The Opinion Slab: Church of England in Playstation Gun Range Shocker

Here we are for yet another slab of opinion. This week I have quite an interesting one for you.

Recently the Church Of England have been having a tiff with Sony regarding the use of Manchester Cathedral in the Alien infested first-person-shooter Resistance: Fall Of Man on Playstation 3. The CofE are not only angry that a holy place was a backdrop for such a violent game, but it also undermines their work to banish gun crime from Manchester. They have demanded that the game is removed from store shelves. A meeting at the CofE on Monday to discuss what actions should be made against Sony resulted in the church asking for a large chunk of earnings from the game being donated to the CofE. They also want the game content adjusting to remove Manchester Cathedral and for Sony to support anti-gun groups. Is it right for the CofE to make such demands? Is the use of Manchester Cathedral really that bad? Is it even more odd that there is a problem with the cathedral being used in a game that is clearly science fiction due to the abundance of aliens? Does the game really undermine anti-gun groups? Is there an ethical issue with the CofE taking a large donation of cash from a game they deem so inappropriate?

My take: I can see the church’s problem with Manchester Cathedral being used in the game, and although I personally don’t have an issue with it, I can see why they take issue with it, but I don’t see how this is undermining their efforts banishing gun crime from Manchester – I thought the debate over video game violence spilling into real life was long finished in the late 90s. Then, to add insult to injury, I find the concept of the CofE demanding money from such an unethical game astonishing. On what ethical grounds can you possibly make such a demand – surely it is dirty money?

I think this is a fascinating topic, lets see what everyone thinks. Add you comments as usual to this blog entry. :)

  • nabil2199

    just in : scientology sues sony for the depiction of aliens IN BEFORE “TEH SONY SUXXX”

  • McLurker

    The BBC story appears to say that the CofE thinks it has some kind of legal case against the game. Like they can sue them for breach of copyright. If so, they must be mad.

    Personally, I think this smacks of opportunism. Maybe the cathedral needs its roof fixing?

  • Rob J. Caskey

    I too think this whole mess is profoundly stupid, but I can see how they might believe that if there was some legally actionable issue that would result in $$$ they would be entitled to it rightfully. “Dirty money” seems more along the lines of cash that someone else has a more rightful claim too (i.e., cash swindled out of old people, property taken by theft). If I take $10 from you, you might (at least in the US) want $10 from me (quite rightfully), even though the collective pool of the thief’s assets might be “dirty” (whatever that means). So yes, I can see them entitled to money if there were in fact any damages, but I find the notion of taking legal action over fictionalized representations of real life venues as being a waste of taxpayer (and in this case tither) resources.

  • gord

    Why doesn’t manchester sue sony for having manchester in the game? why don’t we all sue sony for letting humans get shoot who could potentially be us? im gonna go sue everyone for anything ever.

  • spd106

    For a large international company such as Sony to market a product with that uses a public building like the City of Manchester’s Cathedral without seeking permission does seem inexcusable. I could understand a third party map or mod that was intended for limited or private use doing this, but not a company with shareholders. It’s just one PR disaster after another for Sony. Keeps them in the news though.

    Also, the Bishop of Manchester was on Jeremy Vine’s radio show this afternoon and he stated that they are not looking for any money themselves, they would however appreciate a donation to the many anti-gun violence projects running in the city.

  • mrben

    I think that the CofE have every right to complain about the use of their building in a game without their permission. And if Sony had asked for permission, then they wouldn’t have been given it. Similarly, I imagine that if it had been set in a school there would be a similar furore.

    When I saw it on TV they also noted that there had been a number of funerals of gun crime victims, plus some services dedicated to the anti-gun work in Manchester (IIRC), so I can fully understand their problem with it.

    Whether or not they should take money is a difficult one. The trade is not illegal, so I don’t see it as “dirty” money. Nor have the Church said that they link games with violence, or anything like that. It’s not an unreasonable request to ask for some of the money to go towards resolving the problem – if you don’t ask, you don’t get 😉

  • mrben

    Oh, and FWIW, Cathedrals aren’t public buildings – they’re owned by the church and usually opened to the public, but don’t receive any government funding or anything like that.

  • ditsch

    Of course it is all about money 👿

    I’d just like to add that the debate over video games spilling into real life isn’t over by far. At least here in Germany, there is a lively political debate about so-called »killer-games« and how to ban them by law.

  • Dan Martin

    Public place or not, stories, books, movies, paintings, and any form of art (which includes video games) have every right to depict private and public dwellings. Changing this would be insane. Does “Independence Day” or “American President” require permission or payment of the US government for depicting the White House? The Louvre in DaVinci Code? The Las Vegas casinos depicted in dozens of movies (most recently Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen)? Hundreds of video games depict locations private and public. Do they all need to pay royalties? What about the thousands of pictures taken of private buildings in cities like New York and London? Do photographers need permission, or to pay royalties?

    What a ridiculous concept. Everyone has to have something to complain about these days. If you don’t want your building shown in a movie, video games, or Google street maps, you’d just better build it underground or something.

    Don’t complain that when you’ve built something the public can see, the public uses it as artistic inspiration. Artistic expression is what we do universally as a species since the beginning of our existence. Only the medium changes, and now one medium is video games.

    If Jesus returns, should He be asking the church for royalties for all their depictions of Him without His permission? In today’s climate, I would almost expect it.

  • Ryan

    I don’t personally have a problem with the game using the Manchester Cathedral as a backdrop. What’s more gross to me is the CofE attempting to collect on something they consider wrong.

    The ironic piece to this story, however, is the inability of the CofE to recognize the connection between the video game and their own beliefs. The Bible clearly portrays the existence of created beings that are non-human. Where the culture at large calls these aliens and sometimes pictures them as hostile the Bible calls them angels and though they can be hostile towards people who oppose God (which happens often in church) they are not fundamentally hostile to our race, but here to help. I wish the church could just say, way cool, aliens in church, ya, we’ve been telling stories on that theme for a long time. We really pray you weren’t shooting them up, but that’s your choice.

  • Thomas Thurman

    mrben: While it’s true that Manchester Cathedral is owned by the Church, it does receive public funds for maintenance, as almost all Anglican and RC cathedrals do:

    You should also bear in mind that the Church of England is the state religion, and therefore to some extent is there for everyone: it’s not as though this building belonged to some private organisation.

    Ryan: For your comment to make sense, the Church would have to be objecting to the portrayal of aliens in the game (or perhaps the portrayal of aliens in connection with the cathedral). I can’t find anything which says they objected in this way. Can you show me your sources?

  • mrben

    I think it’s worth underlining that, at least in any of the press that I have seen, no-one from the church has ever tried to make any mileage out of the whole “video games lead to violence” debate. They have talked about the fact that people will “see guns in Manchester cathedral”, but any linkage between the games and real violence has come from other sources.

    It’s nice to see them not jumping on the bandwagon 😉

  • Sokraates

    “I thought the debate over video game violence spilling into real life was long finished in the late 90s.”

    You shurely missed all the fun going on in Germany.

    After a teenager, who played Conter Strike in his spare time, ran amok in 2002 in Erfurt, the debates started again, with all possibly violent games suddenly being referred to as “Killergames” by the media. After another incident in 2006 in Emsdetten, the debate suddenly exploded with politicians demanding violent games to be banned and studios, who develop such games, to be fined (the last demand was actually the best that could happen, since it forced the German gaming industry into the debate).

    Though by now the amount of media coverage has dropped and the demands have become less radical, the issue is still hotly debated.

  • Nomen Nescio

    it’s an exterior facade, for jeebus’ sake. if the church doesn’t want it freely depicted, let them wrap it in scaffolding or something and demand people sign a license before being allowed in to photograph the thing. then see who copyrights the “scaffolding wrapped in cheap tarps” “design”.

  • David

    I’ve written over on my blog about this at length – as a gamer and a trainee minister in the Church of England, I’ve plenty to say on the subject. Sony have made mistakes on this but the Church hasn’t covered itself in glory either as some of your commenters point out.

    Anyway, commenting here to just clarify a couple of mistaken points:

    Nomen Nescio – it’s not an exterior facade. They’ve used the inside of the Cathedral for parts of one particular level in the game.

    Secondly, this is not the ‘Church of England’ that is engaging Sony in this. The Church doesn’t work like that. The offended party who is making all the fuss through the press, threatening legal action etc is the Dean & Chapter of Manchester Cathedral – i.e. the team of clergy who run that building. It’s the Dean & Chapter who are asking for the apology, for the withdrawal of the game and a donation – not the ‘Church of England’ as an institution.

    It might sound finicky to point that out but it does make a big difference – especially when some of your commenters are tarring the entire Church with this same brush.

  • Peter Lewis

    Presumably the church wouldn’t have really noticed, nor done anything about it if the guns in the game had been depicted in a nice black neighbourhood, steeped in poverty.

    I agree with the point, but it’s poorly made.