Recently, Sony has courted controversy (to a certain degree) due to featuring Manchester Cathedral in a violent video game – the fairly well received Resistance: Fall of Man. Sony’s Playstation game uses the historic church as a scene in which violent gunplay takes place.
Originally, spokespeople for the church asked for the game to be withdrawn from sale – Sony however did not accept this request, but it did apologise for using the graphics within the game.
The Very Reverend Rogers Govender had the following to say regarding the use of Manchester Cathedral:
“We do forgive Sony for what they have done, even though they still believe they have done nothing wrong. In an industry that is breaking new frontiers, it is important that long held traditions of film and television are maintained. These traditions include having courtesy, respecting the dignity of your subject, and admitting when mistakes have been made. In so many ways Sony have failed to live up to these standards by disrespecting people of faith and the victims of gun crime here in Manchester.”
I’m really in two minds about this. I’m not one of those politically correct do-gooders and taking the religious aspect out of the question could then raise the issue of image rights within a game – if I made a game for instance could I feature my local mall or would that be violating their image rights?
Of course, the real issue is the content – that is what Rev Govender after all is taking issue with. I highly doubt the company that brought us the Playstation, the original mass-market entertainment system, would want to disrespect anyone, either those of faith or any victims of crime, gun or otherwise. However, this begs an important question – should first person shooters really feature real-life locations? If not, it then surely draws some realism from the game.
It’s interesting that the Very Reverend Rogers Govender picked up on how gaming is at the forefront and is breaking new frontiers. I’d like to really consider this for a second. There’s still a lot of argument over whether games are art. If they are, then surely they are allowed to provoke debate in this manner? Perhaps because art is made for purpose (i.e. it is what it is) whereas games are made solely for entertainment moves them into a different direction.
One real issue here is the bad press games receive in general. Things like this don’t help and in a way I’m inclined to say that Sony have slipped up. They maybe shouldn’t have done what they did – set a ‘violent’ videogame in an important religious location.
However, let’s be fair about what Resistance: Fall of Man is. The storyline is as follows:
‘In Resistance: Fall of Man, the U.S. and Britain band together in a last-ditch effort to save Europe and Asia from a horrific scourge. In mere decades, the Chimera, a species of unknown origin propagating a virus that converts other life forms into more Chimera, has overrun Russia and all of Europe. Humanity’s hope for survival is slim, and the tide of the battle rests on the shoulders of U.S. Army Ranger, Sgt. Nathan Hale.’
So, you’re fighting an unknown alien enemy, and one scene happens to be in a church. It is a console FPS – plain and simple. Religious beliefs are held above all others for some, which is exactly the reason why Sony has hit a nerve here. I don’t think however though that it really relates to gun crime and to be honest, I think that it has been blown a little out of proportion.
Nonetheless, these are the sorts of issues that will come about as gaming comes further into popular culture and the general public are more aware of the sorts of games that are out there. Of course, the whole issue of video gaming violence is still very high on the agenda, and is something I’ll explore in a separate article.