The Church of England will this week call upon Sony Computer Entertainment to remove from sale or modify the contents of PlayStation 3 first-person shooter Resistance: Fall of Man because of its anger over the inclusion of Manchester Cathedral as a backdrop.
Church officials are concerned that the cathedral is being used as a backdrop to gun violence given Manchester's history of gun crime and the cathedral's role in campaigns against guns, and those concerns are mingling with a potential legal row over whether Sony sought permission to use the famous building. The Church says no. Sony says yes.
"We believe we have sought and received all permissions necessary for the creation of the game," Sony explained in a statement. The BBC reported that Church officials contradicted this and threatened a lawsuit. However, the wording of Sony's comments is open to interpretation - with the word "necessary" perhaps quite significant.
According to the BBC, Church officials will now meet to draft a letter demanding an apology, the withdrawal of the game from sale or else modification of the section of the game featuring the cathedral interior, a substantial donation to the cathedral's education department, and support for other groups in Manchester fighting gun crime.
The reaction to the row among gamers has been mixed, although there has been condemnation of tabloid journalists and others "sensationalising" Resistance's content. The British press certainly has "form" in this regard, having previously driven Rockstar Games' Manhunt off store shelves after the mother of murder victim Stefan Pakeerah claimed his attacker had been obsessed with the game, ultimately calling for violent games to be banned. The police subsequently denied any link with the game, while the judge placed sole responsibility with Pakeerah's attacker, Warren Leblanc.
But while Manhunt's themes were certainly dark and sometimes uncomfortable, in Resistance's case the game - set in an alternative history where a weird, alien-esque race sweeps across Europe and has to be fought back in the streets of England - is reminiscent in places of a World War II shooter, but its enemies are unlikely to be confused for humans, and its graphics are certainly not "photo-realistic" - a label applied to them by the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, in the Times' original report, leading to suggestions that the Church has been baited into a reactionary stance without investigating the material involved sufficiently.
"It is well known that Manchester has a gun crime problem," McCulloch had said. "For a global manufacturer to re-create one of our great cathedrals with photo-realistic quality and then encourage people to have guns battles in the building is beyond belief and highly irresponsible." The Dean of Manchester Cathedral, the Very Reverend Rogers Govender, said officials were "shocked" to see the cathedral presented "to the youth market as a location where guns can be fired".
It's also not clear whether Church officials realise that Resistance: Fall of Man, which carries a 15 certificate in the UK, has been on sale across Europe since 23rd March, and in the USA since November 2006.
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