Hey, kids! Excited about the new Nintendo 3DS? Can’t wait to play Portal 2? Forget such trifles: Your world is about to be rocked, courtesy the Council of Samarian Settlers, which recently released a series of three video games designed to capture the hearts and minds of those crazy kids who like them noisy computer thingies.
The old-timey tone isn’t mine, and it isn’t ironic: The games’ homepage contains a letter from a fictitious figure called Grandpa Abraham. “I know you love computer games,” coos the made-up paterfamilias, “so I made a special Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift for you: A series of three-dimensional computer games.” The three-dimensional feature isn’t quite as revolutionary as Nintendo’s new gaming console, which is, um, actually 3D. These games rely on graphics and game engines that were all the rage in, say, 1992, the sort of long-since-forgotten stuff that could have just as well been designed by an actual elderly man named Grandpa Abraham. And the games’ narratives—their raisons d’etre, since the council is an ideological body and the games clearly educational and political tools—are just as stilted.
The first game has the player sneak around a Greek military encampment circa 166 B.C.E. trying to obtain keys in order to steal a sword for Judah the Maccabee. Armed with no weapon, the player is left to gawk at the vectors on-screen and guess whether they were meant to represent Greek soldiers, Greek army tents, or the game designer’s considerable hubris. If you enjoy, you know, walking around, this is just the game for you. Not so the second game in the series: This one, set in 870 B.C.E., involves standing on a rooftop and releasing arrows onto far-away enemies of good ol’ King Ahab. This mightn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact that said enemies move with all the grace and agility of partially decomposed corpses, and most of the game is spent waiting for the stick figures in the distance to approach one’s line of fire: It’s less a first-person-shooter and more a first-person-lingerer.
Both games, however, pale in comparison to the third, a Doom-wannabe that purports to take the player into one of the bloodiest battles of the Six Day War. This particular game represents, I believe, a breakthrough in design: Never before has a video game so acutely captured the sheer sensation of crushing boredom. Having now experienced both, I can honestly say that a gunshot wound isn’t as painful as prolonged stretches of time spent in front of this truly awful travesty.
There’s much more to be said about this latest attempt at political entertainment, from the awkward, rhyming introductions that come with each game to the ghastly sound design, but the games truly need to be seen to be believed. Meanwhile, if the folks over at the settlements really want to get into the political video game market, the geeks over at Hezbollah actually have much to teach on how to make a compelling, emotional, and ideological game.
Related: Shoot ‘Em Up, Biblical Style [Fast Company]