Defense Department Kills Plan to Send Left Behind to Troops in Iraq

August 16, 2007 -
Whether you're a fan of the best-selling Left Behind series or not, a plan to ship the PC game version to American troops fighting in a Muslim country was never a good idea.

That's mainly because a key element of the game play in Left Behind: Eternal Forces features Christian troops converting - or killing - non-believers.

The Department of Defense has now put a stop to the shipments, following an inquiry by ABC News. According to the ABC report, Operation Start Up (OSU) Tour, an evangelical Christian entertainment troupe, planned to include copies of Left Behind in care packages destined for U.S. forces.

Rev. Timothy Simpson of the Christians Alliance for Progress told ABC News:
It's a horrible game. You either kill or covert the other side. This is exactly what the Osama bin Ladens of the world have portrayed us [as].

Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon said:
There is no forcible conversion to Christianity, and killing is never an objective in any of the 40 missions in the game.

Researchers at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation learned of the plan to ship Left Behind to Iraq last week. Their discovery was reported by The Nation.


Yeah, this was a bad idea from the get go.

I thought they wanted to relieve traumatic stress from soldiers in Iraq. Not make it worst...

Tyndale House published my book re video game violence and at the same tim gave the Left Behind rights to the Troy Lyndon group.

I severed my relationship with Tyndale House over this game, warning that a) it would not make money, and b) it was clearly contrary to the Gospel. The game lost $4.3 million, and three people were fired over it. I was right, again.

I applaud the decision not to allow this game to be sent oversees. The people who made it should be sent oversees and not allowed to come back. The game is hurtful and it is absurd. Jack Thompson

Just as a curiosity, I wonder if the Justice Dept. would have done the same if it were the Left Behind books, instead of the game.

I'm sure military folks online could tell us what kind of "entertainment" is available over there.

I'm not too familiar with military life and work. But, from my perspective, when you work for the military, it isn't the same as a 9-5 job where you're at work from 9am-5pm, and "off the clock" the rest of the time. It's a lot more complicated than that for military folk. But I would think those who are out of country are "on the clock" 24-7, much like a business person who goes overseas for a conference or meeting.

So what I'm wondering is, do the soldiers really have computers for personal use with video/computer games on them or are the computers that they may have treated as "business" machines, limited to the entertainment they are allowed.

I ask all this in regards to potential Free Speech issues. If you've read my posts for any length of time, you know I don't dictate what should or should not be appropriate content in games for other individuals to play. If the games were Tetris (major commercial title), GTA (major commercial title), or even Ethnic Cleansing (Independant commercial title), this issue for me would be along the Free Speech Rights of the soldiers to have ANY game, not any specific game.

NW2K Software

The shipment included the offending game in question a gideon bible (or as I call it, joint paper), A Christian extreme sports DVD (extreme Crucifixions uncensored?), and a book called More Than a Carpenter. That's a real pile of trash they put together right there.

Isn't it curious that Osama Bin Laden called US the Christians that convert or kill, seeing his record...


They have personal computers, I worked on a machine that served in Iraq once. Well, I refused to work on a machine and made the soldier send it to the manufacturer (which meant he wouldn't get it back by the time he went back to Iraq) cause he was a massive prick. That's right, I overtly did not support the troops.

@ Jack Thompson

I, uh... agree... with you.

I feel dirty.

"If the games were Tetris../..this issue for me would be along the Free Speech Rights of the soldiers to have ANY game, not any specific game."

If you're saying what i think you're saying, i agree. I think that just because it's religion-oriented doesn't make it bad, i'm sure they get other games too from other organizations (i gave my game boy advance and a couple games to care packages). If they want to play the game, i think they should. if they want to throw it away, go ahead. but at least they'll get to choose...

"The people who made it should be sent oversees and not allowed to come back. The game is hurtful and it is absurd. Jack Thompson"

I agree that the game is absurd. And I don't believe that sending it overseas would be wise as it would only serve to impassion our enemies against us and prove that this is some kind of religious war.

Although I disagree with the game I support the creators write to make it. The people who should be sent overseas, to freedom impaired countries such as China are those people who are trying to do away with our freedoms and make us like said freedom impaired countries. For example people such as you Jack.

In other news, the U.S. Justice Department plans to send copies of the game "You Don't Know Jack" to Alberto Gonzales's office.

Said, an anonymous official: "We LOVE irony!"

As we turn to local stories, the Florida Bar has ruled that ubiquitous anti-videogame attorney Jack Thompson will be receiving the game "Overlord" as a parting gift for his "dedicated service" to Floridians and the unwashed masses of the world.

@Jack Thompson, Attorney

Funnily enough Jack, I agree with you on this one. Yes, the game was a colossal failure, and yes, it does completely contradict religious teachings

A game like this would not help the situation in Iraq.

I hate it, but for a different reason: it sucks. It captures none of the magic of its literary counterpart.

I have to agree with all said above.

@ Mr. John Bruce Thompson
Careful with prideful statements like, "I was right, again." It is not good for the soul.

@ Jack Thompson

I agree with you on this one. Left Behind is a crap game and as a non-christian I find the game disturbing (with it's message of convert or die). It was a bad game, and a bad decition to make it. And sending it overseas to our troops during a crucial diplomatic time is idiotic.

See Jack? Sometimes even enemies can find common ground. After all, it is the first step to peace. Why cant we all just do the christian thing and try to get along?

(BTW, I still belive that even though Left Behind is an offencive game, it is the right of the creators to make it. First Amendment and all.)

Hmm. In Left Behind, did you have to kill people who didn't convert? If not, then such a thing would be comparable to killing hookers in GTA. You don't have to, but you can.

Careful with the statements there, kids. ^^;

This story didn't interest me so much as the Military Religous Freedom Foundation. I never knew the military was becoming so evangelized.

These individuals should be allowed to make the game however they wish be it accurate or not. They should be allowed to donate games to military over seas.

That being said I do not like the game. Its pretty terrible. I don't like the message of the game.

Every time Jack speaks its clear he doesn't like freedom.

"The people who made it should be sent overseas and not allowed to come back"

Are you kidding me? This statement alone shows how much you hate freedom. Just because someone does something you don't agree with you wish to eject them from the country. This country is supposed to be free. We are supposed to be able to do what we wish without fear of being exiled. This statement is infinitely more absurd than any other you've ever made.

Read the constitution. Try to understand the meaning of the words 'Freedom' and 'Liberty'. Then try to apply those ideas to your theories.

Why would one wish to take freedom away from his fellow Americans? This is exactly why I don't care much about the bogus "terrorist hate us for our freedoms" BS. Because we already have American citizens hating America for what little freedoms we have left.

I'm sure the game might have been a little more palatable if it was based more closely on the story-line of the novels, which seem to have redemption as a primary theme. Other themes are how scripture might apply to the modern day, or a modern treatment of biblical themes. All of which are non-offensive, and interesting actually. However, I do not believe the books are about an army whose cause is to kill or convert those who do not believe the same thing.

It is like (to use a completely over the top example) Fred Phelps. To a lot of people, their faith is something that gives them strength, guidance and a moral compass, all of which are admirable. Phelps however uses his "faith" to promote an agenda of hatred and bigotry, both of which are against the primary teachings of Christianity (Love thy neighbour, treat others as you would yourself). The developers took this idea of exploring older religious themes in a modern context, but used the licence to produce a preachy game that contains overtones of religious intolerance.

The US forces in Iraq have to cope with enough intolerance and violence caused by religious groups without having to see these same themes in a video game.

Forget about the content for a moment, the game has been described as unplayable, buggy, and ugly as hell. We torture our troops alot, Bush is a Christian and believes in suffering to get closer to god, but I think that this game would be abu-grab-ass style torture. Totally inhumane.

Do you guys think our troops are too dumb to realize the game is terrible? I have a good buddy in Iraq that would find this game HILARIOUSLY bad and might get a good chuckle out of it.

RE: Zigs

Um, i'm pretty sure most Christians don't believe in suffering in order to get closer to god (even the president), but I agree with you on sending quality games to the troops.

I mean is it really so hard to send the brave men and women over seas Bioshock or Madden 08?


In other words it would shatter the cruel and unusual punishment laws, then again, those have been broken a lot already.

Question. I know it's based off the book but you know how sometimes cross media is not always the same (ex:Movie/Games don't mix well.)

Does the BOOK give off a similer message of Convert of die?

Well here in the south many religious followers give off the message of convert or go to hell... which is almost the same thing.

I know the Bible does, what with the whole 'convert or burn in hell' thing

damn, Tom beat me to it

im sorry but i have to side with jacky on this one


it would've been way better if they shipped them all copies of Super 3D Noah's Ark instead.

what were they thinking. Why would you send a game like that to troops? It's stuff like this that doesn't help us put video games in a good light :( oh well like someone else said they got the right to do what ever they want with the game. I just saw a story this morning that suicide among troops has gone up this year.

In all fairness, I have not played this game, but everything I have read about it leads me to believe that it is every bit as repugnant as Jack Thompson and Timothy Simpson describe.

That said, I'm sure there is an audience for this type of game among our soldiers, and I'm equally sure that they are playing, watching, and reading some pretty politically incorrect stuff over there already. Who are we to tell fighting men and women with what they can and cannot entertain themselves?

I think the arguments that this is a free speech issue are correct. I also think the arguments that this is an international incident waiting to happen are correct. It seems to me that this is an exploitive game based on exploitive novels being sent by an exploitive group to soldiers. It can be hard to say what is right and what is wrong in a situation that stinks like this one.

@Jack Thompson

Anyone here could say that this game would loose money, in fact i'm sure a lot fo them did, Gamers tend to know what will suck, WE'RE the ones who buy them remember. which is why left behind failed.

one more for the gamers, two if you count people ignoring your opinions jack, we've said that all along.

honestly lets send the soldiers something like wow accounts something they can enjoy

for the love of god they are fighting and dying for us cant we at least send them games they will enjoy playing!!!

Shoehorn brought up the same point I was going to. The books were not about a convert or die mission. The small band of believers were basically on the run most of the time or in disguise trying to set certain events into motion. I do remember a few of the main Christian characters being forced to kill a person here and there, but they always seemed remorseful after the fact. I think this game is the result of a phenomenon I noticed about the time book 7 came out, they are seriously milking this cash cow for all it's worth. The series easily could have been condensed to 6 books, instead they dragged it out to 12 for the core series, 3 prequels, and a sequel, plus a few movies. This game losing the message of the original series was bound to happen as the books became a multimedia project instead of a series of novels. The Christ Clone Trilogy was a much better series dealing in the same material for anyone that cares.

I also think games like this send the wrong message of christianity to non-christians. I have talked to several people of various beliefs on religious/faith based questions (always fun as long as no one takes things personally) and it's amazing how often examples like this game are brought up as proof of "See what the Christians are like".

In conclusion it is a horrible game for various reasons. Please send the troops something fun, like Shadow of the Colossus, that way if they run into one in Iraq they already are "trained" to look for the glowing weak point and kill it.

"There is no forcible conversion to Christianity, and killing is never an objective in any of the 40 missions in the game."

No, not at all. Your bullet just happened to slip out of your gun and into a person's chest. Just as I happened to fall with my sword behind you, and it just happened to pierce your spinal area, and you just happen to not be Christian. And this happens, over, and over, and over again throughout the game.

I guess your character is just veeery accident prone, eh?

“[Left Behind: Eternal Forces] lost $4.3 million, and three people were fired over it.” –Thompson

Is that true?

The money bit I don’t doubt though I’ve no idea where Thompson got that number. Was anyone fired over the game? Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve looked around a bit online but haven’t been able to confirm it as fact. Maybe if Thompson would be so kind as to support his claims with links to the appropriate news articles or press releases…

Here’s what I do know:

According to critics, Left Behind just isn’t that great of a game.

According to Left Behind Games, Eternal Forces sold 65,000 copies in its first 6 weeks.

Analyst Michael Pachter predicted sales of 200,000 and a forthcoming sequel.

A sequel is planned for July ’08.

Left Behind Games stocks spiked when the game came out and have been low ever since.

Andrew Eisen

My thoughts:

I think if we’re going to ship a game to the troops we should ship a better game. I see where the “poor taste” argument comes from but the game’s content doesn’t bother me. It’s just a game after all.

Would anyone raise a fuss if someone sent copies of the books? They’re far more gratuitously and explicitly violent than the game could ever hope to be. (They’re still entertaining reads though, with the exception of the last book in the series.)

Send 'em Gears of War, Katamari Damacy, or Super Mario Strikers.

Andrew Eisen

I believe they did a business reorg early this year, perhaps March-April and let go one of the main execs.

It was over money, not the game content. How in the world could they have been surprised at the game's content? It's based on the book series, which is Left Behind Games' sole reason for existence.

This story has been kicking around the non-gaming blogosphere for a few days. Someone there mentioned the execs getting fired and apparently added 2+2=5. JT thus picked it up from erroneous reports.

During the initial controversy over this game, Left Behind Games spammed several blogs (including mine) with a long statement claiming that there a lot of 'lies and half-truths' surrounding Left Behind: Eternal Forces. It said, in part:

"Pacifist Christians and other groups are taking the game material out of context to support their own causes. There is NO “killing in the name of God” and NO “convert or die”. There are NO “negative portrayals of Muslims” and there are NO “points for killing”."

It included a link to a demo and ended by saying that the game has positively changed the lives of young people. Pph, whatever. I never downloaded the demo. My time is occupied with other things and I could care less.

What I'm wondering, though, is why they felt the need to defend themselves in such a manner. I've never seen any other game company do this. I guess they're so small and hurting for sales that words from strangers on the internet are powerful enough to help or break them.

@ Jack Thompson

Hey, Jackie boy, this would be a good site for you to visit.

regarding the execs who were "left behind"... LOL

Apr 30, 2007 -- In an effort to make significant senior management changes, Left Behind Games Inc. has accepted the resignation of Senior Vice President, David J. Klein and has discontinued employment of President, Jeffrey S. Frichner. Furthermore, CEO Troy Lyndon on Friday asked for the resignation of the company's other three board members.

Michael A. Knox and Leslie N. Bocskor have both agreed to serve as interim Co-chairs of the Board of Directors to help recast the company's vision to capitalize on the enormous untapped market found within faith-based, inspirational and family values entertainment media and games. "Upon ratification of the board or the company's shareholders, this appointment of interim Co-chairs will take affect," said CEO Troy Lyndon. "Both Knox and Bocskor have media entertainment and public company management experience that we desperately need."

"I am delighted to have the potential opportunity to work with Troy Lyndon again, as our last experience together resulted in numerous successes," said Mr. Knox. Michael A. Knox was a former partner with CEO Troy Lyndon for five years while they built Park Place Productions from an initial investment of $3,000 into North America's largest independent video game development company. Mr. Knox is currently the CEO of V2P Communications, one of the world leaders in the new Internet audio advertising industry.

"I am excited about the company's future as it extends its presence as a leader in the family values, faith-based and inspirational media and entertainment marketplace," said Mr. Leslie Bocskor. Leslie N. Bocskor is an entrepreneur and managing partner with Lennox Hill Partners LLC, a New York-based advisory firm and the co-founder of two arts & culture philanthropic organizations as well as numerous computer software, entertainment and technology companies.

Mr. Lyndon was the original developer of the first 3D John Madden Football game for Electronic Arts, which has gone on to become a billion-dollar franchise. Furthermore, Mr. Lyndon and Mr. Knox both were awarded Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1993 from Ernst & Young and Merrill Lynch.

I severed my relationship with Tyndale House over this game, warning that a) it would not make money, and b) it was clearly contrary to the Gospel.

Considering Jack himself doesn't seem to follow the Gospel despite his assertions, I find this statement hilarious.

The people who made it should be sent oversees and not allowed to come back.

Too bad we can't do the same to Jack. :p

If these games were shipped it would do WONDERFUL things for West-Muslim relations, don't you think? Could have turned into something kinda like those drawings of Mohammad. Although not on the same scale.


Couldn't do much more damage than what has been done, I'd wager.

Halo 3 in Iraq, special edition Zune's for the soldiers in Iraq, Left Behind for Iraq...

I know war is great business for weapon manufacaturers and private contractors. Now it seems as if the soldiers themselves are becoming a marketing-instrument.

It's sick! I thought war was fighting for something you would give your live for. As it is now, 18 year old kids get talked into joining an, in my opinion, useless conflict, dying from depleted uranium radiation, showering with contaminated water because Haliburton thinks clean water is waste of money, waiting hours in line to get a meal untill they get killed or, if they're "lucky" come home with PTSD with almost no hope of support from the people they work for.

But at least Left Behing got mentioned on a blog and they were shown on TV holding a Zune. I feel really sorry for these guys. Used as pawns in so many ways.


They chose their fate. On a lot of bullshit information sure, but they still chose their fate. If you are over 18, you are legally responsible for yourself, even if you can't figure out why you should stay out of the sand trap.

@Zigs: How can you really choose if the options are based on deception?

Yes the game is in bad taste but should re deny people the creative freedom to make things such as this? Thats just basically where I'm coming from.

Is this the perfect game to send to the troops? Absolutely not, especially considering the extreme cultural and religious tension that is present.

Should we perhaps choose a different game to send them? Absolutely. I honestly think we should send more than one kind of game. I don't think its a marvelous idea to only send one kind of game, especially if in this situation but I'm not going to agree with trying to prohibit it. Just because I don't agree with it doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to do so.

But then again this is coming from a man who wants to return all military home yesterday.


Well, that is a valid point. There is a certain level of deception to any job, and short of independent research on the part of the individual there really is no way to prepare for it.

Things are different now than they were in 2003, however. People are still enlisting, going in more or less blind. There is an exceptional amount of research into the conflict that wasn't available when Bush first declared his hostile intentions toward Iraq. There's no consensus, but several believe the military will never be able to resolve the conflict as it stands today. Some are declaring 'the surge' a failure.

No matter anyone's opinion, the situation is bleak. Why people would still be throwing themselves into that fire is pretty much beyond me.


Do you even know what depleted uranium is used in?

Goddamn, you say some stupid shit.

As for PTSD, its a condition of the weak minded who can't come to terms with the fact that if you didn't shoot him, he would've shot you.

@Zigs and Adaptor

The Brookings institute, an institute that has done its best for years to say this war was going nowhere, has changed their tune recently, as has the media. Will we be leaving soon? No. Are we making progress? yes.
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Andrew EisenI'm still not clear on how Gamasutra was lacking in accountability or what it was lacking in accountability for.07/28/2015 - 8:38pm
MattsworknameAndrew: You and I agree on most of that. I don't diagree that there should ahve been other actions taken. Now, I do want to point something out, casue Im not sure if it's happened. Have gamers ever tried to have a product banned?07/28/2015 - 8:37pm
Mattsworknameimproperly. Neither is good, but one is on the edge of censorship to me, while the other is demanding some level of accountability from public media provider. but thats just my view point07/28/2015 - 8:36pm
MattsworknameEZK: You can treat it as bullying or what not, As I've pointed out, I didn't like either practice, I made that clear. But I do hold some different between trying to pull a product from the shelves, and calling out a media outlet that you feel has acted07/28/2015 - 8:35pm
E. Zachary KnightMatt, So you feel confident enough to make the call that petitioning target to remove GTAV is "bullying and threatening" but not confident enough to make the call on Intel/Gamasutra. Finding it hard to take your gripes seriously.07/28/2015 - 8:27pm
Andrew EisenAs for gamers holding media sites accountable? If you mean, how to respond to opinion pieces you disagree with, yes, there are tons of more appropriate means.07/28/2015 - 8:27pm
Andrew EisenAgain, no one likes being lumped in with the bad apples. Gamers or feminists so lets all strive not to do that, yes? Could the petitioners gone about it a better way? Yes, it could have been more factual in its petition, for starters.07/28/2015 - 8:25pm
Mattsworknamefor gamers to hold the media sites they had issues with accountable? If we look at those questions, I think we find the answer to the first one07/28/2015 - 8:20pm
MattsworknameEZK: I can't answer that, Im split on it cause I feel both are wrong ,but at the same time, I don't know if theres other ways to go about those seperate con.cerns. Was there a better way for feminists to make there point about GTA? was there a better way07/28/2015 - 8:20pm
MechaTama31Ok, a very different topic.07/28/2015 - 8:13pm
MechaTama31On a slightly different topic, in about a month my fiance will be a Mrs., but I'll still be a Mr., as I've always been. Hardly seems fair. I want a nifty new title!07/28/2015 - 8:13pm
E. Zachary KnightMatt, So, what is it? Is petitioning Intel to pull ads from Gamasutra "bullying and threatening" or is it justified? You can't have it both ways, especially if petition Target is "bullying and threatening".07/28/2015 - 8:10pm
Andrew EisenWhat this comes across as is "we need to find a way to silence anyone who says something we don't like."07/28/2015 - 8:08pm
Andrew EisenAnd how was Gamasutra not accountable for the opinion piece it published and refused to pull or edit even after advertising had been pulled?07/28/2015 - 8:08pm
Andrew EisenThere are tons of options when it comes to an opinion piece you don't agree with. Stating otherwise is dishonest or shows an extraordinary lack of imagination.07/28/2015 - 8:07pm
Mattsworknamethem acounatble. We just didn't have many opttions at the time07/28/2015 - 8:05pm
MattsworknameEZK:I never said it was justified, I just said that some people felt they didn't have any other means to hold them accountable. Weather it's justifited or not is somethign to debate, but I was never a big fan of it cause I wanted some other way to hold07/28/2015 - 8:04pm
Mattsworknameprice07/28/2015 - 8:03pm
MattsworknameAndrew: Your not wrong andrew, but gamasutra , and others like it , were called to task by the audiance that felt they had turned there backs on them. True or not, in media, you have to know how to reach an audiance, and chosing not to, well, you pay a07/28/2015 - 8:03pm
Andrew EisenAt the end of the day, even when Intel pulled its advertising (albeit, temporarily), Gamasutra showed its journalistic integrity by not removing or editing the opinion piece.07/28/2015 - 8:00pm

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