There have been a couple of volleys in the dust-up between Sony and the good Anglican Bishop of Manchester since we last checked in. So let’s bring you up to date. As you will recall, Sony produced a video game called Resistance: Fall of Man which involves battles between military units and creepy aliens across a post-apocalyptic Europe. One shootout scene was set in a digital representation of the Manchester Cathedral. The Bishop of Manchester took exception to this and demanded an apology … and a a payoff! … from Sony. Shortly thereafter Sony apologized. We assessed it as a pro forma “get off my back” apology. And there we left things in June.
If you didn’t see this coming, you haven’t been paying attention. The good bishop deemed Sony’s first apology insufficiently contrite. After various meetings and consultations, Sony put on the figurative ashes and sackcloth to grovel in true Medieval style:
SONY has apologised `unreservedly’ to the people of Manchester for
using the city’s Anglican cathedral as a backdrop to bloodshed in a
PlayStation 3 game. …
Sony has admitted offending the cathedral congregation and the wider
community in a letter sent to the M.E.N. It has also placed an advert
in today’s paper to express regret.
Dr David A Reeves,
president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, said: “It is clear to
us that the connection between the congregation and the cathedral is a
deeply personal and spiritual one.
“As a result, it is also clear that we have
offended some of the congregation by using the cathedral in our science
fiction game. It was never our intention to offend anyone in the making
of this game, and we would like to apologise unreservedly to them for
causing that offence, and to all parts of the community who we might
also have offended.”
Dr Reeves also said the firm would ensure that Manchester Cathedral was not used in any of its games again.
(“Sony says ‘sorry’,” Manchester Evening News)
Well, did that do it the second time around?
You already know the answer, don’t you?
MANCHESTER, England, July 6 (UPI) — The clergy at Manchester Cathedral
says Sony’s apology for using images of the venerable British church in
a video game isn’t enough. (“Church says Sony apology falls short,” PoliticalGateway.com)
Now, Apology Index is by no means a scientifically comprehensive review of all apologies everywhere. But based on our small sample of two apology demands involving religious figures — this Sony case and the Apology Crisis in the Punjab! — religious leaders seem to be particularly picky about which apologies they will accept. Which, on the one hand, seems odd — aren’t they in the forgiveness business?
But, on the other hand, makes perfect sense — they are also in the contrition business and they know a not up to snuff apology when they see it!
A more cynical point of view would be that clergy know that they’ve got at least a presumption of the moral high ground in almost any dispute — especially with a big multinational corporation — and can afford to be exacting in their demands. And what are the clergy of Manchester’s demands. Grab a pen and paper:
The cathedral’s lawyers are still “in conversation” with lawyer’s at Sony over
the Dean of Manchester’s demand that the game, a PS3 “shooter” called
Resistance: Fall of Man, be withdrawn.
And cathedral clergy are also demanding a response from Sony to their request
for a donation to their work with young people and the victims of gun crime.(“Manchester Cathedral says Sony apology not enough and issues new digital rules,” Times Online)
To get the full effect, you’ve got to read this quote from the Dean of Manchester aloud in your best Marlon Brando Godfather imitation:
Dean of Manchester, the Very Rev Rogers Govender, said: “We asked Sony to
apologise unreservedly to the Cathedral and wider community for the offence
caused. This they have done.
“We asked them to withdraw the game. They have refused to do this.
“We asked Sony to make a donation to community groups nominated by the
Cathedral. They have not responded.”
So they still want the game off the shelves. And they still want their ransom. But, wait! There’s more!
Manchester Cathedral is calling for all video games manufacturers to sign up
to a new set of “sacred digital guidelines” to prevent future “virtual
desecration” of religious buildings. (Times Online)
More Godfather fun from the Dean of Manchester:
“We also asked them to sign up to the Sacred Digital Guidelines. They have refused to do this.” (“Sony Issues ‘Unreserved’ Apology to Manchester Cathedral,” ChristianToday.com)
Sacred digital guidelines? Virtual desecration? I’m pretty sure none of that is the Bible. The Church of England is just making this stuff up on the fly. I don’t think any of that will fly in the USA, where we have a little thing called the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech … including, presumably, the freedom to have imaginary characters in fictional video games have imaginary shootouts in digital representations of buildings. So I think Sony can skate here in America. But in the U.K, who knows? They’ve been heading toward a V for Vendetta society for years now.
Sadly, Sony might be better off to go ahead and give the Very Offended Reverend his wergild. We shall see.
But I still stand by my original position that lost in all of the good reverend’s umbrage is the fact that no actual cathedrals were harmed in the making of Sony’s video game!
See some good discussion of the whole mess in reader responses at GamePolitics.com.
For completeness, here is Sony’s still-not-good-enough apology:
Letters to the Editor, Manchester Evening News
At a recent meeting with Dean Rogers Govender and Canon Denby of Manchester
Cathedral we discussed the use of the Cathedral as a setting for one of the
scenes in our video game Resistance Fall of Man.
It is clear to us that the connection between the congregation and the Cathedral
is a deeply personal and spiritual one. As a result, it is also clear that
we have offended some of the congregation by using the Cathedral in our
science fiction game.
It was never our intention to offend anyone in the making of this game, and we
would like to apologise unreservedly to them for causing that offence, and
to all parts of the community who we might also have offended.
Furthermore, we will ensure that Manchester Cathedral is never used as a setting
in any future Sony Computer Entertainment video game.
Dr David A Reeves
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe