One helpful aspect of the video game is that it simplifies the ideology inherent in Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series -- leaving little room for doubt about how those who believe that the end times are not only near -- but here -- view what may happen in their lifetimes, and/or those of their children.
One aspect that Hutson highlights in part II, is that when the Christian paramilitary groups, directed by the young Christmas gifted gamer, blow away a New York infidel, the characters shout "Praise the Lord!"
Here is how he summarized the story in the opening of Part II:
A top aide to mega-church pastor Rick Warren is advising the makers of a children's video game in which characters kill New Yorkers while shouting "Praise the Lord."Much more.
When children tire of converting or killing New Yorkers, they can switch sides and command the demonic armies of the AntiChrist, and kill the conservative Christians. The real-time strategy game, slated for release in October 2006, is based on the best selling series of Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The web site of Left Behind Games states the involvement of Mark Carver on its Advisory Board. This web-based marketing tool also highlights his role as Executive Director of Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Church. What appears to be going on here is an old-fashioned business practice called "endorsement by association."...
Strap on your seat belts and hold onto your dashboard Jesus, because the story of how this violent, theocratic video game is being network marketed through pastors and churches only gets deeper and stranger from here. But bear with us as we wade into the corporate mindset of mega-church marketing; the long, strange trip will be worth it.
Along the way, we'll point out four remarkable, man-made features like giant, painted, concrete cowboys along Route 66 - wondrous to behold, and worth a closer look.
First, we'll meet the designers of Left Behind: Eternal Forces and learn what kinds of "Christian stuff" and "cool stuff" this game features - like rotting bodies of New Yorkers piled high on city streets. Seriously: it's a game feature. You cannot make this stuff up.
Second, we'll meet the spiritual warfare practitioner and celebrated management consultant who shaped Mr. Warren's life over the course of more than 20 years. Yes, although Mr. Warren is hailed as "America's minister," he's actually a businessman and a disciple of the most famous management guru of the 20th Century.
Third, we'll meet the man who directed the marketing plan that drove Mr. Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life to the top of best seller lists. And we'll hear the surprising story of why Mr. Warren tried to censor this man's how-to book on network marketing, which treats churchgoers as customers, and converts customers into evangelists for corporate products.
Fourth, we'll find out what Mr. Warren means when he compares his corporate management and marketing practices to an Intel operating chip. Holy Motherboard of God!
Left Behind Games executives Troy A. Lindon and Jeffrey S. Frichner told the Los Angeles Times of their plans to build buzz for Left Behind: Eternal Forces by distributing 1 million sample discs directly through churches nationwide. This is a sign that their approach follows the same marketing strategy that Mr. Warren used to ramp up early sales numbers for his international best seller The Purpose Driven Life. The L.A. Times reports:
" '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 in the same way Christian houses of worship like Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest have attracted followers -- in part by not being overly doctrinaire.
"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."
Okay, so we've got Christian paramilitary forces loose on the streets of New York, fighting to turn the United States into a theocracy, and shouting "Praise the Lord!" as they blow away those who refuse to convert. In the virtual world of Left Behind only the conservative Evangelical Christians were "raptured" - spirited into heaven for the big Super Bowl party and skybox seats to the ultimate battle between absolute theocracy and the absolutely AntiChrist. So who's "left behind" to blow away? Catholics, mainstream moderate Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, suspiciously well-groomed men, lesbians, and conservative Evangelicals who are closet gays. (As Congressman Barney Franks (D-Massively Funny) has said, "Throw the gays out of church? Who do you think has been playing the damn organ all these years?") Blowing away these good folk ("Praise the Lord!") - is that supposed to be the "Christian stuff" or the "cool stuff"?
How about this nifty game feature: the bodies of slain New Yorkers don't disappear after a battle, and no one gives them a decent burial. Instead, the festering corpses just keep piling up: left behind. Is that "Christian" or "cool"?
A number of people, mostly evangelical Christians and gamers have responded defensively, and issued strong denials that what Hutson is reporting could possibly by true. Well, although he does not have a copy of the game (yet), all of what he reported is from the company's own promotional materials, and reliable (usually friendly) reviews of the product itself. This is a controversy that is not going to go away, and we will continue to report on it.