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Game Church

29/12/2009 Thinking Faithful Gamer Article
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Game Church

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Games are usually seen as disposable entertainment with little cultural worth. But at an event at GameCity 2009 I spend an hour watching a video game being played that was unavoidably similar to church experiences on many levels. Given half a chance and it seems that games have a lot more to offer than we may realise.

The lights are dimmed in an old Nottingham shopping centre, there are gauze sheets intersecting the thoroughfare, a bar stool and a screen is positioned beneath them and the shops are all closed.

Wandering into this space is a feeling that takes a little while to take in. The place is as full of people as on a usual shopping day, but this evening they are milling, sitting, reclining and chatting in hushed tones. Some are leant against windows, others stand free taking pictures and a young girl sketches in a book and a business man sips a coffee.

The idea of some space to let these trivial efforts appear non-trivial for a while.

An unrobed everyday man stands in the middle of the space and talks about what brought them here. Un-amplified and echoing, the gathering leans in to hear about an unusual conversation and meeting of hearts about what a video game could be, about what a video game could do. The idea of some space to let these trivial efforts appear non-trivial for a while.

We came here to watch someone play a video game, but as our performer takes a seat and starts to play it seems we are all involved in what is going on. Our presence changes the space from one of consuming and commerce back into the cathedral echoed in its architecture.

It softens the feel of the technology as we settle in to watch the game, Flower.

The game is projected onto the large cross of gauze that billows as people enter and leave. It softens the feel of the technology as we settle in to watch the game, Flower, play out through PlayStation 3 and cables and projectors.

Above the crowd a head appears unnoticed in an upper chamber. Just as unexpected are the petals they release to flutter and dance down to the watchers. Those underneath take time to realise what is happening, but those opposite are instantly transfixed by the rise and fall of each handful of flower confetti. It's an American Beauty kind of moment - a dancing paper bag.

And so we spend the next hour together. Lightly watching, quietly talking and absorbing the experience. And then we reach the end, and after a moment's pause a stuttered clap turns into applause and we respond and make clear what was implicit from the start, we are all a part of what was going on here - our community, our shared passion, our gaming church.

Written by Andy Robertson

You can support Andy by buying Game Church

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Andy Robertson writes the Faithful Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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