Saturday, June 03, 2006

Faith as an Excuse

"One of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the 21st century is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest personal concerns--about ethics, spiritual experience and the inevitability of human suffering--in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. Nothing stands in the way of this project more than the respect we accord religious faith. Incompatible religious doctrines have balkanized our world into separate moral communities--Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.--and these divisions have become a continuous source of human conflict. Indeed, religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it was at any time in the past."

-Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

I was actually going to write
to Orcinus to elicit his opinion on the upcoming Left Behind game, but lo and behold, he has already taken it on.

The Left Behind game is interesting because it is such overt propaganda. This bothers me, even though I'll probably play the game anyway.

The reason I see a substantial difference between a game like this and, say, GTA is that to my knowledge Rockstar has not yet come out in favor of carjackings and homicide.

The Left Behind series, on the other hand, is part of a greater movement to actually change the political and social situation in America (and the world, no doubt) by appealing to a violent, evangelical millenarianism. It is a backwards movement that is anti-woman, repressive, fundamentalist and fascist.

That said, I doubt this game will draw in lots of new followers, if any. I even doubt that it will affect the children already being indoctrinated by this eschatonic bullshit. Why? Because there are other forces at work that go hand in hand with the novels, movies and videogames - social forces that are so much stronger than the media. This kind of propaganda can be a way to bolster a mindset, but without other factors - indoctrination by parents, churches, social groups - it ends up being just a game (not to denigrate that term).

And like so many forms of propaganda, it is not so much a seed to grow a mental state as it is a reflection of someone's mental reality. People believe in an oncoming conflict, even if they have to bring it about themselves, and what they produce will reflect that internal state.

I have yet to encounter any hate-mongering public figures who developed their hatred and racism from videogaming. Sure, we'll start to see more and more bigotry in games, because games are now a part of our greater cultural landscape. But those same bigots will still print up pamphlets, write blogs, hold recruitment rallies and use every tool available. This is how propagandists work. The only way to stop them is to ban the use of every single medium. Y'know, revoke that freedom of expression that Dick Cheney finds so irksome.

As for the Left Behind game somehow training Christian warriors . . . I'll go up against the guy who clicked a mouse all day versus the guy who went to some compound up in Michigan and shot an AR-15 all day.


Simon said...

I just don't understand why God didn't tell us not to destroy the planet and all the species he lovingly created. Couldn't he see into the future? Surely, not destroying his creation is more important than telling people not to covet your neighbour's ass.

Thomas said...

In my defense, my neighbor does have a pretty dynamite ass.

Greg Tannahill said...

As much as I'm not going to buy Left Behind myself... I don't think you can say that some kinds of potentially offensive videogame content are alright, and others are not. Content is content. As long as consumers are able to make an informed choice as to what content they're going to expose themselves to prior to purchase, then it's nothing more than a conversation between the developers and the players. Are some conversations about militant relgious dogmatism? Sure, but they're welcome to have those conversations. Words are not guns, and neither are games. If we don't like the message in the conversation, it's our prerogative to attempt to engage the participants with a counter-argument... but not to tell them to shut up and stop talking.

Anonymous said...


I don't think I was telling them to "shut up and stop talking." I never said anything of the sort. I thought my post was, in fact, a counterargument.

Content is not just content, because there is also context.

There are differences between exploration of a theme and propaganda. I was describing how the Left Behind games are propaganda and how that is clearly different from, say, Metroid or Contra or Final Fantasy or Burnout. To be fair, I did say I'd probably play it. And I never denied the right to make such a game.

I certainly never said that some kinds of potentially offensive videogame content are alright and others are not. But in a conversation about militant religious dogmatism, my side of the conversation is going to be how the whole thing is bullshit and dangerous for our society where that type of thinking intersects with political and social movements. See?

For the record, I was playing devil's advocate when I called for banning the use of every single medium.

My apologies if I was obtuse in some way.