Left Behind: Eternal Forces (LB:EF) takes place after the Rapture has taken all the believers of Christ into Heaven, and left the world populated with non-believers. In the following years, people need to make a choice to either align themselves with God or the Antichrist. In LB:EF, the player battles the forces of the Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist, and his legion, misleadingly dubbed, the Global Community Peacekeepers.
In single-player mode, the player represents the Tribulation Forces, the good guys. In the game, there are four categories of characters: neutrals, Tribulation Forces, Global Community Peacekeepers, and Evil Spirits. While in single-player mode, the player can only play the Tribulation Forces; however, in multi-player mode, the players can choose to play the Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers. The game has 40 levels, which take 20-40 minutes to complete (FAQs ). The player is on a mission to defeat the forces of Nicolae Carpathia. Unlike conventional video games, LB:EF uses prayer and worship to subdue its opponents. Actually, the makers of LB:EF pride themselves on the fact that the “power of PRAYER and WORSHIP [are] more powerful weapons than guns” (Features ). In the first few levels of LB:EF, the player is requested to fulfill missions that result in familiarizing the player with basic concepts of the game, e.g., building Tribulation Forces, navigating the map, converting neutrals, and the like. One of the most important, often unnoticed, aspects of the game is the Spirit bar. As one engages in combat with the forces of evil, each character loses Spirit points. The Spirit points are important because they keep the Tribulation Forces from returning to neutral status, which relinquishes any control the player had over the character. In order to prevent this situation from occurring, the player has to constantly Pray to maintain a Spirit above 60. While this may be tedious, it could serve as a reminder to the player of the importance of constant prayer. Numerous times throughout their website, the gamemakers mention that “unnecessary killing will result in lower Spirit points” (FAQs). Yet, even necessary killing results in lower Spirit points. Their example works against them as much as it works for them. After the completion of each level, the player is presented with a lengthy, Christian message accompanying Christian music. Moreover, the player has the option to purchase the song through iTunes. Another interesting, and unusual aspect of the game involves the personal narratives that accompany each character. No matter what role the character assumes in the game, each individual has an in-depth story outlining his/her life.
According to Left Behind Games, the target audience of the game series is the average gamer (aged 13-50) (FAQs). By offering an “alternative to the standard game offerings,” they hope to target the same audience that has propelled The Passion of the Christ and other Christian-oriented entertainment media into the mainstream (FAQs). The company claims that “[t]o date, not one high-quality video game has been marketed to this same audience” (FAQs). Yet, some of the facts and figures they present to qualify their market share is questionable. For instance, when they provide an answer to the question: “Do you expect the primary customer to be the purchaser of the Left Behind book series?” they respond by saying that 72% of those who read the Left Behind series also play video games (FAQs). While there is a correlation between video games and those who read the Left Behind series, this does not imply that these readers are also the purchasers of LB:EF. LB:EF is rated T for Teen. The company portrays this rating as an equivalent to the film industry’s PG-13 (FAQs). They provide this analogy in response to the question: “Have you made any efforts to tone down the violence in the game?” (FAQs). This is another instance where the company evades the question at hand by providing an ostensibly tangential answer. The website never discusses the reason for their Teen rating, and only portrays their game in a positive light. The paradigmatic example of this would be their response to the question: “Are guns used by Christians against non-Christians? Why or why not?” (FAQs). In response, they regurgitate the storyline for the game, completely avoiding the question! They come close when they contend that everyone left over after the Rapture “cannot remain neutral,” without a single reference to guns (FAQs). Yet, a large portion of the characters in the game are neutral.
About the Company
LB:EF is created by the company Left Behind Games (LB Games). The company’s mission statement is “to become the world's leading publisher of quality interactive entertainment products that perpetuate positive values and appeal to mainstream and faith-based audiences”(Who We Are). According to their website their goal stems in large part from the fact that “there are over 90 million evangelical Christians in the United States” and LB Games wants to create games that express the values of such a large group and essentially tap into the market potential of such a mass of people (Who We Are) LB Games claims that it is a pioneer in the Christian gaming field. The minds behind the company observed the way that Christian music was steadily growing in popularity and believes that games will be the next big thing in Christian media. They often tout their “enhanced brand recognition” and their position as a leader of the Christian game field (Who We Are).
Interestingly, “LB Games” is the brand name that the company uses only when it is marketing to a “mainstream” market (presumably their use of “mainstream” is referring to the secular/public market). When their focus is on the “faith-based” marketplace they use the name “Inspired Media Entertainment.” What is specifically interesting here is that in this respect they seem to be making an attempt to diminish their status as a company with religious roots when they market to the secular/public sphere. Not only do they have a completely different brand name and logo for this marketplace but the actual brand name/logo that they use hides the meaning behind it--i.e., instead of “Left Behind Games,” which would immediately draw the potential customer’s mind to the popular Left Behind book series which is well-known for its religious nature, they use the name “LB Games” which could stand for any number of things. While “LB Games” as a brand name is actively being separated from the religious media that it refers to, the brand name “Inspired Media Entertainment” can be seen as embracing its religious referent, at least insofar as it embraces this religious nature more than “LB Games” does.
Even the images of the logos themselves reflect what seems to be an attempt by the company to change their image to reflect specific marketplaces. The “LB Games” logo is glossy with bright colors, a slanted/informal font and somewhat three-dimensional, whereas the “Inspired Media Entertainment” logo uses dull colors, a very crisp and somewhat standard font, while remaining completely two-dimensional. A quick google search of “religious logos” will bring up websites with an endless selection of the logos from religious organizations, churches, etc. which all reflect these exact same characteristics (those of the “Inspired Media Entertainment” logo).(Church logo samples, Religious Logos by Logo Design Guru, Christian Logo Design, etc.)  This dual brand name and logo is very reflective of the company’s goal of enhancing its brand recognition and growing the new marketplace that they claim to have pioneered. They adjust their image in order to gain more acceptance and endorsement from each respective consumer group and this is a logical move on their part as their mission is to become the leading publisher of Christian games.
All of this brings up the topic of the motivations and specific concerns that they are bringing to their game design and the branding and marketing of their game. The first goal in their mission statement is to become the leading publisher, not necessarily to spread a particular set of values or a specific Christian message. The section of their mission statement that mentions perpetuating positive values is in reference to the nature of the games that they produce, not necessarily to a desire to spread those values per se. Much of the company’s self-image seems to focus on the fact that they want to spread themselves as a brand to get more of their products out there. It is possible that implicit in this is an underlying goal of affecting the lives, religion, or moral values of their consumers, but this is not something that they ever explicitly convey. They seem to put their efforts largely into a financial gain (and the rise in status as the producer of games that sell well). What is of interest to this is that until at least August 5, 2008 their mission statement included the phrase “while remaining committed to increasing shareholder value” at its end (LB Games Website from August 5, 2008). This clear focus on profit gives a new perspective to Left Behind: Eternal Forces. It becomes less clear what the purpose of the game is (from the perspective of its creators). It also brings into question the motivations of the game’s creation: is LB Games/Inspired Media Entertainment simply tapping into a market niche that they thought would be profitable or are they acting out of a concern for spreading a particular message? This may have no significant bearing on the actual work that the game does or the particular message that the game does indeed endorse, but it is nonetheless an important point for exploration in an attempt to understand Left Behind: Eternal Forces in its entirety.
Note: The company, LB Games/Inspired Media Entertainment has a separate website from that of Left Behind:Eternal Forces. The information presented on both websites also differ, which resulted in a stark contrast from the information conveyed in this article. The game’s website was more explicit in its religious affiliation compared with the latent message of the LB Games/Inspired Media Entertainment.