Innovation & Design

The New God Game


In the Christian video games developed by Left Behind Games, players aren't omnipotent—they're just one of the faithful

The Passion of the Christ woke up America and the world that Christians in the USA, an estimated 90 million, actually want high quality entertainment that appeals to their core beliefs. The music industry discovered this more than a decade ago. Inspirational music represents more than 10% of all music sales. So, finally, a quality video game arrives on the scene—Left Behind: Eternal Forces, based upon an interpretation of Revelation, in which God comes and takes all believers to heaven. Will the game be successful? Time will tell.

Interestingly, each of the main game publishing companies, EA, THQ, Activision, and Vivendi, all have high level executives who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are waiting with great anticipation to see if Christian video games will be successful. Unlike 20 years ago, most of them now have children and a strong faith calling them to moral accountability, which was not a part of their lives back when the industry was less mature.

These days, identifying yourself as a Christian within game circles, usually conjures up either some overly religious zealot or a hypocrite, or some other vulgar word in the mind of an unbeliever. For this reason, many believers within the game industry don't make it a point to identify themselves as "born again." This soon will change as quality Christian games make a new genre for themselves in the industry.

For me, I hold the view that thinking about matters of eternal importance should be exciting; like living out an Indiana Jones film in a search for answers. This non-religious view is shared by others...a new generation of Christians who find that Christianity is very much an intellectual faith. Presenting an intriguing side of religion perks people's curiosity. Christian game developers who know how to speak about God without offending anyone, and best understand how to create games that appeal to the mass market, including Christians, are on the crest of a new wave.

Think about it. Is it all that bad to include a "pray" or "worship" button in a game? By itself, that's not preachy or negative. In fact, if you present scripture in the same manner that magic items have been presented to gamers for years, gamers will enjoy it while those close to the faith will love it.

In an industry that is becoming more and more synonymous with violence and bloodshed, especially as next-generation game systems are making gore all-too-real, consumers will embrace an alternative...so long as the game is still high-quality and fun.

Financially speaking, Michael Pachter, respected video game analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, believes the inspirational marketplace could represent as much as 10 percent of the video game industry of the future. Even though he himself is not a Christian, he welcomes inspirational content like Veggie Tales and Left Behind into his household, and he's not alone.

The current Christian products business is estimated at $7.5 billion and is anticipated to increase to $9.5 billion by 2010. Consumer interest of religion in America is very high. This fact isn't lost on the big media, either. The covers of both Newsweek and Time recently had crosses on them. The rise of Fox News is credited with meeting the needs of conservatives, many of whom consider themselves believers.

Thus far, the barrier companies have had in making Christian games has been the financial risk and professional talent. The game industry has evolved to the point where it takes millions of dollars to create competitive PC games, and even more to develop games for the next-gen platforms. Also, having the wrong talent involved in designs for games could result in subtle but clear misses to reach the target audience.

From a missionary's perspective, quality Christian video games is a means to reach the lost; those without hope or faith, who long for someone to care about them. If the developers' compassion is genuine, the rest comes naturally. This applies to every part of life. If you have a passion, your ability to succeed at what you do will drive you to excellence...as long as you never give up.

What publishers need to consider about developing their first 'inspirational' game is to be careful that subtle changes in design or game play don't violate doctrine. They need to make games that include doctrine supported by all Christian faiths. It's important to make games that are Gospel specific. These will be accepted by the world as a whole.

Publishers also need to avoid overt in-your-face Christianity, which will repel support from gamers. Instead, games should focus on modeling positive behavior through prayer, worship and caring for people. If this is done in an engaging manner that is fun, mainstream America and the world will embrace it.

When it comes to matters of the wallet and the heart, those in the video game industry who leave the 'dark side' to make games with a purpose will find themselves, as do I, fulfilled in ways previously unimaginable. Imagine making a difference in the world through the technological medium of video games—one gamer at a time.

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