L.B.: A Less Graphic Experience

Left Behind, The Video Game

My thanks to everyone who tipped me off to the upcoming release of Left Behind: The Video Game, which seems like such a horrible idea that I'm tempted to say it's a sign of the End Times.

Potentially much worse: the Left Behind Games site features a photo of their CEO posing with Mel Gibson and praising his film, The Passion of the Christ. Why is Mel talking with video game designers about that movie? (Dude, once you get to level 10 with Simon of Cyrene you can just mow down those centurions with the BFG 9000! ) Please, no.

The standard reporting on the Left Behind game's upcoming release had me pounding my head against the wall. Take the following from MSNBC:

Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have written more than a dozen novels for the series, which is based on prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation.

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

This is the boilerplate phrase reporters always use to summarize these books. But it's not true. The Left Behind series is not "based on prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation." It's based on this:

Dispensation_chart_1

That's not "prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation." It's a weird, 19th-century American fever-dream and one of the strangest, most counter-intuitive and convoluted hermeneutic schemes ever imposed on scripture.

This unrecognizable, heterodox puree includes chunks of John's apocalypse, mixed together willy-nilly with the stranger bits of Daniel, Ezekiel and the minor prophets and slices of St. Paul's meditations on death and Christ's warnings of judgment. It also includes lots of other things, like numerology, an aversion to historical context and whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.

Reporters would be better off summarizing the LB series by saying the books are "based on the authors' interpretation of prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation." That would at least avoid the inference that LaHaye and Jenkins' twisted hermeneutic is the dominant, and only valid, Christian interpretation of Revelation and the rest of the Bible.

But even that statement would accept too much of LaHaye & Jenkins' argument — the presumption that Revelation, and indeed most of the Bible, is primarily about "prophecy"; and the presumption that the prophets were primarily concerned with foretelling the future. Daniel was not Nostradamus. Isaiah was not Madame Marie. If that is what the prophets were about then the word "jeremiad" would mean something other than what it does.

The MSNBC report continues:

The first video game title is set in New York and pits a small resistance force against the Antichrist, who has seized power at the United Nations with the goal of world domination.

See? It's set in New York. Just like the Book of Revelation, which opens with a vision of the five golden lampstands and letters to the five boroughs ("To the angel of the church in Queens, write …").

The "Left Behind" book series has expanded to other entertainment realms, spawning a movie, music and graphical novels, as well as a downloadable computer trivia game and a board game.

U.S. video game sales were $7.3 billion in 2004. Sellers of Christian-themed titles are jumping into the market, hoping to tap the same audience that has made Christian Pop music a force in the entertainment industry.

And the prophets, preoccupied with their foretelling of the future, apparently had nothing to say about American Christians spending millions of dollars on trivia and entertainment.

Here is how the folks at Left Behind Games describe their vision:

BG intends to develop games so as to include the same types of elements that have made interactive games popular for years and yet offer a less graphic experience to the sexual themes and gratuitous violence currently found in many games. We plan to make all games visually and kinetically appealing. We anticipate that the games will be classified as both action and adventure and will receive either an "E" rating (appropriate for ages 6 and up) or a "T" rating (appropriate for ages 13 and up).

They write almost as well as Tim & Jerry.

(The chart above is from someone named Timothy S. Morton, at this site. It's actually one of the less convoluted dispensational charts. The really elaborate, fun ones are from Harry B. Ironsides who produced charts in the early 20th century that included illustrations based on the visions of Daniel.)

  • B-W

    “But even that statement would accept too much of LaHaye & Jenkins’ argument — the presumption that Revelation, and indeed most of the Bible, is primarily about “prophecy”; and the presumption that the prophets were primarily concerned with foretelling the future.”
    This reminds me of something I stumbled across when doing research for a “Fish Wars” parody the other day:
    http://www.familychristian.com/shop/product.asp?prodID=231
    Apparently LaHaye makes the claim that a full 27% of the Bible is prophecy! That’s over a quarter of the text! How can he come up with such a number? I’d have to assume that he has a rather generous definition of what consitutes prophecy. IF LaHaye acknowleged that prophecy was more than “futuretelling”, he might be able to build a case. My guess is he threw in the “prophetic books” wholesale (ignoring the fact that large chunks of these are narrative clearly intended to tell the story of the original context, and not to tell forth the words of God) and threw in whatever else he deemed appropriate.

  • Andrew C.

    So, where do I find one of those Ironsides charts? I love that sort of thing.
    Btw, this passage:”This unrecognizable, heterodox puree includes chunks of John’s apocalypse, mixed together willy-nilly with the stranger bits of Daniel, Ezekiel and the minor prophets and slices of St. Paul’s meditations on death and Christ’s warnings of judgment. It also includes lots of other things, like numerology, an aversion to historical context and whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.”
    …is one of the best explanations of premillenial dispensationalism ever.

  • Andrew Cory

    Perhaps:
    “The best selling Left Behind books are based upon the authors’ controversial view of biblical parables as prophecy.” Followed by a quote from someone very much like you who would be willing to state another opinion on what the bible (and left behind!) is all about…
    But come now! It’s been 2 Fridays now of not moving the plot forward. I expect such things from the book itself…

  • Scott

    whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.
    “A Mighty Gygax is our God….”

  • Scott

    whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.
    “A Mighty Gygax is our God….”

  • grenadine

    Step off the AD&D. It pains me to see it used to help describe the Worst Books Ever Written.

  • pepperjackcandy

    whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.
    Um, is this tongue-in-cheek, or literal?
    Because if it is literal . . . :facepalm: . . . that certainly goes a long way towards explaining my insane cousin’s insistence that she read stuff about Satanism in the Monster Manual.

  • Thomas

    I personally like the implications of a Left Behind video game. I mean, should the player be able to lose in a game based on such inflexible prophecy?

  • cjmr

    I imagine you could lose if you make “the wrong choices”. Oh wait! Are those the guys who believe that everything is predetermined and man has no free will?

  • Penh

    BG intends to develop games so as to include the same types of elements that have made interactive games popular for years and yet offer a less graphic experience to the sexual themes and gratuitous violence currently found in many games.
    Umm… aren’t the sexual themes and gratuitous violence the elements that have made interactive games popular for years? Or are they planning a series of Rapture-themed Tetris clones? Hmmm… little souls fall from the top of the playfield, and you match them up so they can ascend to Heaven! Excuse me, I have to go make some phone calls…

  • Garnet

    We anticipate that the games will be classified as both action and adventure and will receive either an “E” rating (appropriate for ages 6 and up) or a “T” rating (appropriate for ages 13 and up).
    Wow, an action-adventure game, based on the end of the world and the battle against the Antichrist, that’s rated as safe for six year olds to play! You just know that’s going to be all kinds of fun, and not bore videogame players to a slow and particularly vicious death!

  • Eric Lee

    Odd that that guy is standing next to Mel Gibson, a Roman Catholic. Roman Catholics don’t buy into this Left Behind nonsense. In fact, some of the better rapture debunking stuff found on Amazon is written by Roman Catholics.

  • mottyl

    I’ve been looking at this chart for ages now, and I still can’t figure out where my seats are.

  • http://ilx.wh3rd.net/thread.php?showall=true&msgid=5959592#5990604 I Love Everything

    Aw HELL YEAH! A “Left Behind” PC game is in the works!

    Fred at Slacktivist(the guy doing the Annotated Left Behind) finally got wind of this, and lays out more helpful background(again):
    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2005/07/lb_a_less_graph.html
    …The standard reporting on the Left Behind g…

  • D. Sidhe

    Yeah, okay, but when do the Choose Your Own Adventure versions of “Left Behind” come out?

  • Doctor Science

    I think you’re confusing source and derivation. AD&D uses stuff from Revelation (and maybe Daniel), not the other way around.
    For instance, I don’t care how often I see it canonically described, Metatron still sounds like a giant Japanese robot monster to *me*, the kind who can go three rounds with Godzilla.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    For instance, I don’t care how often I see it canonically described, Metatron still sounds like a giant Japanese robot monster to *me*, the kind who can go three rounds with Godzilla.”Metatron” sounds to me like a Transformer. One of the bad ones.
    Yeah, okay, but when do the Choose Your Own Adventure versions of “Left Behind” come out?We could all go write one together.

  • pepperjackcandy

    We could all go write one together.
    That is *cool*!

  • Indiana Joe

    It also includes … whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.
    I gotta ask… how many hit points does the Antichrist have? I’ve got this 25th level paladin who’s just itching for a fight. :-)

  • jean

    “…whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.”
    Y’know, I used to game with Garry Spiegle and Allen Hammack, and I sure don’t remember either of them ever throwing us into rivers of blood, or anything like wormwood falling from the sky or whatever. No armies of the dead, or undead; at least, not that couldn’t be explained by “standard” supernatural means. Ditto for monsters and other critters. Even the demons were just l’il ol’ minor demons. Nope, can’t blame any of that PMD craziness on TSR or WoTC!

  • Fernmonkey

    Because if it is literal . . . :facepalm: . . . that certainly goes a long way towards explaining my insane cousin’s insistence that she read stuff about Satanism in the Monster Manual.
    I don’t want to be Elfstar any more! I want to be Debbie!

  • Fernmonkey

    Because if it is literal . . . :facepalm: . . . that certainly goes a long way towards explaining my insane cousin’s insistence that she read stuff about Satanism in the Monster Manual.
    I don’t want to be Elfstar any more! I want to be Debbie!

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Thanks, pepperjackcandy! I see you’ve been spreading the word on your LJ. And So My Evil Scheme Progresses As Planned… mwahahahaha!
    I’ve taken the liberty of writing Chapter One. I took a few liberties with, it actually. (Take two; they’re small.)

  • http://pearlbear.typepad.com/pearlbears_blog/2005/07/left_behind_the.html Pearlbear’s Blog

    Left Behind, the video game

    You’ve likely heard of it – the completely whacked Left Behind series, best selling books supposedly based on scripture. Ha! Anyway, it turns out there is going to be a video game! My my. I love video games, but I’ll take a pass on this one. Anyway, I’…

  • http://pearlbear.typepad.com/pearlbears_blog/2005/07/left_behind_the.html Pearlbear’s Blog

    Left Behind, the video game

    You’ve likely heard of it – the completely whacked Left Behind series, best selling books supposedly based on scripture. Ha! Anyway, it turns out there is going to be a video game! My my. I love video games, but I’ll take a pass on this one. Anyway, I’…

  • MrLefty

    I can imagine Ned buying it for Rod and Tod and then fainting at the violence.
    Because gruesome violence against unbelievers doesn’t really count. It’ll be there.

  • Zossima

    Bart and the Flanders kids play a video game called “Billy Graham’s Bible Blasters”:
    Rod: “Convert the heathen!” Bart: “Got ‘em!”
    Tod: “No, you just winged him and made him a Unitarian.”

  • Keith T.

    Reminds me of the “Future History” chart of human technological developments from Robert Heinlein’s early books.
    Which only reinforces that, like fellow seer Heinlein’s works, dispensationalism is just science fiction. (Or would that be faith fiction?)
    Except to date, IMO, RAH’s works have come closer to the real/believable world.

  • Manx

    I love the idea that a video game about the end times isn’t going to include gratuitous violence.

  • Sophist

    Daniel was not Nostradamus. Isaiah was not Madame Marie.
    But it turns John was Mother Shipton.
    Odd, that.
    Which only reinforces that, like fellow seer Heinlein’s works, dispensationalism is just science fiction. (Or would that be faith fiction?)
    More like fan fiction. The kind that would end up off the bottom of this chart.

  • http://blog.case.edu/maw33/2005/07/19/smash_the_demon_hordes Mark Wilson’s Blog

    Smash the Demon Hordes

    In a previous entry, I talked about fundamentalist-Christian-themed video games. When Mano Singham suggested the development of a game based…

  • ken loch

    I’ve started my own left behind series called “The Philosophy of Aesthetics’ Left Behind”.
    You can use it to cross reference all philosophy’s and religions’ left behind.

  • Ethan Clark

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  • none

    You know, when I hear of this selling out of Christianity, the confrontation between Jesus and the temple money changers always comes to mind.

  • Bryant

    ” . . . whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.”
    Really? I would have thought the Fiend Folio.

  • Duane

    Fred, do you have literature? Because I know a guy who does beautiful trifold glossy brochures.

  • http://twitter.com/merusdraconis Matt Cramp

    Oh man, the comments didn’t come in for this one.

    Anyway, it won’t shock anyone to find out that, much like Christian rock and Christian-anything that positions itself primarily on how Christian it is and not whether or not it’s any good, the Left Behind game was garbage. Sexist garbage, at that! You evangelized at people, and male heretics became soldiers, but female heretics could only become nurses and musicians. Most games usually feature only incidental sexism, but even gamers have worked out that blatant sexism is a problem.

    “BG intends to develop games so as to include the same types of elements that have made interactive games popular for years and yet offer a less graphic experience to the sexual themes and gratuitous violence currently found in many games.”

    What’s funny about this is that it came out just as the games industry was starting to recognise that game mechanics communicated things about the setting of the game and how the creators say the world works. Left Behind: Eternal Forces posits a world where, if you don’t have people constantly praying and praising Jesus, they become heretics, and where one blast of music from a rock band is enough to make people give up being Christians.

    About the only thing it had going for it was that there was definitely room in the world for games that made statements about the best way to live, but the high watermark for that has, and sadly probably will be, Ultima IV.

  • Anonymous

    “What’s funny about this is that it came out just as the games
    industry was starting to recognise that game mechanics communicated
    things about the setting of the game and how the creators say the world
    works. Left Behind: Eternal Forces posits a world where, if you don’t
    have people constantly praying and praising Jesus, they become heretics,
    and where one blast of music from a rock band is enough to make people
    give up being Christians.”

    Considering the level of sophistication and tolerance the entire franchise has displayed so far, I would not be at all surprised to learn that they believe this would actually be the case. New plan: find out where they live and drive past their house blasting rock music.


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