The Church of England on Wednesday urged the people of Japan to join its campaign against a violent Sony Corp. computer game that allegedly uses a British cathedral as a backdrop.
“For a global manufacturer to recreate the interior of any religious building such as a mosque, synagogue, or in this case, a cathedral, with photo realistic quality and then encourage people to have gun battles in the building is beyond belief and in our view highly irresponsible,” the dean of Manchester Cathedral, the Very Rev. Rogers Govender, said at a news conference.
In Tokyo, Sony’s video game unit said Wednesday it had begun talks with the Church of England over its complaint that Manchester cathedral in northwest England had been used in the shooting game for Sony’s new PlayStation 3 console.
Govender denied that. He said the Church of England had sent a letter to Sony on Monday outlining its concerns and making several demands, but had yet to receive a formal response.
“We believe a silent response on the issue is not acceptable behavior,” Govender said. “Today I want to appeal directly to the people of Japan to help us put pressure on Sony to respond. So I speak directly to those citizens who share our concerns.”
The church’s anti-Sony campaign appeared to win the sympathy of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
During Blair’s weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons, he urged companies such as Sony to focus on their social obligations and not just profits.
“It is important that any of the companies who are engaged in promoting this type of goods have some sense of responsibility and also some sensitivity to the feelings of others,” Blair said in response to a question from a Manchester-area legislator. “It’s important that people understand there is a wider social responsibility as well as simply responsibility for profit.”
The debate began Saturday when the church said Sony had not asked for permission to use Manchester cathedral in the game and demanded an apology.
The new PlayStation 3 game, “Resistance: Fall of Man,” involves a virtual shootout between rival gunmen with hundreds of people killed inside the cathedral. Church officials have described Sony’s alleged use of the building as “sick” and sacrilegious.
The church has said it will consider legal action if the game is not withdrawn.
In Tokyo on Wednesday, Sony Computer Entertainment spokeswoman Nanako Kato said the company had heard about the church’s complaint through the media earlier, but began direct talks with the church “yesterday or today.”
“We take the church’s views seriously,” she said. She declined to give details of the talks. More time may be needed for an agreement because the problem was complex, she said.
Historic buildings are often used in entertainment, she said, citing iconic movie scenes involving Godzilla and the Tokyo Tower and King Kong in Manhattan.
Kato acknowledged the church in the game bore a resemblance in some parts to Manchester cathedral. But she said the point was to depict the backdrop of an old church, not to illustrate a specific church.
In parts of the game, the central character walks through a cathedral armed with a gun and shoots at alien enemies, which often splatter blood when hit.
Although the cathedral appears only in some scenes, it would be difficult to delete them from the game, which went on sale with the launch of the PlayStation 3 next-generation console.
The machine went on sale in Japan and the U.S. late last year, and in Europe in March.
Kato said Sony understood the Church of England was offended especially because of its efforts to reduce gun violence in Manchester. “Resistance: Fall of Man” — a Sony original — has sold more than 2 million units around the world, Kato said.
Govender said the church was demanding the immediate withdrawal of the game, a Sony apology for using the interior of the cathedral without permission and a substantial donation to the church’s education department.
Kato declined to say whether Sony would make such donations.