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Religious Tolerance logo

Left Behind: Eternal Forces: a hate-based video game

Quotations and reviews

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  • Los Angeles Times: "The game adheres to the medium's brutal conventions."
  • "BlueStocking," post to the TruthDig blog: "Gives a whole new sinister flavor to the old hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers', that's for sure."
  • "Plugged In," a web site of Focus on the Family: "Eternal Forces is the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior -- and use to raise some interesting questions along the way. Production company Left Behind Games is pushing it as an evangelism tool for teens, and I can see that, too. You certainly don't have to be an eschatologically minded seminarian to appreciate it. In fact, when you stack Eternal Forces up against other RTS games, its foibles don't pull it very far down in the pack." 1
  • Jonathan Hutson: "Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, 'Praise the Lord,' as they blow infidels away.....The Scriptures say, 'Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.' (Proverbs 22:6) The Scriptures do not say, 'Train up a child in the way he should blow away the people of God as well as infidels: and when he is old enough, he will go out and do some killing'."  2

Reviews of the game:

Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, believes that the game may be a financial success. He said:

"The reason that I think this game has a chance is that it's not particularly preachy. I will say some of the dialogue is pretty lame -- people saying, 'Praise the Lord' after they blow away the bad guys. I think they're overdoing it a bit. But the message is OK."

Jack Thompson, an attorney, author, and critic of video game violence is concerned about the level of carnage in the game. He said:

"We're going to push this game at Christian kids to let them know there's a cool shooter game out there. Because of the Christian context, somehow it's OK? It's not OK. The context is irrelevant. It's a mass-killing game. ... It's absurd. You can be the Christians blowing away the infidels, and if that doesn't hit your hot button, you can be the Antichrist blowing away all the Christians."

Thompson has severed his ties with Tyndale House in a dispute over this game.

A. Larry Ross, president of a Christian public relations firm that helped to market Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" and three "Left Behind" movies commented on the game, apparently without having seen it. He said:

"There's an audience here. In addition to the youth audience -- that's the primary target -- there are parents who are concerned about what their children are exposed to and are encouraged by products that are biblically based. I would assume, if there is violence, it's the cosmic struggle of good versus evil, not gratuitous violence." 3

Jeffrey Frichner, president of Left Behind Games' said that the game actually is pacifist because players first try to convert non-Christians. If they are unsuccessful, the players then kill the non-Christians, but lose "spirit points." They can replace the lost spirit points by having their Christian characters pray. Frichner said that players on Christ's side:

"... are fighting a defensive battle in the game. You are a sort of a freedom fighter. ... Muslims are not believers in Jesus Christ -- and thus can't be on Christ's side in the game. That is so obvious." 4

Actually, Muslims revere Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) as the second most important prophet in history. They consider themselves to be on Yeshua's side.

Jeff Gerstmann, senior editor at Gamespot.com, said that they rate the game at 3.4 out of a possible 10 and report that it has lots of glitches. 4

The Democratic Underground discussed the game in its news release for 2006-JUN-05. They rated "The Left Behinders" as #8 of "The top 10 Conservative Idiots" for the week. 5

Plugged In, a publication of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, gave the game a "thumbs-up." The reviewer called it "the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior -- and use to raise some interesting questions along the way." 4

Zach Whalen of Gameology reviewed the demo copy released on 2006-SEP-01 and commented:

"... as a visual message, the exclusion of minorities is profound and troubling. For a game developer to go to so much trouble to include backstories for its unit characters (some of whom are, it turns out, Asian Americans) without bothering to program in corresponding appearances indicates that they didn't think it was important."

"Along with minorities, women are also excluded from doing much important in the game. Again, I've only looked at the demo, but so far, women can only be trained as Medics, thus excluding them from such career paths as Builder, Soldier, Disciple, and Musician. Female units are also distinguished in that, whereas untrained male units bear the label "friend", female units are identified by "friend woman." This qualifier, "woman," here serves the purpose of signalling [sic] to the player that this unit is not as useful as an unqualified "friend." And since men can also be medics, women may not be necessary at all in terms of completing one's goals in the game." 6

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American Atheists commented that the game:

"... promotes intolerance and demonizes Atheists and other nonbelievers, gays, and even members of minority religious groups..."

"Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists, said that everything from the content to the marketing of "Left Behind" takes the game to a new and possibly dangerous level. 'There are plenty of violent and racy video games out there in the market, but 'Left Behind' conveys a message of intolerance.' Johnson added that players score points for 'blowing away' their heretical opponents, and that points scored for 'unnecessary killing' can be redeemed by prayer. 'In a time when our nation and the rest of the world desperately need to stress tolerance, this game -- targeted at a vulnerable segment of our community, namely, young people -- preaches that violence is acceptable as long as Jesus or some religious figure demands its use'." 7

However, American Atheists did not advocate censorship of this or any other video game. Communications Director Dave Silverman wrote:

"We're not asking the government or retailers to ban this game. Parents, though, should use the church-centered marketing of this as an opportunity to talk to young people about good judgment, acceptance of others, and the need for tolerance -- not violence." 7

Wired magazine commented that the game is:

"... a classic real-time strategy game: Starting with a single 'recruiter,' your job is to proselytize followers, level them up into an army of soldiers, medics and 'spirit warriors,' then bring a hard rain down on the forces of the Antichrist. This all takes place in a sprawling version of Manhattan that is rendered with breathtaking accuracy -- down to the precise location of Duane Reade drugstores -- and superb camera work. Actual battles offer nail-biting action, forcing you to make split-second decisions as helicopters swarm through the air."

"But what's particularly intriguing is how the developers incorporated prayer as a central game mechanic. Each of your team members has a 'spirit' ranking. If you let them get too fatigued or hurt, their spirit drops into 'neutral' territory and you lose them. You can sway enemies to your side by unleashing your 'spirit warriors' or Christian-rock singers, whose joyful noises raise the spirit of anyone near them. (You can even convert evil forces if you're persuasive enough. Of course, the Antichrist has his own evil heavy-metal musicians who work precisely the opposite effect.) And if your forces accidentally kill neutral innocents, their spirit drops further: The act of murder actually has a moral dimension in this game." 8

"JHutson" states:

"Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission -- both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state -- especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is 'to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice'." 9

Mark Moford of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a lengthy article about the game. Unfortunately, most of it is a tirade against fundamentalist Christians and their leaders. Some of the less hate-filled parts of his article are:

"... Do you feel ... that human cretins like, say, gays and Jews and Wiccans and all those hippie weirdos with their iPods and low-cut jeans and easy laughter are a plague upon this fine and holy land? ..."

"Praise Jesus! Your video game has arrived. ..."

"Ah yes, the neo-Christian ideal. The ultimate dominionist police state, a smoking, reeking, post-apocalyptic vision of New York, a world teeming with nonbelievers just waiting to be either converted or massacred by nothing less than a Christianized American Taliban, a world of righteousness and judgment and death, all in the name of one very nasty and bloodthirsty God. ..." 10

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. " 'Left Behind' Now an End-Times Game," Plugged In Online, at: http://www.pluggedinonline.com/
  2. Jonathan Hutson, "The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1)," Talk To Action, 2006-MAY-29, at: http://www.talk2action.org/
  3. Dawn C. Chmielewski, "Converting Video Games Into Instruments of God. A title based on the 'Left Behind' books embraces the medium's violent style. It may reach a new audience, but can it impart spiritual values?," Los Angeles Times, 2006-MAY-10, at: http://www.latimes.com/
  4. Ilene Lelchuk " 'Convert or die' game divides Christians. Some ask Wal-Mart to drop 'Left Behind'," San Francisco Chronicle, 2006-DEC-12, at: http://www.sfgate.com/
  5. "The Top 10 Conservative Idiots, No. 246," Democratic Underground, 2006-JUN-05, at: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/
  6. Zach Whalen, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces -- First Impressions, Finally," Gameology, 2006-SEP-07, at: http://www.gameology.org/
  7. "Support good choices -- not censorship," American Atheists, 2006-DEC-27, at: http://www.atheists.org/
  8. Clive Thompson, "Going Into Godmode in Left Behind," Wired magazine, 2006-NOV-06, at: http://www.wired.com/
  9. JHutson, "The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1)," Talk to Action, 2006-MAY-29, at: http://www.talk2action.org/
  10. Mark Morford, "Jesus Loves A Machine Gun It's the new 'Left Behind' video game, where you maim and murder and hate, all in God's name. Praise!," San Francisco Chronicle, 2006-JUN-07, at: http://www.sfgate.com/

Copyright © 2006 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-JUN-06
Latest update: 2008-SEP-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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