The Play to Egypt

A biblical-theological inquiry into the Wisdom Tree Game library

In the 1990s, American Christian game developer Wisdom Tree produced a series of NES and SNES video games, all of dubious quality, but exclusively based on stories from the Old and New Testament. Relatively unknown in the gamers’ communities and refused by Nintendo’s official license programme, Wisdom Tree created games like Bible Adventures (released in 1991), Joshua and the Battle of Jericho (released in 1992), Sunday Funday (released in 1995), and Super Noah’s Ark 3D (released in 1994), the last one based on the famous Nazi shooter Wolfenstein 3D (released by id Software in 1992).

The interrelated genres of ‘Christian games’ and ‘Bible games’ have mostly been neglected by both the gamers’ community, and by academic game scholars and theologians, only to be remembered and (ironically) celebrated by YouTube retro channels like The Angry Video Game Nerd. Nevertheless, Bible games like these by Wisdom Tree are prime examples of cultural usage of the Bible in the early times of gaming, providing insight in the larger reception history of the Bible in the Western world.

In this presentation, we will provide an biblical-theological analysis of one of these Wisdom Tree games: ‘The Flight to Egypt’, one of three sub-games included in the game The Early Years of the King of Kings (1991). In this game, the player controls the ‘Holy Family’ – Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus – on a donkey fleeing to Egypt away from King Herod and his infanticide. During the game, the player has to pick up Bible scrolls with quotations in order to gain extra lives, while enemies are trying to prevent the family from reaching Egypt safely. At the end of the game, the game encourages the player to “give his heart to Jesus” by praying the text provided in the game’s manual.