Bible Reference Game more fun than….

Never mind. It really isn't

Spoiler alert! If you’re looking for real fun, avoid the Bible Reference Game at all costs. Sorry, Jesus, but some of your followers talk about the joy of the Lord and manage to snuff it out at every opportunity. This is a worst buy, since they actually want you to pay up front. At least in church they wait until you’ve sung a few hymns and had a chance to feel the spirit.

I know the spoiler sounds terrible and snide and unChristian, but how else can you rate a game whose full name is Thy Word is Truth: the Bible Reference Game? It doesn’t even sound fun, does it? Even my family, all of whom were hard core fundamentalists, would have passed this app over for a rousing game of spoons.1 We didn’t go to movies or have TVs until I was older, but if our only game was something called the Bible Reference Game, my cheap father would have run to the store to buy one.

And remember, Jesus drank wine and went to parties (it’s in the Bible). Even that was too much fun for Baptists.

I have no doubt the Bible Reference Game’s developers are sincere and genuinely wanted to develop a game that Christians could find wholesome and entertaining, and they should get a gold star for that. And if you want to donate a dollar to Christians developing Christian games, this is the game that most needs support. (There is no question of the developers’ faith and sincerity because no commercial enterprise trying to cash in on unsuspecting Christians would create anything with so little commercial potential.)

The truth is, however, I have a responsibility to review honestly. Besides, tomorrow’s the Rapture and I felt I really needed to review a Christian game before the world comes crashing down and we go flying up. But the only other Christian game I could find was NRT match, where you have to remember the location of pairs of Christian CD covers. Bible Reference Game won the fun toss in that combination.

I could have reviewed NRT Match, where you try to find hidden pairs of Christian album covers (and then order them on iTunes—talk about shameless promotion). But one glance at the screen shot is the only review the game needs.

Look, I don’t want to say that Christian pop culture is mediocre, but when you have a built in audience there is little need to push the envelope. There have been some good Christian bands, Andre Crouch and Liberation Suite in the seventies, Jars of Clay more recently. But even Amy Grant couldn’t compete with Lee Ann Rimes and they pulled off identical scandals.

Think of it this way. When I was a teen Christians didn’t see the need for Paul Simon because they had Ralph Carmichael. When my parents bought me tickets for Up With People I joined the debate team so I could get out of it. They couldn’t understand why I would rather talk about inherency and the status quo than listening to happy songs. When I wanted to see the Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead, they responded, “We got you tickets for Up With People.”

The one thing I noticed is that Christian groups were always adapting pop music and changing the words (“He ain’t heavy, he’s my savior” or My Sweet Lord without the Krishna lyrics), but with the exception of the Doobie Brothers ironic adaptation of Jesus is Just All Right with Me you never hear mainstream artists changing the words to Christian pop.

That doesn’t mean you won’t find quality Christian cultural influences. Garrison Keillor masterfully weaves fundamentalist culture (his personna was raised among the Brethren) into his stories of the Catholics and Lutherans in Lake Wobegon. Jazz musicians and contemporary orchestral composers have done wonderful things with gospel music. But they have to reach a more discriminating audience.

I should also add that Christianity inspired a lot of art in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance that my parents thought was too dirty for me to see.

In fact, a good number of Gospel songs and spirituals still stand on their own. Far too often, however, Christian commerce settles for a built in audience instead of pushing their art, professionalism or craft. Bible Reference Game shows that same willingness to settle.

Just the game facts

Bible Reference Game is simple. You are presented with a series of sentences from the Bible and four possible books, chapters and verse that could have been the source. If you guess on the first try you earn five points, on the second you earn two. A perfect score for five questions would be 25.

Unfortunately a perfect score is tough to achieve—even at medium difficulty—with verses such as “Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity; they sacrifice bullocks in Gigal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.”

Can you match the verse to it’s source? That’s the whole point of Bible Reference Game. And some of the references can be really obscure. I mean, really, really obscure (even at medium difficulty).

You can change the number of questions in the settings panel to increase the challenge, but at the end of each round you simply see a box with statistics on how well you did in a given round. It would be nice if Bible Reference Game could link to the Game Center with benchmarks such as consecutive correct answers.

Basically you track your success with a very plain score card and no-nonsense statistics.

Up to five players can challenge each other head-to-head with the same questions. There are three difficulty settings, but they can’t be adjusted to individual players. So readers new to the Bible have to compete at the same level with lifelong readers.

As a game, this really puts some players at a disadvantage. I can get a lot of answers simply because I know in which books a given verse isn’t likely to have appeared and work by the process of elimination. New readers have no resources to draw on.

Players can also go head to head by answering the same round of questions. No handicapping though, so newcomers are basically SOL when competing against knowledgeable readers.

Fun or indoctrination?

But let’s face it. Bible Reference Game isn’t a game, it’s a training tool. I know this because I remember playing games just like this in Bible camp between Bible Study, softball and going to the swimming pool in our bathrobes so boys (and girls) wouldn’t be stirred to lust. We drew swords and recited chapter and verse, then went to evening service and evening prayers, before sneaking out after lights out to really get to know the girls from other churches.

The only fun I remember was sneaking out to meet girls from other churches. I’m sorry, but the Amish have more fun raising barns than I can imagine from playing Bible Reference Game. And I’m not sure it’s a great training tool either. I say this after years of Bible training.

Learning isolated verses is not learning the Bible. It’s not even close. It’s like reading the word bites scrolling along the bottom of the CNN screen and thinking you actually learned the news (or even listening to TV talking heads and thinking you actually learned the news.) Sure, Bible Reference Game allows players to read the actual passage in context in a popup window, but it’s not the same as learning the Bible by reading it.

This may seem like it’s no big deal, but being raised as a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), I’ve grown leery of one-verse-at-a-time reading. Half of Baptist Preacher Family (BPF) conversation is quoting verses from the Bible. We could quote verses for taking out the trash, verses for matching socks and pants, verses for hair style choices (buzz cuts being the most Christian, except for women of course), verses for why dominos were okay to play but cards were’t.

We were so versed in verses that we automatically knew when other people quoted Ben Franklin or Aesop and thought it was the Bible. Sorry, people, “God help those who help themselves” was written by an agnostic secular humanist revolutionary who thought France was a great country; not God.

There are too many verses that I grew up with believing they were Gospel, only to read the entire passage as an adult and realize those verses were being taken entirely out of context.2 In fact, this practice of single verse cutting and pasting can lead to some really strange interpretations (like believing the Rapture will happen tomorrow).

No Game Center connection

I know I mentioned Game Center, but I want to reiterate. The developers haven’t even bothered to let players post their scores and accomplishments on Game Center, and that would be the one incentive to study the Bible this way. Instead I am reminded of what adults told me so often when I was a child: “Be happy with what God gave you.”

Will anyone enjoy Bible Reference Game? I’m sure someone will. And I’m sure there are quite a few parents who will want their children to play it between home schooling sessions on Jesus and the Founding Fathers and submachine gun practice to prepare for the coming apocalypse.

Jenny Manytoes rates Bible Reference Game

Jenny Manytoes would cover Bible Reference Game in the litter box. Sorry, but there’s no other way to say it. There are far too many more entertaining apps for Kids, even mediocre Christian ones.

But God bless the developers for trying. And, Lord, send them the wisdom and the money to hire a programmer and game designer to make this worth your children’s time.

And there isn’t much time left before the Rapture, so hurry.


The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat

  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

1You put one spoon fewer than there are players on the table. If you match four cards with the same denomination you can take your spoon. Then everyone can take a spoon. The person who misses out is given a letter “s”, “p”, “o”, or “n”. When your letters spell “spoon” you’re out of the game. You can’t be drinking either (at least not alcohol).back

2For instance, my family always cited Proverbs 31.4 (“It is not for Kings to drink wine or rulers to take strong drink) as their case for not drinking. But the entire passage says drunken rulers mistreat their subjects. Wine and strong drink is for their suffering subjects.back


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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