For some people, a stroll through the corridors of "Doom" or a drive down the streets of "Grand Theft Auto" isn't exactly a journey along the path of righteousness. But to those who equate video games with other godless activities, behold "The Bible Game."
This fall, PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance owners will get a chance to test their Bible knowledge in trivia and adventure games for both systems. The games come courtesy of Crave Entertainment, a small publisher with a wide selection of titles that range from ultimate fighting to bowling.
So why the Bible?
Crave President Rob Dyer didn't have a personal Mel Gibson-style passion for creating religious entertainment. But Dyer, the 43-year-old former chief of Eidos, a publisher whose assets include "Tomb Raider," had noticed a certain similarity in the games he'd been overseeing and thought it was time for something different.
"Everything you see about video games is from the violent side," he said. And while the Bible, with its war, attempted human sacrifice and humanity-destroying floods, could seemingly provide enough source material for a game with plenty of strife, Dyer really wanted to make something wholesome — and do it without preaching.
"I don't want to have a game that makes you feel like you're going to church," he said. "I want you to have fun playing it on a Saturday morning."
The PlayStation 2 version pits up to four players in a virtual game show called "Do Unto Others," where the goal is to correctly answer some of the game's 1,500 Bible questions. Example: Who chased the Israelites into the Red Sea? Multiple-choice answers: Canaanites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Boston Red Sox. Before beginning the game, players decide whether they want to answer questions from the King James Bible or the New International Version.
The question list focuses on the Old Testament, an effort, Dyer acknowledges, to make the game friendly to the widest possible audience. So if you're using the real Bible to cheat, you can essentially stop at the Book of Malachi. And while 1,500 questions would seemingly leave no Tower of Babel unturned, the game will avoid addressing some of the more controversial passages of the Bible, including Leviticus 18:22, the one often cited to justify anti-gay views. "Not doing anything controversial," Dyer said.
In the same vein as Nintendo's kid-friendly and popular "Mario Party" series, players will also engage in some arcade-style challenges: part the Red Sea, slingshot Goliath, climb Jacob's Ladder and so forth.
The Game Boy version, which is also slated for October, will downplay the game-show element and provide more of an adventure approach, with good characters fighting evil.
All of this might amount to just a miraculous flash in the pan. Video games, after all, have had so little religion that the term "God game" doesn't have anything to do with real faith: It refers to games that let you influence people's lives from a bird's-eye view. Games just don't do religion all that often.
Christian game developers such as N'Lightning and Digital Praise have been making Christian video games for computers for several years, but in this PlayStation/Xbox home-console era, those games haven't been in the mainstream.
"The Bible Game" isn't exactly a Creed-style crossover. Dyer admits he isn't making the game for personal, spiritual reasons. He points out that Crave is a small publisher that needs to fill the gaps the big gaming companies aren't — which is why the other game Crave is pushing these days is "World Championship Poker."
Nevertheless, earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the leading Christian computer-game developers are trying to raise funds and maybe even pool resources to finance games for the home consoles. If they succeed, "The Bible Game" could soon have some competition in your local games store.