The idea of a typical “god game” is to make the player feel like, well, God. The allure of supernatural control of a digital dominion has fueled a long history of games, from the classic Populous to the upcoming downloadable title From Dust. But what if being God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Let There Be Smite!, a browser game by IT University of Copenhagen researcher Pippin Barr, explores just that question. Using “sin monitoring software” called “GodOS,” your job is to hold divine court over your rapidly increasing human flock. As sins are committed, dialog boxes pop up asking you to choose whether to Forgive or Smite each sinner. I won’t spoil the conceit here, but let’s just say things get complicated quickly. You may very well end up making use of your ability to flood the world and start all over.
The interface, built to look like an early-80s Macintosh desktop UI layered on top of a security camera’s video feed, should be your second clue—after the title, of course—that Let There Be Smite! is an elaborate joke. But that joke reveals itself to be more than a one-note gag. There are multiple layers at work here, and it’s a testament to the game that you can suss them out in under five minutes of play. And that they're thought-provoking: After the initial chuckles, I found myself contemplating some seriously unsolvable existential questions. For a five-minute browser game, that’s impressive.
Talking Points: In what ways does Let There Be Smite! turn the “god game” genre on its head? On what levels does the joke operate? Does “getting the joke” require experience with god games? Would the game be as effective if it wasn’t rooted in Judeo-Christian concepts?