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Boston Globe reporter Hiawatha Bray probes the moral core of “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” the video game version of the popular apocalyptic book series by Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. (See fellow blogger Paul O’Donnell’s post about the game’s pre-2005-Christmas debut for more information.)

Bray’s interest was apparently sparked by Rob Corddry’s satirical “report” inspired by the game, “This Week in God: God Kills Pt. 1,” which aired a few months ago on “The Daily Show” (do watch it–it’s very, very funny). Though “Eternal Forces” is a Christian video game (set in New York city–that city of hedonistic evil–18 months post-rapture), players contend with a surprising amount of violence in their attempts to stay alive amid the reigning chaos, according to Bray. Most shocking of all, players can take lives as they protect their own. You can fight evil forces with prayer, which “really enters in this whole new dimension called ‘spiritual warfare,’ said Troy Lyndon , CEO of Left Behind Games. “You can actually play the entire game without firing a shot.'” But Bray reports that you can also:

[C]reate a band of soldiers who’ll protect Tribulation Force territory from Carpathian incursions. But they’re supposed to use minimal force. Every time they kill, even if it’s justified, it weakens their moral fiber. Force them to kill too often, and they’ll fall away from the faith and move to the Dark Side.

The game’s ambivalent attitude to violence comes naturally to Lyndon, whose son has served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. “The more I’ve talked to my son, the more passionate it’s made me about understanding the realities of war,” said Lyndon. “When our kids are coming back from overseas, their hearts are affected. Their hearts are harder…. It’s a horrible thing.”

Lyndon agrees that something had to be done to put the Taliban and Saddam Hussein out of business, but he doesn’t like the way the conflict has morphed into an endless cycle of atrocities. “I don’t know what the answer is,” he said. And Lyndon has injected that same moral ambiguity into the game.”

Moral ambiguity is apparently what sets “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” apart from other, non-Christian video games for Bray: “It’s easy to jeer at a group of Christians seeking to make their mark in an industry that so often celebrates amoral savagery. Yet you can’t help respecting the effort that went into Left Behind: Eternal Forces. Like Ned Flanders, the absurdly pious neighbor on “The Simpsons,” the game is odd and sometimes annoying, but with a good heart.”

Though watch Rob Corddry’s report and, in addition to a laugh, you might instead find yourself rather disturbed, despite all the satire.

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