Gaming in Worship – I’m intrigued
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.
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.
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.