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I remember being a kid and seeing my fellow young-uns getting in trouble for trying to sneak their Game Boy into church. Things sure have changed in the past 20 years, as Exeter Cathedral in Devon, England, has actually incorporated video games (Flower and Journey, to be specific) into their services.
According to a report from Game People, it all began with a talk from Andy Robertson about “Sustainable Perspectives in Video games” and how they can have a deeper meaning than what may be assumed at face value. The Exeter clergy happened to be in attendance at the talk and thought it would be interesting to put that idea to the test.
The effort began with Flower about a month ago and was warmly received by those in attendance. Exeter staff decided to bring the concept back last Sunday, this time introducing their worshippers to Journey. Both games have received much critical praise and attention for their “stories” that are left wide open for interpretation. Members of the congregation took turns playing thatgamecompany’s latest title, complete with help from anonymous online partners, and the rest of the service continued with the game running in the background.
Here’s some video coverage of the event from Family Gamer TV.
According to Anna Norman-Walker, Diocesan Missioner at the Cathedral, the presence of Journey opened a lot of doors on new ways to think about video games.
"Worship is not a ‘spectator sport’ and anything that helps people to make connections with God and express something of a response to God is worth exploring," Norman-Walker said. "Gaming could be a really creative way of engaging with people in a fresh way and could potentially transcend age and culture gaps."
It’s interesting that Norman-Walker brings up that last point, as that is one of the aspects of Journey most frequently discussed during its launch on the PlayStation 3 earlier this year. With players only able to "speak" with one another via musical noises, the game offered its audience an unprecedented method for communicating with and, more importantly, understanding one another no matter what cultural, geographical or language barriers would have otherwise stood in their way.
I’m not sure many other titles could be featured so prominently in a church service but I, for one, love seeing video games reaching the world in such interesting ways.