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Gaming in Worship – I’m intrigued

Photo from Exeter Cathedral of Communion celebrated in front of Flower backdrop

A few years ago, Manchester Cathedral and the video game industry had something of a clash. I was encouraged and pleased to hear of a very different encounter between church and gaming industry from Exeter Cathedral recently.

A good friend recently alerted me to this story of a man called Andy Robertson who has collaborated with Exeter Cathedral to use video games in worship.

The service made use of the PlayStation 3 game, Flower. If you’ve not seen Flower before, it is worth checking out one or two of the YouTube videos that you can readily access. Resistance: Fall of Man, full of violence and carnage, this is not. It is a beautiful game, very immersive, almost meditative.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUC2tpY5gb4[/youtube]

If you want to read Andy’s account of how the service went. You can find it online on his blog.

I find this an absolutely fascinating development. In the book I recently self-published, I talk at length about the possibilities of ‘play’ in worship. A long-standing culture surrounding worship and its preparation has been about doing things ‘better’, more efficiently; preferably bigger with success usually graded in terms of the number of people attending. All success criteria that draw from a fairly mechanistic view of the world. But ought not worship to promote values that suggest human beings are not machines or mere numbers, but rather creative, organic, evolving, children of God? And if we are children, ought we not feel able to play? As I said in the book:

“through imagery, video, and a drive to be creative with what the technology enables, much could be done to include a sense of play, of ‘wasting time’ with God, developing relationship through dialogue in the way that a bride would relate to her husband (ed: or one might add a child with their father)”

Zsolt Ilyés published an article in a recent book of essays in which he discussed ‘the human person at play’. He notes how cultic ritual, both down the ages and across the world, is usually a means to an end. Whether asking the gods for rain, victory over an enemy, healing for a loved one. Indeed, our worship includes some such requests where it is a means to an end for us too.

However, worship isn’t just about what we can get from God. What sets it above such cultic ritual is that liturgy, as Ilyés describes it, has ‘a gratuitous dimension’. It’s a feast, a dance, an expression of love. We forget the goals, we simply celebrate with thanks for redemption and the love of God (Ilyes, p136). For him, a loss of play means a loss of the liturgical… a loss of why we do it all in the first place.

… I’m just trying to work out how I can have a go at playing with such ideas in my context here!

 

Zsolt Ilyés, The Human Person at Play, in Leachman, JG, (2008) The Liturgical Subject: Subject, Subjectivity and the Human Person in Contemporary Liturgical Discussion and Critique, London: SCM Press, p132-153.

Comments

Robyn
Reply

I’ve never heard of using video games to worship. How interesting! I recently purchased a book called, ” The iChurch Method: How to Advance Your Ministry Online.” by Jason Caston. The book was written to help ministries advance the Kingdom online and take the gospel to the world. The book contains 5 different parts to taking your ministry online. I am really enjoying it. It’s very informative on how to reach out to people online! http://www.theichurchmethod.com/ We have to be creative in how we reach out to people!

David
Reply

Robyn, thanks for the comment and the recommendation.

Obviously using technology in worship is a new development and yet actually a pretty old story. There has always been technology in worship – just different sorts of technology. What fascinates me most is the idea of ‘playing’ in worship (understood in its widest sense) and how technology can enable some new vistas in our thinking.

Robyn
Reply

Kind of exciting if you think about it!

wannabepriest / Reflections from #cnmac12
Reply

[…] I’ve blogged about a good few on this website. What a chance to share good ideas – using the PS3 in worship, asking questions of the sermon via Twitter or why sermons using Powerpoint may not be a great […]

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