Flash of Steel header image 2

Women folk left behind

September 28th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

Judging from the demo Left Behind: Eternal Forces is an unusual game in many respects. It purports to be an instrument with a religious message, but happily lets you play the forces of darkness. Music is the big weapon of faith-sapping, with rock musicians destroying your will to serve God and hymn singers bolstering your desire to defeat Satan. Each civilian has a biography that talks about what terrible things they’ve done until they are converted to God’s side, in which case the bio gets trimmed of sin. Forgive AND forget! I could go on and on about the convoluted unit production system.

But, from what I can see so far Left Behind is also one of the few strategy games to stake out a clear gender based stance on what a unit can do. Historic games can, of course, point to history, though Rome: Total War decided to stretch history to the breaking point and give us batallions of screeching barbarian women, female Scythian riders and topless Indian archers in the Alexander expansion. Most strategy games either pretend that there aren’t female civilians or soldiers, or will have half of the peons generated be women. But this distinction is more one of function than sex; peons collect resources and build things and a woman can pick berries as well as any man. In fantasy games, you will often have female heroine units or the cleric/mage types can be female. Not many Amazon princesses kicking butt.

Left Behind continues the numbers imbalance. There are about two boys for every girl (maybe The Rapture took more women?), but everyone starts as a civilian. They will assume whatever roles you assign them. Convert random dude on the street and he can become a soldier. Or a builder. Or a singer. Or a preacher. Or a medic. It’s actually a nice idea to be able to customize your units in this way and retrain them if necessary.

The women you convert have much more limited horizons. They can become medics. That’s it.

Strategically, it makes females a rare commodity but not a flexible one. A monopoly on women civilians means that your opponent has to turn some of his men into healers, but it also eats up valuable population points on units with a single function. But it’s the social commentary here that reveals how peculiar this world is to me.

Now you can make a case about traditions of warfare and not wanting women to be able to become soldiers. I may disagree, but you can have the debate and talk about physical limitations, killer instinct, social conditioning etc. and it need not end in a shouting match.

But this is a spiritual war and women are being forbidden from taking the spiritual fight to the enemy by being shut out of preaching – the instrument of recruitment – and singing.

I am aware that many evangelical Christian denominations take a strict stand on female leadership in the church. Men lead, women follow. Very Epistles. Still, this is the last stand of God’s followers versus the United Nations/Science/Beelzebub. Why can’t women go out and share their faith? Sing of the glory of Jesus shining on them?

The forces of darkness are only available in multiplayer and I have yet to find a soul brave enough to try the MP demo with me. I am curious as to whether the gender assignments continue on the other side of the fence. Are fallen women allowed to be builders? Is Jessica Simpson a tool of the devil? Amy Grant, too?


6 Comments so far ↓

  • hoo

    “Why can’t women go out and share their faith?”

    Women missionaries are prevalent in the major Christian denominations. The main missionary offerings of the Baptist Church are for Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. Episcopals and I believe some Presbyterians allow female preachers. I think it’s the Catholic Church that has the strongest prohibition…but even then you can think of the number of missionary nuns (ie, Mother Theresa!).

    Bizarre twist to the game that goes against many aspects of the modern day church

  • Troy

    In my church, women were the church leaders for as long as I can remember. In most mainstream Protestant denominations women far outnumber men in leadership positions.

    Many fundamentalist churches don’t have female preachers, but do have women organize social functions that are, in my opinion, equally important in maintaining the cohesion of the church.

  • Toby Hede

    That is really strange … maybe it’s stuff that’s in the books? The books seem to have a pretty bizarre metaphysics anyway.

    I am d/l the demo now. Perhaps we could arrange a multiplayer session? I am not scared of the forces of darkness …

  • Johnny Pi

    I would also be willing to try out a multiplayer session. The prospect of villainous trash-talk is too good to pass up. Maybe I could macro the soliloquy from The Devil’s Advocate.

    And as an aside, you should try out Defcon. I’d be interested in seeing your take on it. And if you ever want to go a little MAD, a multiplayer match of that would be a blast.

    Sorry for the puns.

  • Troy

    MP Left Behind would be great. Add to your Google Talk or AIM me (troysgoodfellow) and we’ll set something up.

    Johnny: Picked up Defcon last night and will soon have comments on it if I can’t sell a review to a reputable outlet. Introversion never fails to surprise.

  • Wizzel Cogcarrier Wizzleton IV

    Jessica Simson, definitely. Amy Grant, debatably.

    I know for sure that there are plenty of female Episcopalian priests. Now, the “Evangelical” churches vary hugely on their attitudes toward women in the priesthood. They’re all hippies anyway, as far as I’m concerned.