movie with a Christian theme, you'd get a lot of skeptics. Then Mel Gibson came along and did a movie that was quite successful," he said, referring to the 2004 hit film "The Passion of the Christ". "Gamers have this stereotype of being real violent, but that hasn't been the truth historically," Cole said. Cole referred to the blockbuster successes of Pokeman, Mario Brothers, Tetris, and "cutesy fantasy land games." Studies indicate the average age for gamers is about 32, and that they spend more time playing strategy games than gory games.
Demo versions of "Eternal Forces" were tested on people attending Christian rock music concerts and got enthusiastic reviews, Wong said. Megachurches, those with memberships topping 3,000 parishioners, have reportedly committed to distribute the beta version of the game, which will also be available at the Left Behind Games website. Mainstream retailers were interested in the game and a European distributor was in place, according to the company.
The final version of Eternal Forces is slated for distribution in time for the Christmas shopping season, and will include a copy of the first Left Behind book, at a planned price of $49.95. "It's exciting," Wong said. "We are competing with the Electronic Arts and the Activisions of the world."
I'm heading over to LBG to download the demo tomorrow morning...

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