Wisdom Tree Games, founded in 1989, is a Tucson, AZ based company focused on developing and selling entertainment and educational media products to the Christian community. (http://www.wisdomtreegames.com/support.html) In their 21 active years, Wisdom Tree Games has produced 22 full length games across a wide variety of platforms, although consciously focusing their early years on Nintendo systems and migrating into personal computer based games later in their tenure. The company’s website, http://www.wisdomtreegames.com, has undergone one major redesign over the six years of archives available, taking place in early 2008, and boasts an impressive catalogue of games for purchase. Only a small selection are compatible with the newer Windows operating systems, however, and no longer are any of their games available for Macintosh computers.
Wisdom Tree’s games, by and large, are maze based.Their arcade (http://www.wisdomtreegames.com/arcade.html) offers a selection of seven games playable online for free via an online NES emulator, although the game that Wisdom Tree is most known for – a 1994 SNES creation called Super Noah’s Ark 3D – is unfortunately absent from the currently available lineup. Super Noah’s Ark 3D holds the dubious honor of being the only unlicensed Super Nintendo Entertainment System game ever to be commercially available. (http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/super-noahs-ark-3-d) The gameplay of Super Noah’s Ark 3D is a graphics swap of Wolfenstein 3D, and was thus never licensable by Nintendo, meaning that the game had to be played with a legitimately licensed SNES cartridge on top.
Wisdom Tree is an elusive company, with very little published on their confessional stance or specific company aims, save for sparse and cryptic statements of purpose on the company website. Their games, however, show a consistent focus on the modern text of the Christian Bible, and they seem to take all of their direct quotations from the 1611 King James Version. Indeed, they even once produced a KJV cartridge for the original Nintendo Gameboy. Gameplay on Wisdom Tree’s early (Nintendo based) offerings are largely maze based and focused on a singular protagonist, usually a biblical character, fighting evil in the form of non-Christians and historical enemies of Israel from the Hebrew Bible. Interestingly, these games are often just as “violent” as other, more popular NES games, but instead of letting characters shoot guns or lasers at their opponents, Wisdom Tree gives their heroes more ambiguous weapons, like fruit or unexplained “W’s” of light. Later, PC based games created by Wisdom Tree take a slightly different tack – creating 3D worlds in which players move about and complete puzzles, once again largely focused on the text of the Christian Bible in surprisingly specific detail.
Wisdom Tree Games seems to be targeting the American Evangelical Christian market with “family friendly” alternatives to widely popular “secular” games, as well as providing church catechesis classes with Christian activities for the children to engage.
The display for the Exodus game is vivid (http://www.wisdomtreegames.com/arcade.html), depicting Moses in power, throwing flames and wielding a mighty staff. He stands on a mountain, and the word “Exodus” shines in gold, reflecting light he is shooting towards the mountainside. Yet the graphics within the game are not so vivid (http://www.wisdomtreegames.com/arcadeexodus.html). Moses does not appear to be so mighty, but seems rather short and squatty. I also find it interesting that the music to the game is from a song I learned in Sunday School, “Father Abraham”. It is interesting that this song was selected for the theme in the first level, because Abraham did not lead the Exodus. Old Testament teachings establish Moses as the man who led the Israelites out of Egypt, and through the dessert in search of the Promised Land.
The Exodus game reminds me of Pac Man in that the player finds his or her way through the maze and can collect points along the way. Instead of ghosts that will kill the player, there are figures that appear to be soldiers that will kill the figure. I am assuming that Moses is the figure in the game, representing the Moses from the Old Testament story of the Exodus, who led the Israelites out of the dessert. However, the game terrain appears to be some underground, tunnel-like maze. And the figure who is trying to outwit the soldiers, or destroy the soldiers by shooting “W’s”, is alone, he is not leading any group of people. The figure, I assume to be Moses, carries a staff, but I cannot figure out the use of the staff. . Instead of torching the enemy with flames, he throws “W’s”. He can break through stone walls and burrow through what appears to be dirt or perhaps a cave-in of the tunnel. He can collect “M”” which may be money. And can definitely acquire some extra tools from the “?” box. I did not figure out how to use this component. If the player cannot successfully complete the level in time, the music will continue to play faster and faster. This prompts the player to hurry, or he will die before completion. I find this amusing because in Sunday School as we sang “Father Abraham”, each verse was sung faster and faster, until the end of the song.
Although I did not devote enough time to complete the game, and because I am not an avid gamer, I am not certain what message the player should take from the game. If the player did not have prior knowledge of the Exodus story, he or she could still play the game successfully, so it seems. And without prior knowledge of the Exodus story, I am not certain that the game itself would teach the story to the player. I do not see what lesson could be applied to life outside of the game from simply playing the game and not studying the Old Testament teachings.
Here is a history on Wisdom Tree and their parent company, Color Dreams.Editby Leyton
Wisdom Tree began as a secular video game company called Color Dreams. Color Dreams produced non-licensed games playable on the Nintendo game console along with others. In the 1990's they launched a label called "Bunch Games" which had a heavy emphasis on trivia. However, these games lacked in graphics and playability and served to further the already waning reputation that Color Dreams had. In an effort forged by Nintendo to eliminate unlicensed games from stores that sold their console, Color Dreams was left to search for their own market. Video game stores could not afford to lose Nintendo as a provider, so they hacked connections with Color Dreams instead. In 1992 Color Dreams created its new label WisdomTree and began marketing to small Christian based learning stores. Because the games remain unlicensed, WisdomTree relies on their marketability as Christian educational games (through their use of Bible Trivia). However, some leaders of the new company may have forgotten where their roots lie: in the secular game arena. A co-owner is quoted saying "Basically, what we were doing was taking the garbage out and putting Bible content in. That's the whole reason for the company to begin with" (1). The reason for the shift seems to be more accurately described as market interest and ability to sell the games. Since Nintendo's initiative to get the games out of stores their consoles were sold in, Christian learning stores seems like a good escape route for Color Dreams. In fact, there are two games released by the companies that have a too-close resemblence. One is "Menace Beach" developed by Color Dreams and the other is "Sunday Funday" developed by WisdomTree (2). However secular their roots began, we cannot discount their efforts in creating fun, Christian based learning games. However, their games lack coherency in some places which may stem from their secular background. For instance, I describe in my wiki on "King of Kings" that the Bible Trivia is not necessary to win the game. Without the trivia, the game becomes a depiction of a Christian story, yes, but not a Christian game. If the Christian elements can be fished out of the game, how rooted can we say it is?