Published Feb 15, 2007Maybe its that never-ending war in the Middle East or perhaps the approaching Mayan doomsday (Mel Gibson seems to be promoting both), but the apocalypse has never been hotter. From films like the ridiculously riveting Children of Men and Cormac McCarthys novel The Road to TVs Battlestar Galactica and Jericho, and even the dystopian punk of the Thermals, pop cultures been telling us the futures so bleak we gotta dig graves.
But for all the aboves vicarious thrills, theyre not nearly as vicarious as a good ol interactive Armageddon. One of gamings biggest hits in recent memory is Gears of War, which has sold over two million copies on its way to supplanting Halo (until episode three comes out later this year, anyway) in Xbox-owners hearts. It tells an age-old tale of man vs. bug and, while not set here on Earth, the post-apocalyptic planet Sera may as well be. Aside from the sepia-toned soldiers tree trunk thickness, Marcus Fenix and friends seem as human as you or I and much of the games intensity lies in the fact that their fallen civilization is distressingly familiar.
Sonys lauded first-person shooter Resistance: Fall of Man offers an even more familiar apocalypse by eschewing futuristic, if not sci-fi, trappings. Set in the 1950s, this divergent history lesson has America staying out of WWI, the Nazis never rising at all and Lenin flubbing the October Revolution. While this seems like a preferable past, it is, of course, not. Instead of communism, Czarist Russia has been taken over by an evil, infectious alien race known as the Chimera who eventually invade Europe and, as the game begins, conquer Great Britain.
The retro setting adds a fresh twist on the apocalypse, but not quite as fresh as Left Behind: Eternal Forces, which boasts a literal Armageddon complete with an Antichrist and raging religious war between the paramilitary Tribulation Force "good guys and the evil Global Community Peacekeepers. While not a particularly good game its been widely panned by game critics for its plentiful bugs and tedious resource management the concept itself is pretty awesome. That is, awesome in the same WTF? way as the Left Behind books, which have sold a mind-boggling 63 million copies, and films, which star mind-boggling Growing Pains alum Kirk Cameron.
Based in the post-Rapture world created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins the faithful have ascended to heaven while those "left behind fight it out in preparation for Judgment Day Eternal Forces is a real-time strategy computer game in which you convert heathens, pray for health points and battle non-believers with bar code tattoos, including rock musicians and egads! college-educated "secularists.
The New York-set game not surprisingly panders to the red states one characters bio reads: "Lindas family was country. To some people that meant stupid, toothless and poor and hypocritically assuages its conservative videogame-hatin demo. The website FAQ pointedly distances the game from the likes of Grand Theft Auto by boasting: "Our game includes no intestines, no blood spatter, no severed limbs, no vulgar language, no sexual conduct, no morally reprehensible conduct such as cop-killing, prostitute-bashing, or other criminal behaviour.
Of course, it also says there are no radical extremists killing in the name of God, but thats all in the eye of the beholder. Sure, its preferable to convert since you lose "spirit points for killing, but one push of ye old prayer button and youre ready to unload on some more guitar-wielding freaks.
Not surprisingly, the game has come under attack from numerous quarters. Liberal Christian and secular groups gripe it promotes "faith-based killing while the Council on American-Islamic Relations slammed its religious intolerance, specifically the bad guys "Muslim-sounding names. Its a through-the-looking-glass skirmish in the culture wars videogames remain the scapegoat, but now its right wing conservatives who are complaining that their critics are exaggerating the violence. Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon even had the hypocritical audacity to tell GameSpot.com, "The reality is that everyone who is throwing stones, they literally have never played the game because literally 100 percent of their claims are bogus.
Its tempting to dismiss this all with a well deserved "let he who casts the first stone but Left Behinds censorious critics are as inherently wrong-headed as those who tried to ban Bully. For Christs sake, its only a game.