Idol Chatter

The Church of England is taking on the “Fall of Man,” and we aren’t talking about Adam and Eve. No, this time they are battling the multimedia serpent known as Sony.
CNN reports that Manchester, England church leaders “have accused Sony of the “desecration” of the [Manchester] cathedral after the firm set the top-selling new PlayStation game, ‘Resistance: Fall of Man,’ in the place of worship.”
In the game, the cathedral is the stage for a massive shoot out between human and alien forces, resulting in hundreds of casualties.
Apparently, not only did Sony not ask permission to use the likeness of the cathedral, but Manchester has a gun violence program, and a candlelight vigil is held yearly at the cathedral for those felled by guns. Church officials are looking to take legal action against the corporation.
The Dean of Manchester Cathedral, The Very Revd. Rogers Govender, called the use of the cathedral “beyond belief” and said that it “undermined the important work the church did and created an image the church did not want to be connected with.” Other church officials described it as “sick and sacrilegious.”

A spokesman for Sony Japan told CNN that the company was taking the complaint very seriously and that the interiors for the game’s cathedral were based on those of the Manchester Cathedral. However, another representative of the company pointed out that, “It is
game-created footage, it is not video or photography. It is entertainment, like Doctor Who or any other science fiction. …Throughout the whole process we have sought permission where necessary.”
And, therein lies the rub. I’m not familiar with British law, but in the U.S. people routinely try to prevent photography of buildings and monuments by citing nonexistent “copyright” protections. So while the usage may be in bad taste, it may not necessarily be illegal. More likely, the company could argue that the cathedral was merely an inspiration for the design of the game world’s house of worship, and not a verbatim recreation–as most gaming worlds are.
But the Church of England has history on its side; and we’re not talking about 2000 years of biblical history. In 2002, Eidos, the British producers of games such as “Tomb Raider,” came under fire from the Sikh community thanks to “Hitman 2: Silent Assasin,” a third-person “stealth” action game in which certain characters were Sikh and Dalit. It featured attacks on Sikhs in their houses of worship, with one looking suspiciously like the Harmander Sahib or The Golden Temple.
Sikh groups claimed that the game incited “hatred against Sikhs by linking them to terrorism.”
Eidos eventually removed all relevent content and images from their website, amended the current release, and reworked upcoming editions.
I think that calling Sony’s actions “sacriligious” is far flung. Heck, Doctor Who battled aliens in a church, albeit with a sonic screwdriver, not a gun. But, even if Sony has a legal leg to stand on, they may want to kneel down and ask for penance. Not just because it would be the tasteful –and some would say morally correct–thing to do, but it would be the smart thing to do.
As Chris Leyton at notes, “More concerning for Sony is that this comes as the latest addition to an already lengthy list of negative PR surrounding the PlayStation3, as the company’s unassailable grip on the videogames market slowly appears to be slipping through its fingers.”

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