Will teenagers play religion-themed video games?
Los Angeles Times
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
As the video game industry gathers at the Los Angeles Convention Center this week for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, a devout group of publishers is praying for a direct strike on their elusive target: the eternal souls of game players.
One game, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," which makes its debut Wednesday at the expo, features plenty of biblical smiting, albeit with high-tech weaponry as players battle the forces of the Antichrist in a smoldering post-apocalyptic world.
The creators hope the game packs enough action to appeal to a generation of kids reared on such titles as "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" and subtly coax them to consider their own spirituality.
"Eternal Forces" is part of a new wave of religious games coming out at a time when the mainstream industry faces increasing criticism that its products celebrate misogynistic mayhem. Another publisher is marketing games based on the "Veggie Tales" series of Christian videos for children. Another is pitching "Bibleman: A Fight for Faith," about a superhero who stands up for the word of God with his sidekicks Cypher and Biblegirl.
Games "will be a new tool to get the two-minute generation to think about matters of eternal importance in a way that isn't religious," said Troy A. Lyndon, one of the "Left Behind" game's creators.
Christian-themed games historically have had limited appeal. Developer Digital Praise has sold about 30,000 copies of its most popular product, a Christian title called "Dance Praise." By contrast, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" has sold 5.1 million copies worldwide.
" 'Left Behind' has the Antichrist, the end of the world, the apocalypse," said co-creator Jeffrey S. Frichner. "It's got all the Christian stuff, and it's still got all the cool stuff."
That's why industry watchers predict that titles like "Eternal Forces" will find a broader audience.
"The reason that I think this game has a chance is that it's not particularly preachy," said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. "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."
The game is based on the best-selling series of "Left Behind" books, which offer an account of the end times as predicted in the biblical book of Revelation. One of the series' authors, Tim LaHaye, said the game had the potential to communicate ideas like salvation to people who might not think of themselves as particularly interested.
"We hope teenagers like the game," LaHaye said. "Our real goal is to have no one left behind."