Monday, January 29, 2007

The left's lies about "Left Behind: Eternal Forces"

Lately, there's been a lot of buzz about the PC game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces." A lot of the buzz involves false accusations by the political left. (Example: The Purpose Driven Life Takers.) Among them:

VIOLENCE
Many parrot the claim - usually sight unseen - that the goal of the game is to "convert or kill." They portray the game play as if you control a paramilitary organization and are expected to kill any and all neutral and evil characters in the game who your characters fail to turn to Christ. Some even go as far as to state that you are supposed to kill any and all non-Christians, moderates, liberals, gays, etc. on sight. This is utterly untrue and completely denied and denounced by the game's creators. In fact, the game manual itself explicitly states, "Your purpose is absolutely NOT to wipe out the enemy forces! Remember, those are PEOPLE he has deceived and can be recruited." Furthermore, the only characters in the game who have the ability to kill are the soldiers and the game manual details at length (far more than any other characters) their role in the game. Here are a few of the important points the game manual makes about soldiers:
*Soldiers have made themselves available to defend your forces from bodily harm and death.

*They are performing their roles as physical defenders, but their #1 goal is still to save as many people from the antichrist as possible.

*With each life he ends, his Spirit level will immediately drop substantially.

*Killing a neutral should be avoided at all costs - and the spiritual penalty for doing so is especially harsh.

*Your duty and moral obligation is to use soldiers as little as humanly possible.

*In extremely rare situations, you might find your Soldiers in a life & death situation...

*Your soldiers... will not fight aggressively without your express orders.

*Your soldiers - even in aggressive mode - will still ignore noncombatants.

"Defend your forces." "Their #1 goal is still to save as many people from the antichrist as possible." "Killing a neutral should be avoided at all costs." "Use soldiers as little as humanly possible." "In extremely rare situations."

Hardly sounds like a game with the goal of "convert or kill," doesn't it? Of course, all of these facts are ignored by the people who are smearing the game, its creators and right-wing Christians.


SEXISM
Some critics have claimed that the game promotes sexism by limiting female characters to certain roles. This claim is nonsense as one of the most powerful characters in the game is the female Prayer Warrior.


KILL AS MUCH AS YOU WANT AND JUST PRAY TO REMOVE THE PENALTY
Characters in "Eternal Forces" have a statistic known as Spirit. Various actions either raise or lower your Spirit rating. Prayer is an action that can raise it. Some have latched onto this concept and claimed that if your characters kill a neutral or evil character, all you need to do is pray and you'll be fine. This is not entirely true. The fact of the matter is that the game prescribes a sort of "law of diminishing returns." That is to say that a single act of killing can and does cause the loss of more Spirit points than a single act of prayer can restore. Certainly, you can have the offending character pray more, but this eats up game time and your opponents are free to act in the meantime. Additionally, the loss of too many Spirit points can bring about the loss of characters as they can revert to being neutral and you will no longer have any control over them and thus cannot have them pray.


THEOCRACY
Another accusation is that your goal is to set up (using the afore mentioned "convert or kill" canard) a "Dominionist" theocracy in New York City. This is so egregiously absurd that it defies belief that people would seriously make the accusation. The only theocracy in the game is the one led by the antichrist and your characters are trying to save people from that theocracy. This accusation stems from the equally absurd real-life accusation that conservative Christians want the U.S. to be a theocracy (with George W. Bush as our national pastor). These accusations show the complete ignorance of the people making them about the beliefs of conservative Christians. There is only one theocracy that we want and it is one that will be led by God, not any man, and it won't even come into existence until the new heaven and the new earth come into existence.


SPEEDING THE RETURN OF CHRIST
Some see this game as promoting the idea that Christians think they can speed the return of Christ by making certain things happen. As usual, this is nonsense. Are there people who think they can speed the return of Christ? I don't know. I've never met or even heard of any. Just the amorphous shadowy figures that the anti-Christians claim exist, but never mention exactly who they are.

In any case, this again shows ignorance of Christian beliefs. God is not beholden to the deeds of man. The book of Revelation details signs we are to watch for and Jesus teaches in Matthew 24 that we are to "keep watch," but note that he doesn't ever teach "Do things to speed my return." We cannot speed up, slow down or even stop the return of Christ by any means. It will happen when God wants it to happen and not a moment before or after.


For more coverage of these and other falsehoods about the game, I highly recommend this post on CADRE Comments for links to the blog's author's series on the issue.

UPDATE: Troy A. Lyndon, CEO of Left Behind Games Inc., has responded to the falsehoods:
There is a lot of misinformation being spread about LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces.

This has been written to respond to media reporters who, in most cases, haven’t played our game. They are not credible. Here’s what real experts are saying:

- The Anti-Defamation League: Although they speak out against the book’s theology, this is what they have to say about the PC game, “Conversion to Christianity in the game is not depicted as forcible in nature, and violence is not rewarded in the game.” http://www.adl.org/Interfaith/leftbehind.asp

- IGN says, "To keep the balance of power in your favor, you'll have to find non-violent ways to avoid getting killed. Your units will definitely fight back in a life or death situation but, for the most part, you want to either avoid your enemies or have a ready plan to convert to your side using musicians and disciples. This gets much harder as the game progresses.” http://pc.ign.com/articles/745/745956p1.html

- Wired Magazine says, “So the great surprise of LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces is that it actually kind of rocks...few titles are as ambitious and as polished as this title.” http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,72071-0.html

- ArsTechnica.com says, “Many groups have made inaccurate statements about this game that need to be corrected. For one thing, it is not particularly violent. While there are violent aspects of the game, the game makes it clear that shooting is the last resort. Second, it is not hateful to other religions. It does have an agenda, and I think you need to know that going in, but there's no bashing of other faiths.” and “…the game is fun, it'll keep parents happy with its light levels of violence, and it'll be sold at video game stores, religious book stores, and everywhere else people spend money on God. This game will certainly get the message out.” http://arstechnica.com/reviews/games/leftbehind.ars


The ADL - hardly a friend of the evangelical right - has denied the claims of the game's detractors. Can't get much better than that, can you?


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