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Gaming might yet have a kind of come-to-Jesus moment, after “I Am Jesus Christ” was announced for PC earlier this month by publisher PlayWay S.A. The game’s Steam page describes the experience as becoming “the famous man on Earth,” where you can “pray like Him for getting superpower,” and the trailer features the titular son of God doing the things he’s famous for, like healing the sick and fighting Satan.
If the publisher sounds familiar to you, you may be a YouTuber. PlayWay is extremely prolific in the “simulator” space, with dozens of games that let you “become” some occupation, and videos based on its titles have garnered millions of views on YouTube. The publisher is best known for game concepts such as Coal Mining Simulator, Bum Simulator and Car Mechanic Simulator (not to be confused with MotorMechanic, the motor mechanic simulator, also from PlayWay). The publisher lists at least 54 titles on the Steam store, many with different developers attached to them.
“I Am Jesus Christ” is being developed by a company called SimulaM. At the studio, one man is the driving force behind the development of this Jesus game: SimulaM CEO Maksym Vysochanskiy.
“First, this idea came to me when I was a teenager, when I was inspired by computer games and computer animation,” Vysochanskiy wrote in an email exchange with The Washington Post. “I wanted to create a computer animation cartoon movie about Jesus Christ. And during the last years, it changed more to a computer game, because it can show from first perspective what Jesus Christ did.”
Vysochanskiy’s LinkedIn page also lists extensive work in the technology sector in Poland, particularly with blockchain, as well as being an adviser to PlayWay.
According to Fox News, the game’s announcement caused “a stir.” But that was based off a few reactionary Facebook comments. What it did stir, however, was minor mockery and a few idle quandaries about exactly how blasphemous a game is that lets you declare yourself as the messiah and son of God.
In researching for this game, Vysochanskiy said, he read the Bible four times in different translations. The readings made him “eager to learn more.”
“That’s why I read a couple of Gospels from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which shows some more stories and information about Jesus Christ and His life,” Vysochanskiy said. “However, our game is based on traditional Gospels.”
Christian products, like rock music, have long existed in pop culture, and video games are no different. This historical (but vulgar) documentary, “Bible Games” by the Angry Video Game Nerd, gives a quick and entertaining tour through the late last century’s Jesus-game oeuvre.
Games based on Christianity have always existed on the outskirts of gaming. Take, for example, the circuitous route of Wisdom Tree Games. In the 1980s, Nintendo forced developers to go through a quality check before releasing on its platform. Developer Color Dreams kept making games for the original Nintendo Entertainment System that never passed this check, but they bypassed Nintendo’s chip technology and were sold anyway. Eventually, the company rebranded as Wisdom Tree Games and made some of gaming’s most infamous Christian-based games, including “Bible Adventures,” in which you play Moses’s sister on a mission to save him from being sacrificed. “Bible Adventures” is often cited as one of the worst games of that era.
According to Steven Kent’s 2001 book, “The Ultimate History of Video Games,” Wisdom Tree left Nintendo in a “prickly situation,” not wanting to aggravate a seemingly religious group with legal action.
The closest breakthrough that religious games saw came in the form of “The Bible Game,” a trivia game for PlayStation 2 and Xbox that didn’t exactly impress critics.
Vysochanskiy insists SimulaM and PlayWay have higher ambitions for “I Am Jesus Christ.” He’s inspired by other Jesus-based media.
“For hundreds of years, many artists made great paintings about Jesus Christ,” Vysochanskiy said. “Last 50 years have been famous with some great movies about Him. Now we want to create art masterpiece with computer game.”
As to when the game might actually be released? Lord only knows.