In the world of Christian video games the best weapon is a ball of holy energy known as a "smite" and demon-possessed Roman soldiers drop to their knees in prayer when they're hit.
Religion expert Larry Eskridge says the emerging Christian video game industry marks the latest effort to imprint Biblical faith into popular culture. He mentioned that Evangelical Protestants have led the charge since World War II, seeking sanctified versions of entertainment found in the secular world, from board games and television to rock 'n' roll.
Developers have put their hope in marketing games based on hit-movies such as The Passion of the Christ and books like the Left Behind series; it gives them an incentive and hope that consumers are still hungry for faith-based entertainment.
At the upcoming third annual Christian Game Developers Conference in Portland, July 30-31, game developers will focus on finding producers willing to manufacture their video-game projects.
According to Tim Emmerich, a software engineer who attends Circle Church of Christ in Corvallis, the target audience ranges from Christian gamers eager for new thrills to teenagers and adults in their 20’s who have never picked up a Bible.
"We're salt and light where we're at," he said, referring to Scripture-given authority of leading the world through example.
For Christian video-game developer Mackenzie Ponech from Canada, producing such projects means creating a fun, entertaining game that doesn't offend non-Christian players.
"It's not about taking a Bible, rolling it up and shoving it down the person's throat who's playing the game," said Ponech, who co-founded the Christian gaming company, Two Guys Software, located in Edmonton, Alberta.
In the company's most popular game, Eternal War: Shadows of Light, players assume the role of “Mike,” an angel appointed to save a suicidal teen. Players battle demons and the teen's doubts with spiritual weapons that include razor-sharp "soul disks," "trinity blasts" and the "smite," a ball of liquid holy energy that eliminates villains. The game also references the "armor of God" mentioned in the book of Ephesians.
According to Ralph Bagely, CEO of N'Lightning Games, Christian video games avoid "all that blood and guts and gore" unlike their secular counterparts. Enemies vanish, vaporize or, in the case of the Roman soldiers, start praying as Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" rings out. Most games incorporate Bible verses, and story lines often focus on spiritual struggles.