Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 24/07/2006 IT is growing up. You only have to look at the way that some of the more peculiar habits of humanity are now translating themselves across to the technical world to realise that it's part of us for good now.

Monday 24/07/2006

IT is growing up. You only have to look at the way that some of the more peculiar habits of humanity are now translating themselves across to the technical world to realise that it's part of us for good now. For example, Christian fundamentalism isn't quite sure what to make of technology – in some cases, the appearance of IT is branded as Satanic, with biometrics being condemned as the Mark of the Beast and exorcised by little old ladies with the help of ballistic bibles.

Elsewhere, though, God , mammon and microprocessors are cheerfully coupled together. You may not have heard of the forthcoming videogame "Left Behind: Eternal Forces"; indeed, you may be unaware of the "Left Behind" phenomenon altogether.

This is a most American business, a series of novels set in the fundamentalist fantasy world of the Rapture, a time when the holy have been whisked away to Heaven leaving the rest of us godless sinners behind. The Rapture is a 19th century bit of self-contradictory Christian dogma and one which has attracted, shall we say, a minority following among theologians. It's darn popular among the rank and file, mind, who've been hoovering up the books by the million, as well as bumper stickers with messages such as "In the event of the Rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned".

Hence the videogame, where I am led to believe large numbers of Christian troops will battle the godless, dispatching them to the afterlife by violent means while shouting "Praise the Lord!". For those who find this sits uneasily with more conventional New Testament concepts of love and forgiveness, you get more points for converting the heathen: also, some versions of the game will come bundled with a Bible and some with a book of cheat codes. Pick the bones out of that one, St Augustine.

However, I digress. While you're battling for the Lord, you're going to need some banging tunes, right? To that end, there are in-game links to iTunes Music Store -– if a melody sounds particularly stirring and helps to push your Christian soldiers particularly onwards, you can click and order the same from Apple. It does stretch the imagination a little to see the chaps in Cupertino lending a hand to the forces of fundamentalism, and to wonder about some of the other items in the game being made available via online ordering. Rapid-fire machine guns, anyone?

It's also interesting to imagine what might happen if a conversion (sorry) to the game appears which follows the precepts of some of the more muscular forms of Islam, and to consider what the media reaction might be. As someone who sees all forms of religious fundamentalism as basically interchangeable, I'd like to see one central game engine that can be skinned into whatever flavour of God-driven correctness you're into -– and one big online virtual world where you can go and explore the consequences of your decision without dragging the rest of us into it.

Who knows -– if it's really popular, the game might suck every religious extremist on the planet into an addictive frenzy of righteousness, a sort of cyber-Rapture that keeps them off the streets. Gives the rest of us the chance to, you know, sort things out a bit.

Now, where did I read about the meek inheriting the earth?

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