Blog:Change of Heart: Secular Developers Turned Christian

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CRV (talk) 05:36, 30 January 2016 (CET) [permalink]

A joke, circumstance, opportunity, a calling. Whatever the reason, some secular developers switched to, or at least tried their hand at, making Bible-based video games.

Wisdom Tree

Wisdom Tree logo

The most well-known example grew out of Color Dreams, a publisher and developer of unlicensed games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Color Dreams founder Dan Lawton allegedly came up with the idea of doing religious games as a joke.

Early on, Wisdom Tree took the older, more violent Color Dreams games and inserted family-friendly, Bible-related content. Sunday Funday: The Ride (NES) is basically a hack of Menace Beach, while Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land and Joshua & the Battle of Jericho (NES, et al.) were based on Crystal Mines. Since then, Wisdom Tree has put out a number of original educational and entertainment titles and continues to sell them on its website. Color Dreams is still around, doing business as StarDot Technologies, making surveillance cameras and related equipment.

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Epyx

Epyx logo

Epyx, maker of many beloved computer classics such as Temple of Apshai, Summer Games, and California Games, started a Christian label around 1992 called Everbright Software. During this period, they developed the trivia title Bible Builder and the adventure game Captain Bible in Dome of Darkness (both for DOS).

In 1994, the once-bankrupt Epyx, with only eight employees left, was sold to Christian media company Bridgestone Multimedia Group. [1] Of those eight employees, only programmer Peter Engelbrite accepted the job offered by Bridgestone.

Engelbrite left in 2000 and started his own company called Inspired Idea, which produces Christian and patriotic computer games and educational material.

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HomeComputer Software

Under a joint venture agreement, HomeComputer Software, creator of the obscure Super Micro handheld system, made several titles that were distributed by Christian record company Sparrow (or rather, Sparrow Distribution). These included the Family Bible Fun line for Atari 8-bit and Apple II computers and The Music Machine for the Atari 2600, which was based on a series of children's records. Name That Hymn and a 2600 game, Arkyology, were also announced. (The programmer of Arkyology appeared on the AtariAge forums, and a finished prototype was uncovered in 2015. The game was developed by a different company, Enter-Tech.)

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Spirit of Discovery

Spirit of Discovery logo

Park Place Productions, started by programmers Michael Knox and Troy Lyndon, was at one time North America's largest independent development company. The company grew considerably in a short time, thanks to sports games like John Madden Football for the Sega Genesis. This growth led to expansion into other areas like bug testing and computer software publishing. Expansion into computer software publishing led to the formation of Park Place's publishing arm, Spirit of Discovery. Spirit of Discovery eventually broke away and relocated to Hawaii, led by Michael Knox's father Richard Sr., a pastor and former nuclear physicist. (He was also a higher-up at Park Place and had his own company, West Coast Consultants, which produced CAD software.) From Hawaii, Spirit of Discovery focused on bible games and sold at least one, Biblewise bible memorization software, through its website and several local bookstores.

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  • Website (Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

Left Behind Games

Staying on the Park Place track: After several years of working in Christian media, Park Place co-founder Troy Lyndon started a new development company in 2002, specifically to create a game based on the popular Left Behind series of novels. In 2006, Left Behind Games went public, and the first game in the Left Behind series, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, was released. The game was swept up in immense controversy, with accusations that the game promoted bigotry and religious warfare, and sales for the series were disappointing.

In 2013, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Lyndon and a friend "with scheming to falsely inflate the company's revenue by nearly 1,300 percent in the one-year period ended March 31, 2011 through sham circular transactions." A Hawaiian court would eventually hold both men liable for millions in "disgorgement, interest and penalties."

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Alpine Studios

Our final stop is the state of Utah, known for its majority Mormon population. It was also home to Alpine Studios, founded in 2000 with the mission of making "the very best games, while maintaining the highest moral and ethical standards in our products." [2]

President Les Pardew started the company because he felt guilty about helping develop violent video games like Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six at Saffire, the previous company he founded. Before that, he worked as an artist at the prolific Sculptured Software. "Given our choice, we'd rather look for something that is a little different and out of the ordinary; something that does some good," Pardew said in a 2005 Time article.

Alpine made the adventure/Bible quiz The Bible Game (GBA) and the trivia game LDS Do You Know? (PC), but still mostly developed secular fare like Combat Medic: Special Ops (Windows) and Dance Sensation! (Wii).

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Credit to the creators/uploaders of the videos above