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'Satan is scheming against us,' say Bible game developers

When a video game finds itself in development limbo, most game makers attribute their difficulties to mundane problems such as lack of funding, time constraints, or creative differences in the development team.
But Phoenix Interactive Studios, the company behind the Biblical role-playing game, “The Call of Abraham”, however, believes their problems are of a more supernatural origin.
“If Satan is rallying some of his resources to forestall, delay, or kill this project, I think, this must be a perceived threat to his kingdom,” explained Ken Frech, the project’s religious mentor. “I fully would expect something like this to have spiritual warfare. Look at the gospel accounts of demons and so forth. That’s reality. Many Americans don’t believe it anymore. That doesn’t change reality.”
“Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham”, for which a Kickstarter campaign was launched on January 7, 2014, has garnered only 199 backers, and $19,001 of its $100,000 goal before the end of its funding period on February 6, 2014.

Polygon’s Colin Campbell wanted some clarifications regarding the Satan issue: “I need to be clear on this point: Are you telling me that Satan is literally working to confound your plans to release this game?” he asked the team. “You’re saying that the actual Devil is scheming against you?”
“I believe that, 100 percent,” replied Phoenix Interactive co-founder, Richard Gaeta.
“It’s very tangible,” agreed business partner Martin Bertram. “From projects falling through and people that were lined up to help us make this a success falling through. Lots of factors raining down on us like fire and brimstone.”
From Sodom to foreskins
Gaeta and company are Bible literalists who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and decry the theory of evolution as wrong. Predictably, “The Call of Abraham” is meant to be a literal interpretation of the Biblical tales pertaining to Abraham – a central figure in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
In the game, the player follows Abraham and his caravan, allowing him to participate in some of the darker, bloodier events in the Old Testament.
“Of course, there is violence in the Bible, but even when the main character must kill a rabid wolf attacking Abraham’s sheep, or run into battle, there is always a just cause and you are only able to engage in activities that are honorable,” explains the game’s page. “And on occasions where there is a better alternative to violence, you are rewarded for finding and choosing it.”

The game is set to tackle some of the more controversial passages in the Bible, including mass circumcisions, Lot offering up his virgin daughters to the mob, and the Godly smiting of Sodom.
“Not everything that happened in the Bible was sanctioned and good,” remarked Gaeta. “It’s going to be portrayed in the proper context, that this was a dark thing that happened and it was wrong.”
He continued: “Even in the case with Abraham and taking Sarah’s handmaiden and laying with her to have a child, because they didn’t believe that Sarah would have a child, that was another one of those episodes. That was a failing of Abraham’s. That was definitely not a sanctioned event, not something that was supposed to happen.”
Gaeta described Sodom as a city of “darkness”, one filled with rapists, murderers, thieves, and homosexuals. The developers did state that the game will avoid making direct, offensive messages about homosexuals. This is, however, not because they are ashamed of the story or what it communicates, but because of their desire to get a children’s rating for the game.
“It’s accurate to the Old Testament,” Gaeta pointed out. “It’s not in any way the objective to single out any groups or folks or make people feel like their choices are terrible, go repent and go flog yourself. In a lot of ways, this recount of what’s already been written will allow folks to get reacquainted again with the full version of what that story is.”
“It’s not going to be really affected by the political, social environment of today, so much as it’s just the story,” Bertram added.

Spreading the Word
Gaeta and Betram explained that they arrived at their business decisions through prayer. A team of religious advisors, including pastors and ministry leaders, also helped with some of the decisions about the game, such as making Abraham’s skin darker. There was also some deliberation about whether to give the game’s angels the more “classic” appearance of having wings and hovering a few feet above the ground, or to make them appear like normal humans.
Their most important consideration is how to make the game as loyal to its source as possible.
“If we’re going to make a Biblically accurate game we really want to tell people the story that’s already been written and share it in a way that’s engaging,” said Gaeta.
Their goal is to spread the word.
“I'm hoping that through this game, people will see a divine intervention,” said Frech. “We’re not deists. We don’t think God started the game and left. He’s very much involved in our lives.”
“We have this hope that the game will touch people, and it’ll stir up a hunger for learning more about the Bible and God’s word,” explained Bertram. “But at the same time, we’re not putting in messages of turn or burn or anything like that. We’re presenting the Bible story as accurately as we can, in the most engaging way that we can, and with the highest level of quality that we can within our budget, to just present the Bible story in a very profound way. They’ll engage with it in their own way, between them and God. Some people will be moved by it. Others will just enjoy the game and that’ll be that.”


Christian games: The next big thing?
Gaeta believes that Christian games, just like Christian literature, film, and music, will soon have a substantial audience.
“There is an enormous group of potential players, a market, the Christian market,” said Gaeta. “Those families are also going out after Sunday services, driving to Wal-Mart, and buying ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Grand Theft Auto’ games. We’re not oblivious to that. But we can give them an alternative to what they’ve accepted from the mainstream media when it comes to video games.”
They see games like “Grand Theft Auto” being part of the entertainment norm as a sign of how far modern society has succumbed to evil. “That’s what we all have learned about how Satan works,” said Gaeta. “It’s taking us even further away, accepting the things that push you further away from the kingdom of God.”
Pop culture and the Bible

Bertram explains the difference between the violence in a game like “Grand Theft Auto V”, and the violence found in the Old Testament.
“In a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto V’, it’s about just having as much fun as you can at the expense of the people whose property you’re destroying and the girls that you’re trying to pick up and use for a night,” he explained. “It’s really glorifying those things. Whereas the violence, the things that happened, particularly with Sodom and the judgment, those are tragedies. The reasons behind them make more sense. There is a moral argument for it. It’s about that, the context.”
The people at Phoenix Interactive believe themselves to be the victims in a world that has become intolerant of and belligerent towards their religious beliefs.
“I think it’s pop culture,” says Bertram. “There’s a lot of push against the Bible, especially with the social, political issues of homosexuality, abortion, things like that, where there’s a lot of polarization. Putting down the Bible as being ridiculous, being homophobic, bigoted, all that stuff, there’s a lot of negativity toward the Bible in a lot of pop culture today. That’s one of the biggest divisive issues in our society.”
With the failure of its Kickstarter campaign, the team is now looking for alternative methods to raise funds for “Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham”. — TJD, GMA News