Rockstar Games calls out the BBC’s ‘factual drama’ The Gamechangers as “Random, made up bollocks”.
As part of their current Make It Digital season focussing on technology, computing and the digital age, the BBC aired The Gamechangers, something they describe as a factual drama based on Rockstar Games’ success with the Grand Theft Auto series. At least that’s what the media release implied.
“The Gamechangers starring Daniel Radcliffe is a 90-minute factual drama that goes behind the scenes of the hit video game Grand Theft Auto, arguably the greatest British coding success since Bletchley Park.
In Autumn 2013, the game’s latest iteration – GTA: V – earned $1bn in just three days, becoming the fastest-selling entertainment product in history. But this drama goes back to 2002, to tell the story of a three-year period of intense controversy in the history of this iconic game’s development. It happened when two passionate men on either side of a high-stakes cultural divide clashed. This conflict, between the creative genius behind the game and a self-styled crusader for American morality, escalated into a fight for the hearts, minds and freedoms of an entire gaming generation.
The Gamechangers tells the story of how British game designers pushed boundaries into uncharted territory, of how those fighting GTA became consumed by a battle which overwhelmed their lives, and how the subsequent fallout threatened to bring down leading players on both sides.”
Pitching Rockstar’s driven visionary Sam Howser (Daniel Radcliffe) against Lawyer, Jack Thompson (Bill Paxton), the 90 minute show claims to be based in-part on legal documents to tell a dramatised version of true events. From the outset the show links GTA to real-life graphic violence by depicting Devin Moore obsessively playing the game before murdering three police officers in a copycat of scenes reminiscent of those found in the game. Lawyer Jack Thompson picks up on the case and sets about seeking justice for the families of the dead and aims his focus at the root of the problem, GTA creators Rockstar Games.
Opinion varies on the BBC’s worth in the UK, as a percentage of license payers question how sustainable and worthwhile the non-commercial corporation really is. In my opinion, you can usually bank on the Beeb to be putting out shows with integrity and I expect high production values, especially for a show such as The Gamechangers with a cast including actors of the calibre of Daniel Radcliffe and Bill Paxton. Sadly these attributes were sorely lacking in this instance.
Overtly basic dialogue used as a vehicle to explain and reiterate otherwise simple plot points coupled with cliched character depictions, awkward performances and a wholly clunky flow all add up to an interesting topic poorly presented. As the show progressed I was unsure if the focus was really on the link between violence and video games or the personal battle between the game studio and the lawyer or the undermining of Jack Thompson or the relationships within Rockstar stretched to breaking point….
Rockstar themselves were clearly not impressed either, and turned to twitter to express their contempt:
What, on paper, must have seemed like a great idea wound up being a confused concept. The Gamechangers struggled to find balance in its mixed genre setting and would have faired better as either a drama, or a documentary. However, what it has done is bring the topic of the influence of violent video games on impressionable young minds into public consciousness once more, and with luck it might encourage parents to pay a little more attention to what their kids are really playing on their consoles and PCs in the privacy of their rooms.