A smiling, tunic-cloaked Jesus stands in a boxing ring with one fist raised to the sky and one foot holding down El Diablo, a familiar-looking red, tusked beast. Welcome to the world of religious video games.
Journey of Jesus: The Calling, created by Lightside Games, debuted today on Facebook as the self-described “first-ever” video game based on Jesus. With two million players already sucked into Lightside’s Journey of Moses, CEO Brent Dusing said he now wanted players to “walk in the Messiah’s steps, in an authentic experience of Israel in Christ’s time.”
Social gaming attracts 300 million players worldwide, but the market for religious titles is fairly sparse; what games have been released are often unevenly received. (Witness the slackjawed astonishment with which the Internet greeted 2008’s bizarre Noah’s Ark-themed video game, The Zoo Race.) Still, the biggest demographic among churchgoers are women over 30, and women ages 30 to 60 also make up half of all social gamers—making the idea of a Jesus-based game a fairly big potential draw.
In Journey of Jesus, players travel with Jesus through the Gospels, exploring the world of the Holy Land in that day. From the politics and history, gamers can get an education along the way. They must work together with friends to crate a community and collaborate. “We think it’s definitely going to open conversations about faith,” organizers say.
Lightside says that everything about the game is authentic, right down to the clothing, plant life and architectural styles. As players interact with the game, they experience the biblical life of Jesus, complete with healing the sick, walking on water and, ultimately, sacrificing his life. Along the way players explore the world of the game, search for artifacts and overcome obstacles. (However, we’re pretty sure that doesn’t actually involve facing El Diablo in a boxing ring, since that image, featured on the Journey of Jesus Facebook page, was simply an attempt to tie Journey of Jesus to today’s highly anticipated launch of Blizzard Interactive’s Diablo III)
As Dusing himself puts it, if you have to choose between a game about Jesus and another about a devil, at least one has a wholesome message. “Both games immerse the player,” he says. “And you are what you eat.”