Now HERE'S something I can do with a CS degree

I just came across a fascinating article at Cnet's news.com about the burgeoning Christian computer-game phenomenon which is sweeping the nation. The developers apparently feel that what Christianity needs these days is another attempt to fit in with mainstream pop culture -- after all, if we can lure kids away from Green Day with Christian rock, we'll have them leaving their Grand Theft Auto CDs to gather dust in the drawer in no time.

As I started this article, I was reflecting to myself that I really don't think I could devise a computer game that could pass as truly Biblical. I mean, the Bible is, barring some of the gorier bits toward the end that really don't play as family material, about stuff that already happened. Not exactly dynamic and engaging.

However, that's just because I don't have the kind of grand and glorious vision that inspires these people. I visited the website for one of the companies mentioned in the article, and I was so overwhelmed by their vision that I had trouble breathing for a while.

It's hard to pick a favorite out of these games. I've narrowed it down to two. One is the side-achingly-named Fluffy and God's Amazing Christmas Adventure. Frankly, it's hard not to be stunned by a vision of this caliber: And God is bursting with interactive stories, details, background info and questions... If you get bored with God and his boring old bursting interactive stories ("you know how God is"), there's the "really thought-provoking" DJ Fluffy Jam.

The other contender for my favorite game comes straight from the realm of Kick Me, Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life. It's the BIBLE GRAND SLAM DELUXE -- best imagined with Strongbad's announcer voice -- Biblical football!! You can play against a friend OR one of the game's six "biblical computer opponents." (Those of you who were unaware that the Bible said anything about computers, much less game AI, apparently didn't catch the A&E special last year which suggested that the Bible contains messages that were coded in by aliens with the aid of computers. And clearly any such aliens would have been sure to leave six encoded computerized football players. Ha ha! Boy, do I bet YOU feel silly!) You have to be careful, though -- you don't want to foul up the game, 'cause the penalties... Well, nothing's more irritating than sitting back with a brewski to watch my favorite team head out to cream their big rival, only to have the QB miss a Biblical-trivia question and get sacked inside the first five minutes.

Up next: a computer game based on Song of Solomon.

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Tracked: July 19, 2005 04:23 PM

Comments

Mark,

You may be on to something. How about a game based on the rapture stuff? I am not kidding. It has all the elements - blood, gore, wars, fantastic imagery, and endless permutations of possible scenarios.

Posted by Mano Singham on May 18, 2005 09:38 AM

Prof. Singham --

Well, the news article mentions games that allow you to "slash demonic foes" -- I assume that's a different game than Fluffy and God -- but you do have a point there.

Unfortunately, even if one based a game about the end of the world on the rather questionable interpretations of the evangelical community, I think one still wouldn't be able to appeal to them -- they tend to object to excessive violence in their entertainment -- and one wouldn't be able to appeal to a more mainstream audience, where gamers are generally not the same people who are buying copies of Left Behind.

If such a game were to be commercially viable, I think it would have to be wrapped in some kind of specially-designed mythological setting, and it would have to lose the warped moral overtones that always get assigned to the story by certain elements of the Christian community. One would lose the evangelicals entirely, but maybe one could appeal to the masses.

Another potential problem I can see is that there's no upside to the story. Mario doesn't get to rescue the princess; the world ends. So long and thanks for all the fish. However, you'd think a good developer could make some kind of black humor out of it.

Actually, now that I think about it, I'd be kind of surprised if no mainstream developers had attempted a similar project of some sort.

Posted by Mark on May 18, 2005 11:59 AM

Well, Mark, here's your A&E special for your game designs.

As for Mano's suggestion, maybe you should take that up with your video game class. See how Christian'd like overseeing a video game about the rapture.

Posted by Nicole Sharp on May 18, 2005 01:04 PM

Only twenty-five dollars for fifty minutes of professional reporting on the most credible research being done in theological circles today! What a steal!

The thought of suggesting such a thing just to watch Christian's face did occur to me, but I think I need somebody a little more shameless, like QS, to make such a pitch. Besides, I'm sure she'd have innumerable (and invaluable) suggestions on content... "And then you BURN the puny mortals! And then you SUH-MASH THEM! AND SUH-MASH!"

Posted by Mark on May 18, 2005 06:22 PM

At the risk of flogging a dead horse, Mark, I think your objections to the project may not be as serious as you think they are.

Rapturites are not opposed to violence in principle and may in fact even relish it (see the popularity of The Passion of the Christ, which I stayed away from because of the reported violence). The rapture literature revels in scenes of violence PROVIDED the evil-doers are at the receiving end.

Also, there is a happy ending, at least for the rapturites, since the "winners" get to go to heaven, express and first-class.

One can also work in some gratuitous nudity since the people raptured up leave their clothes behind.

We may have a winner...!

The really serious problem may be your feeling that gamers tend not to be rapturites. But I would not be at all surprised if some religion-based software company is not right now actively thinking along these lines, because there seems to be a big market for making money from religion. A game spin-off from the Left Behind books would seem natural to those folks.

Posted by Mano Singham on May 19, 2005 12:08 PM

Mano,

I can definitely see your points about violence and nudity being able to get into a video game based on the rapture, but somehow I tend to think that the rapturites would be the same sort who object to most of today's video games for those sorts of reasons. I'm not sure that a lot of those people are hypocritical enough to approve of a game of that sort based on the fact that the things they denounced before are now centered around a religious event. Then again, these people surprise me regularly.

The long and short of it all, in my opinion, is that there's nothing as great as Midnight Rescue. Or the hugely popular original Oregon Trail game (which kids managed to turn into a "violent" game by doing things like buying a bunch of oxen and bullets and seeing how quickly they could kill off their wagon members... *innocent look*) Heck, I wish that there were games that fun and engrossing these days.

Mark, I charge you with making a video game that will amuse me endlessly.

Posted by Nicole Sharp on May 20, 2005 08:11 PM

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