Gun-fight gaming and Manchester Cathedral

Interesting one this, broken by The Times on Friday.

Insomniac have developed a game called Resistance: Fall of Man, an action shoot-em up, for the new PS3. The game scenario takes an alternate history where the Second World War hasn’t happened and in which a strange race called the Chimera have devestated mankind through Asia and Europe before arriving on our fair shores. Though the Uk and US armies fall to the Chimera there is still a resistance (see, clue’s in the game title) of which you are part.

The game has caused considerable controversy because one of the game’s battles, central to the game, plays out in a virtual Manchester Cathedral, (which is ironic since every year the clergy hold service for the victims of gun crime), and the clergy are not happy with Sony and Insomniac.

Ruth Gledhill’s blog  has this quote from Sub-dean and Administrator, Canon Paul Denby,

 “I think they are going to be in for a surprise because we are not going to let this one go. You cannot use a cathedral in this way. One million people are visiting Manchester cathedral through this game. It is an abuse. “They ought to have sought permission. This is a place of peace, not war. This game must have been planned for months. It is abysmal to have this massive gun pointing down the nave of our cathedral. And it is our cathedral, there is no doubt about it. It is jolly rude of them not to have checked.”

In fact, it seems that Sony think that the building is common property giving this reponse when Gledhill asked about usage rights,

“David Wilson said he was not speaking as a lawyer but then added: ‘I do not think it is common in the UK to have usage rights on historical landmark buildings.'”

Depressing yes, but I encounter this kind of ignorance every day. I suspect that the Church are within their rights to fight this with just this misunderstanding and failure to request permission.

There is a liberal side of me that wants to excuse this on the grounds that I can certainly imagine what a great game scenario a cathedral would make and that, in other art forms, a fight in a cathedral could be acceptable (eg alternate history fiction) but there is something about gaming that changes this situation.

This isn’t an RPG, it’s a shoot’em up, the only value of the Cathedral in this circumstance is the majesty of the place and and possibly a bit of old vestigial sacriledge. The characters only develop in relation to their skills, life force etc not their personalities so it’s purely an arena for carnage and a “level” to get through by engaging in as much killing as possible.

So it exploits a place of peace, without permission, in an extreme and offensive way. Can’t really support that I’m afraid.

There is a counter argument that this is entertainment, that the Church has not waded into the fray as regards violence in other games, develops games of its own that are violent. All of these are true, but perhaps this is a wake-up call for the Church not only in regards to its attitude to violence that does not directly impinge on its interests but also in how it should respond to play in general.

As to whether the Church should have asked for compensation? No, the original request that the game be removed from the shelves was more appropriate – but it highlights a really important point. We need to know what our stance is on violence in these games in order to even have our views considered – we can’t expect people who know so little about the Church that they think churches are government buildings to consider spirituality in their play. We need robust spirituality of play ourselves.

Thoughts? Crits? Suggestions?

Check out some other points of view:-


4 responses to “Gun-fight gaming and Manchester Cathedral

  1. I’ve commented on the issue at length over on my blog taking a different tack but it’s a fascinating thought regarding whether the Church has a spirituality of play that it can bring to bear on such as this.

    I don’t know much about the Christian movement called ‘Godly play’ but I would have thought it might have something of relevance here… but probably needs someone far more au fait with the method and theology of it than me to comment.

  2. Thanks for your comment – I have checked out your blog and it was interesting to see the comment about the game withdrawn which had a scene in the temple. Also interesting is the reaction of the protesters in Japan which Ruth blogged (briefly) about.

    I think the Church hasn’t really worked out a spiritual response/approach to play and that’s part of the problem, as you noted, violence hasn’t been a problem for the Church in other games.

    If you find anyone who might have a better handle on this theologically let me know! I’d be really interested in what they have to say.

  3. Pingback: Stop shooting things in Manchester Cathedral » The Cartoon Blog by Dave Walker·

  4. Pingback: The Wardman Wire » Sony and Manchester Cathedral - Updated Articles·

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