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“virtual desecration”

I’m finding the implications of this story fascinating:

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.

This seems to be the Cathedral’s response to Sony’s refusal to withdraw Resistance: Fall of Man, which features a violent showdown in a game environment modeled on the Cathedral. The publishers failed to get any form of consent.

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Issues of legality not withstanding, the idea that certain real-world environments are off-limits for re-creation in digital entertainments is something I hadn’t really considered.

Certainly a Disneyland or a Graceland environment would require permissions from the rights holders involved. But non-corporate entities (people!) fretting about the potential behavior of game players in the virtual versions of their cathedrals, parks, monuments, museums, even their neighborhoods… well, I just can’t get my head around it. Is it silly? Is it sad? Is it simply a case of misaligned priorities?

Or are we seeing the beginning of an era where we must concern ourselves not only with how we portray ourselves online, but how others are portraying the places we care about? I live in San Francisco, a city with a reputation for being, shall we say, less than flag-wavingly patriotic. Is someone going to make a “shoot the hippie” game, set in a virtual Upper Haight? And if they do, should I give a damn?

It all seems a bit odd. Then again, the winds seem to have been blowing towards “odd” for the better part of this decade.

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