Fire and Brimstone, Guns and Ammo

Eternal Forces isn't due out until October, but its violence has attracted considerable controversy already.
Eternal Forces isn't due out until October, but its violence has attracted considerable controversy already. (Left Behind Games)
By Mike Musgrove
Thursday, August 17, 2006

As the camera pans over a smoldering representation of New York City, the booming voice says it all: "For those left behind, the apocalypse has just begun!"

That's the tail end of the promotional trailer for Left Behind: Eternal Forces, an upcoming computer game based on the best-selling book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

The "Left Behind" books, which center on Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus, have sold more than 70 million copies and are the basis of three movies, making the franchise overdue for a video game. The game, which will soon be marketed in churches and video game stores across the country, is due out in October.

In Eternal Forces, which is based on the first four books, the rapture has occurred and billions of people have disappeared from the planet. Players command the left-behind Tribulation Forces and battle the forces of the Antichrist, who happens to be employed as the head of a U.N.-like world government organization. The game's action takes place across 500 carefully re-created New York City blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Harlem.

The object of the game is to recruit the members of New York's remaining "neutral" population to the side of God during a seven-year reign of the Antichrist. Players have to win over the remaining agnostics and unbelievers of New York City or kill them -- either before or after they are pulled to the forces of evil.

In the parlance of computer games, Eternal Forces is a "real-time strategy" title, in which players have to marshal a limited number of resources as the clock ticks. In multiplayer mode, players can choose to command the Antichrist's armies.

Left Behind Games chief executive Troy Lyndon, a game industry veteran who was involved in early incarnations of Electronic Arts' Madden football franchise, is particularly fond of the game's "pray" button. Sending one's holy warriors into a bloody battle can hurt their morale; having them pray first can bolster their faith.

Still, the game has attracted controversy, from critics who argue that it will promote religious intolerance.

Miami attorney Jack Thompson, already famous to a generation of Xbox and PlayStation owners for pitching campaigns against game companies, argues that games are rotting the minds of young people. But, as a practicing Christian, he says, he has more reasons than usual to dislike the latest target of his ire. The Eternal Forces game "breaks my heart," he said.

"The game is about killing people for their lack of faith in Jesus," he said. "The Gospel is not about killing people in the name of the Lord, and Jesus made that very clear."

Thompson worries that the existence of this game will be taken as proof by radical Muslims that Western culture is mounting a modern-day crusade against non-Christian faiths. Thompson says he broke off a publishing relationship with Tyndale House -- the company that puts out the "Left Behind" books -- because it approved licensing the book franchise to the start-up company that is just now putting on the game's finishing touches.

But Lyndon claims that the game doesn't get into religious denominations.

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