No One Left Behind

leftbehind

Jonathan Hutson, Talk To Action
The Purpose Driven Life Takers

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission – both a religious mission and a military mission — to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state – especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is “to conduct physical and spiritual warfare”; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

[…]

This game immerses children in present-day New York City — 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, “Praise the Lord,” as they blow infidels away.

The designers intend this game to become the first dominionist warrior game to break through in the popular culture due to its violent scenarios and realistic graphics, lighting, and sound effects. Its creators expect it to earn a rating of T for Teen. How violent is that? That’s the rating shared by Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – Chaos Theory, a top selling game in which high-tech gadgets and high-powered weapons – frag grenades, shotguns, assault rifles, and submachine guns — are used to terminate enemies with extreme prejudice.

Could such a violent, dominionist Christian video game really break through to the popular culture? Well, it is based on a series of books that have already set sales records—the blockbuster Left Behind series of 14 novels by writer Jerry B. Jenkins and his visionary collaborator, retired Southern Baptist minister Tim LaHaye. “We hope teenagers like the game,” Mr. LaHaye told the Los Angeles Times. “Our real goal is to have no one left behind.” […]

Freedom of speech and anti-censorship laws exist in this nation to protect our ability to hold civil discourse—even when it’s in the form of twisted, violent, crusading game narratives aimed at our children and marketed through the tenticles of the mega-church.

The redeeming factor behind the development of this specific game, is that the motive of the religous right is on display for the world to see. Too often their hatred becomes cloaked in motive numbing rhetoric—placating tales of Jesus’ love for all humanity as long as humanity devotes itself to Jesus. Over the past 20 years, such rhetoric has masked their intent, allowing them to gain a strong, political foothold in America—specifically with moderate Christians.

So when the religous right’s arrogance is responsible for removing their own metaphorical hoods, we need to gaze into their hateful, soulless eyes and take detailed notes.

The “Up In Arms” Crowd

It’s interesting to note that historically, church groups have been the most active in denouncing hip-hop music and video games for their violent content, arguing that they influence kids to become violent, misogynistic, or even worse, question authority.

Left Behind: Eternal Forces is scheduled to release in October 2006, just four months away. Where are these vocal groups now? Is “bling” and “bitch” rhetoric more deserving of protest than marketing to children a programmed, interactive virtual reality for cleansing non-Christian people from the face of the earth?

Hillary Clinton railed hard against the Hot Coffee mod, a locked, sex scene found in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (a scene that only a slight percentage of geeks even knew existed) in a move that smelled of pandering to the family values crowd. Where is her outrage?

SXSW2006 Day Three: Serious Games for Learning

jim-brazell

Jim Brazell moderates this panel and kicks off the discussion.

The X-Box 360 costs $300. In 1995 the same computing power would have cost $100M.

Ubiquitous computing is the fourth generation of computing; a system on a chip. Cooper’s law says that the capability of wireless computers is doubling every year. The convergence of science and technology is driving this technology.

(Wait… he just said that they can control the movement of a mouse, just like a remote aircraft. The tipping point of creepiness?)

Serious games are serious. The US Armed Forces, the UN, foreign countries, they’re all creating games for training, social changes and then remixing them with the industry to create n number of emmersive, narrative experiences.

Irwin Kaplan

The Army is redesigning their training corriculumn from level 1 (books) to level 3 (interactive), SCORM Conformant (has to run across a network). They upped their interactive traing from 0 of 150 hours to 82 of 150 hours. They’re trying to equipt soldiers to react in the midst of battle with necessary information available from everywhere.

They have simulation centers as large as the ACC to train soldiers on games. Warehouse sizes.

MLT is Medical Leadership Training. They build realtime scenarios based on field exercises and import them into an interactive narrative, running on the Unreal engine.

He considers himself an educator… and recruiter.

Dr. James Bower

Whyville teaches kids how to eat right based on an avitar/persona thats responds to good or bad choices. There are 1.5 million kids on the site and they stick around (one kid has visited 2000 times over six-years, that’s one visit per day). They play with the social/non-social curve of the game’s narrative to watch boys and girl’s interests shift.

The kids have been writing articles for six years now. They’re running their own government online. They’re replicating democracy.

Now marketing is interested, and smart firms like Toyota, are dipping into Whyville to understand the concept of interactive engagement. They offered Nestle to get involved, but they only wanted to get Purina involved; healthy choices meant more to Nestle in relationship to dogs than kids.

New marketing will enable people to design their worlds and affect mass production.

Michael Whalem

Ignite Learning has developed Reality, Inc., which creates emmersive storytelling games for middle-school students, based 100% on state curriculum. The virtual head of the reality space (Mortimer Gravitas) presents the goals for moving through the interactive curriculum. (very similar to a project I worked on in 1996, “Simon Fefher’s Junkland Jam”)

It’s a linear progression through different activities, such as a game full of levers, which must be moved, created, put in motion to feed some monkeys bananas. If you mess up, it’s ok, try again (the army guys smiled when he said that).

Quote of the day: Bower:

The more games tap into the chemical changes of the brain… the more we will learn.

Disclaimer: This is live blogging; all quotes are paraphrases.