BLACK AND WHITEReviewed by: VOLUNTEER GUEST REVIEWER
Few games raise as many moral questions to a Christian than Lionhead Studio's "Black & White". This may be quite surprising, considering the games' “Teen” rating. The player takes on a role of a god who proceeds to dominate his or her followers with pacific benevolence, a reign of terror, or anything in between.
"Black & White" gives you dominion over a beautifully rendered 3D landscape bustling with primitive villagers going about their daily lives. On a whim, the player can pick up one of the tiny people. You could throw them across the landscape, appoint them to various tasks like farming and building, drop them into the ocean to drown--or sacrifice them on you altar! Each time the player demonstrates his or her powers in their presence, they will believe in you more. With belief, you can interact with a larger portion of the landscape. Furthermore, you can command the villagers to worship you, an especially touchy issue for a Christian, which gives you energy to perform miracles like healing, fireballs, lightening, and making a flock of birds or bats appear out of thin air.
The game provides you with a pet of sorts. You can choose from a number of animals to become your "creature," a giant, intelligent, upright-standing titan. The titans learn from your actions. If they see you generously granting the villagers every whim, they will do the same. If they see you reducing towns to smoldering rubble, they will again follow in your footsteps.
If any of this sounds offensive to you, steer clear of this title. As Christians, we should not risk doing something we think is sin. However, how can I, a Christian, put up with such a controversial game? Well, the premise of being a god may sound sacrilegious, but it turns out that you play the role of deity more like something out of Greek mythology than any major religion, including ours. As violent as the premise may be, there is very little blood. When villagers die, by fireballs or old age, they fall over and you can see their spirit comically rising to heaven or being sucked into the earth. When villagers are sacrificed to you, they simply vanish into an altar outside your citadel with the clang of a gong. This is no Mayan death ritual. The only appearance of blood is in the fights between creatures, but it is minimal, appearing only in scars on the creature's bodies and conservative “splatter” when a punch or kick hits its mark.
When you choose people to be breeders to repopulate your villages, they simply hug and kiss one person of the opposite sex, and then hug and kiss someone else. The game has remarkably few sexual references. The cursing is mild and minimal. A few species of pet creatures may make obscene gestures to other creatures they challenge to a fight. The creatures actually poop, and lumps of it lie around without affecting the gameplay much. If the player acts violently, you might occasionally hear remarks like, "You're really raising hell!" A few of the miracles that are cast with gestures are called by tracing a pentagram on the ground.
All moral issues aside, the gameplay is excellent. The ability to interact with the game world is rather astounding, and the complexity that is designed into the landscapes and their inhabitants are amazing. The artificially intelligent creatures are a lot of fun to take care of and teach.
Regardless of one's moral opinion of "Black & White", a lesson about God can be drawn from it. Why should God value us any more than we value the disposable and trivial villagers represented in this game? But He still loves us more than we can imagine! That is a thought that has kept me captivated since I played the game the first time.
Bottom line: If you think taking on the role of a mythical god is sacrilegious, avoid this game. If you can get past that, the game is relatively tame as far as graphics and profanity, considering other games on the market today. This is a game that could have been much, much more offensive. It is a remarkable simulation of a legendary world unlike any the gaming industry has ever seen. In my opinion, "Black & White" is worth a test drive.
Year of Release—2001
This game is really unique and innovative. You play a god ruling over a small, primitive village and can be either good or evil (Your conscience and your evil side walk you through the entire game.) You also get control of a monster to help enforce your law and the townspeople as well (such as saving drowning villagers). The only objection some might see is the fact that you are literally playing god. The people even build a temple at the beginning of the game which you can help with. Also, the fact that the game is completely amoral and even endorses punishing the natives might not sit well, too. But other than that, the game is not paganistic. The worst thing they do is call the player “holy one” or "high one". They don't write songs in your honor, just invoke your assistance. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Jason Thayer, age 26
Negative—Speaking out from a gamers perspective, this title is innovative in its concept. Taking the role of a demi god and using a familiar in order to gain worshipers…that is all good for the casual gamer…but from a Christian view point that may not be so acceptable. Even though the Christian stand in my families house is not as strong as others (those who may find something like Pokémon to be bad.) My mother even disapproved of the theme of the game…it is not really Christian oriented…especially since you perform miracles and use a familiar to do your dirty work for you…truly a good game for the casual gamer but something you may wish to scrutinize if you are a serious Christian. My Ratings: [3/4]
Positive—This game is one of the most useful, fun, godly games I've ever seen. It's fun to watch younger kids play with their creature. Bad kids will be be bad to the creature and the villagers, a trait that parents could notice and deal with in their kids. As for the account on violent content, the reviewer was too hard, in my opinion. The scars go away over time, and kids will try to heal the creature when they play. Scars aren't something kids haven't seen before. Also kids can observe what their creature THINKS of them, so if the creature is acting badly, the kids might change their actions. It is also impossible not to think of God's grace when you play this…
Sacrificing is a little edgy, but only mean gods do that, and if your kids do that, you can decide his/her real value of human life. The game is only bad if you make it so. My Ratings: [5/5]
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Christian Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Films for Christ or the Christian Answers Network.
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