Video games such as "Modern Warfare," "Grand Theft Auto" and "Madden NFL" are popular among kids, teens and adults today, but how do games with a religious focus fare in the multimillion dollar electronics gaming industry?
Left Behind Games, Inc. (also known as Inspired Media Entertainment), a Christian video game publishing company, released at least seven new games in 2011, including "Scripture Chess," a 3-D chess experience; "Praise Champion 2," a gospel karaoke game; and "Left Behind 4: World at War," the fourth installment in the company's "Left Behind" game series.
During the last week of November, Left Behind Games, Inc. released more games than it has throughout its history, according to a press release from the company.
Historically, religious games have not been well-received by mainstream audiences. But more recently, publishers have been taking advantage of the popularity of movies like the "Left Behind" series, which had a Christian premise, to draw more interest in their games.
In 2006, the game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" received less than stellar reviews from critics, though some of the criticism was based more on the game's bugs and functionality than on its religious affiliation.
"Don't mock Left Behind: Eternal Forces because it's a Christian game. Mock it because it's a very bad game," GameSpot's Brett Todd wrote. Todd says the game, which forces users to accept Jesus as their savior in order to rise against the forces of the Anti-Christ, has an unusual premise, but that "games are typically based on outlandish ideas, so it's unfair to dismiss this one based on religious grounds."
Still, another gaming commentator argues that the game glorifies violence and goes against Christ's teachings.
"It's faith-based killing that teaches God wants people dead if they don't see Christ as you do," the Rev. Tim Simpson, head of Christian Alliance for Progress, told USA Today. "Jesus would turn the other cheek."
The violent aspect of the game also enraged religious groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who said the game promoted discrimination and religious intolerance.
The Muslim group even asked Wal-Mart to pull the game from shelves, according to United Press International.
"In the post 9-11 climate, when improving interfaith relations should be a priority for all, this type of product only serves to dehumanize others and increase interfaith hostility and mistrust," CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote in a 2006 letter to the company.
The company now creates games for computers, mobile devices, and video gaming consoles and typically retail between $19.99 and $29.99. Left Behind Games even has an answer to popular singing games like "Karaoke Revolution." In the game, "Praise Champion," players belt out to Christian tunes Instead of songs from Britney Spears or Michael Jackson.
And the company is ramping up its sales push for the holidays.
A community poll on the Left Behind Games site shows that 46 percent of respondents are most excited to receive "Left Behind 4: World At War" this season, as of Tuesday afternoon. "Bible Quest" comes in second with 20 percent of the votes.
Still, company's sales surely won't rival those of publishing giants like Electronic Arts any time soon. But are religion-affiliated games still relevant in today's media market? Let us know in the comments section below.