Controversial Christian Game Under Fire

Violent video games have long been the subject of concern, but now a religious title is stirring controversy. Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a T-rated PC real-time strategy game based on the popular Left Behind book series, has come under fire by online political groups.

The best-selling Christian fiction works, totaling about 63 million sold in 30 languages, target the 14 to 16 year-old demographic.

The premise of the game is that the Rapture has taken place. In other words, God has come to Earth and taken to Heaven all those who believe in Christ, leaving behind the faithless and the non-believers helpless against The Antichrist and his followers. You must recruit and convert an army that will engage in physical and spiritual combat with The Antichrist.

In the novels, the Antichrist is personified by a man who is both the Secretary-General of the UN and People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive." Perhaps Kofi Annan and George Clooney should start worrying.

Included in the list of enemies in the game are: rock musicians, urban "thug" types, dangerous "activists," and the ever-threatening "college educated cult leader," all of whom can be played, but none of whom can actually win the game. There are also reports that the evil characters are the only ones with ethnic names.

The term "physical and spiritual combat" is used to describe the process of laying waste to heathens with sophisticated military weapons, and then praying when you accidentally kill someone you shouldn't have (because that takes away from your "spirit points,") or using your coercive skills to show enemies "the truth."

But because no blood is depicted in gameplay, the company maintains that Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a game with positive values.

Not surprisingly, a game where your objective is to either kill or convert non-Christians is causing a great deal of controversy. The Campaign to Defend the Constitution and The Christian Alliance for Progress are two political groups petitioning Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott to have this game removed from store shelves.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the company has no plans to pull the game from any of the 200 of Wal-Mart's 3,800 stores that carry the game. Wal-Mart, however, did pull Take-Two subsidiary Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas from its shelves after the M-rated game was found to contain hidden scenes in which the characters are involved in sexual acts.

The GTA controversy spurred some in Congress to call for legislation restricting the sale of violent games to minors, as well as fines for retailers who do not abide by the law. Left Behind: Eternal Forces has raised a new question: just because no-blood is shown, is a game non-violent and acceptable -- even when the goal is to kill non-Christians?

Left Behind Games boasts over 10 thousand retail stores carrying their game, among these are: Target, Sam's Club, EB Games, Gamestop, Best Buy and Circuit City, the most popular places for video game purchases. There is no word of any official petitions for these outlets.

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