Evangelical Christians love controversy, because there’s almost no such thing as bad publicity for a church. If they’re hassled for what they call “being politically incorrect” – some of us might call it “being a bigoted cunt” – they get to see themselves as being persecuted, and thus blessed.
So when Left Behind Games started selling their new game Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the controversy surrounding it wasn’t really a problem. The game is set in the world of Tim “Foxy Loxy” LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ series of Left Behind books. If you’re not familiar with Left Behind, they’re a series of fantasy novels theoretically based on the psychedelic visions recorded in the Bible’s Revelation. They’re not particularly good, but they’ve got a bit of a captive audience, much like shitty Christian rock that succeeds because there’s a bunch of kids who won’t listen to “secular” music. Left Behind also got turned into a movie, starring child actor turned nutty creationist Kirk Cameron.
The idea in the story is that, while the main character is musing about how amazing it was that angels totally came out of the sky and defended Israel against their evil non-Christian neighbours, everyone in the world who’s not a True Christian disappears in an instant. There’s chaos throughout the world, the protagonist realises it’s not too late to become a Christian. Meanwhile, the Antichrist arises as… if I remember correctly… a New Age well-loved personality who becomes secretary-general of the United Nations. In other words, the books do an admirable job of packing evangelical racism, sexism, paranoia about the UN and just general insanity into a series of books.
I say “series” because to date, 16 of these novels have been published, including three prequels. There were a few sequels to the movie, and the fourth is in production now. There were graphic novels. There are kids’ editions of the novels. There are books about the Bible based on the Left Behind interpretation. There is the Authorised Left Behind Handbook. LaHaye’s friend Mark Hitchcock adds to the mix 101 Answers to the Most Asked Questions about the End Times, The Second Coming of Babylon: What Bible Prophecy Says About…, The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel, Is the Antichrist Alive Today?, Seven Signs of the End Times, Iran: The Coming Crisis: Radical Islam, Oil and the Nuclear Threat, The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy, What on Earth is Going On?, Could the Rapture Happen Today?, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, What Jesus says about Earth’s Final Days, and others.
Getting the idea yet?
And now there’s the computer game. Criticisms of the game are manifold. Firstly, there’s the violence – the “convert or die” mentality. This isn’t actually so present in the game, apart from the fact that there is a “convert or die” concept involved. You lose points for killing people instead of converting them with musicians and prayer and suchlike, so the developers argue it’s actually pacifist. Fair enough. Though the game company seems to think that violence is the only criticism.
Next, get this. When you convert a follower and get their loyalty high enough, they become a friend. Then they can be trained as a soldier, medic, musician, builder or evangelist. Unless they’re a woman! Hahahaaha. Oh God, it’s too good. If a female follower becomes a friend, she becomes a “friend woman” and can only be trained as a musician or medic! Ahahahahaha! Awesome.
And finally, like many games today, there will be in-game advertising. Billboards in the background will show real-life ads, which will cycle through and change as the advertising company gets new clients. Which really brings me to my main point:
Have you ever seen as cynical an exercise in money-making as Left Behind?
This Armageddon industry is just raking in the cash. The franchise continues to expand. And simple-minded folk keep buying these books and seriously believe this is about to happen. Well, not seriously enough to, say, give me all their money. But pretty seriously.