Let There Be Smite!

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?

[size=30]Play Now[/size]

Comments

That was pretty good. And it got me to use the phrase

Boy, smiting adulterers is hard work!

And for that, I approve.

I couldn't quite figure out if clicking did anything. I tried mixing up smites and forgives, then I tried going all one way or another, then I tried not clicking anything and from what I can tell it was the same each time.

Switchbreak wrote:

I couldn't quite figure out if clicking did anything. I tried mixing up smites and forgives, then I tried going all one way or another, then I tried not clicking anything and from what I can tell it was the same each time.

I think perhaps part of the point was that you weren't really making a difference. Mebbe it was a subtly nihilist comment about how life doesn't really mean anything.

El-Taco-the-Rogue wrote:

I think perhaps part of the point was that you weren't really making a difference. Mebbe it was a subtly nihilist comment about how life doesn't really mean anything.

Could be. Seems like that could be said about anything, though.

I got to click things!

All I know is that danged camera got in the way of my smiting!

Cute, but I agree with Switchbreak; sometimes it seemed like my clicks were making the saved/smited cutscenes and sometimes they seemed not to do anything. It made the game seem broken to me, rather than a subtle statement.

I liked how took-your-name-in-vain showed up right next to killed-his-brother, as if they were equal in their sinliness. Makes the whole thing seem ridiculous.

Kradish wrote:

Makes the whole thing seem ridiculous.

Ta da! And there's your point.

I don't know what the creator's intent was in this piece, but you could read it as a critique of various views of God. One take would be that this game points out how ludicrous it is that God would takes a personal interest in you and your petty little sins. Another would be critiquing the idea that God's rules are this black-and-white (note the color scheme). Finally, if one were inclined not to refute the Bible, perhaps it's a critique of how it's absurd to ascribe human limitations (even if boosted with an OS) to God - that is, the "Big Dude in the Sky" is a crappy metaphor.

I actually tried playing the game by picking commandments I would or wouldn't enforce, which was kind of a fun way to do this, and says more about me than it does about the game.