Critical Analysis – The Game

The Game’ is a five-minute film (available in my Video page) that portrays the story of a young teenager seriously addicted to computer games. Much like other ‘traditional’ addicts who contend with arguably more serious dependencies, the protagonist – Nathan – fails to accept the reality of his situation and in so doing, evades responsibility for his actions. The narrative is conveyed in a typical ‘day-in-the-life’ format, with the protagonist guiding the audience through a normal day. As the day progresses, Nathan reveals more about the unique thought process of an addict: one that subconsciously works to justify his actions and therefore, draws attention away from his problem. The protagonist’s reality is portrayed as having become blurred with the imaginary world of gaming: a world that provides him with escapism, and a new reality in which he feels comfortable. This becomes evident when the film touches upon Nathan’s relationship with his mother, and on that of his friends. 

Nathan’s dialogue, based on his thoughts and feelings, is delivered by use of a voiceover that assumes the role of the “character in the narrative” (Bruzzi, 2006: P47): a practice usually reserved for fictional films. However, this production could be considered documentary material insofar as the subject matter is concerned – even though it is presented as a fictional portrait. This film could then be categorised as a piece of docu-fiction, a genre that is described by Bourriaud as

“…works which mix historical, journalistic or personal inquiry with fictionalised accounts. They layer archive and historical material with personal information. Truth and fiction are presented side by side, in modes traditionally associated with the authentic”, (2009, 204).

The film, primarily shot as ‘Cinéma Vérité‘, then combines different production techniques. As with most contemporary productions, the film further qualifies as ‘eclectic‘. Michael Rabiger describes the eclectic form as films that since the 1980s, “drew more freely on allied art forms and disciplines”, (Rabiger, 1987: P57).

It is clear that the objective for this production is to bring awareness to the issues arising from gaming addiction. Aside from the technical considerations already discussed, the way the message is presented within the content renders the film engaging in more than one capacity, as shall be demonstrated. Pre-production research shows that online films of similar duration, and that also bring awareness to a minority concern, share many technical characteristics insofar as their production. However, with regards to content and presentation, there are two clear extremes within which ‘The Game’ comfortably sits. Comedic films such as ‘League of Legions: The Story of a Video Game Addict’ (BZak Productions, 2013) and ‘League of Legions: Addiction’ (BZak Productions, 2012) are representative of one extreme. These parodies portray a narrative similar to that of the protagonist, but conveyed in a humorous way, therefore diluting the serious consequences addiction can bring. At the other extreme you will find more factual examples such as video-logs and mini-documentaries. ‘Autism Awareness – Ten Things You Should Know’ (Just A Skinny Boy, 2013) and ‘The Life of a Video Game Addict’ (Don’t Touch My Head Productions, 2010) for example, equally share the characteristic delivery technique that is ‘direct-address’, as much as a seriousness that pervades the subject matter. However, it is widely accepted that ‘entertainment’ is the most popular genre in film, so in order to reach a wider audience; a less formal approach might prove advantageous.

Docu-fiction could then be measured as sitting in between such examples, and encompassing the best qualities of both extremes. The subject matter is thus afforded the seriousness it deserves, and the entertainment value might contribute to increasing audience engagement. Official institutions such as the Kolkata traffic police department have successfully adopted this approach, when producing their safety awareness clips.

In the second instance, ‘The Game’ might be deemed more engaging than the examples identified by way of the character-driven narrative. Aside from audience members who are legitimately interested in the subject matter, therein lies a possibility for others to be taken in by the characters and the storyline.

Whatever drives the main character in your character-driven story, make sure it is an inner conflict as powerful as any outer conflict could hope to be: urgent, unavoidable and full of an emotional appeal that anyone can feel”, (Maass, 2001: p172).

This in itself is a crucial element of the film’s objective: if we consider that viewers genuinely interested in the subject matter do not constitute a spreading of awareness – since they are already aware – then it is the undecided viewer, or the disinterested individual that has to be drawn in for awareness to spread further. However, the question as to whether this has actually been achieved or not, remains.

As part of the evaluation, ‘The Game’ was screened for a small audience with a view to gauging reaction and gathering opinion. First, a short presentation highlighted the overall objectives for the film, and elaborated on the disciplines involved in the production. After the screening, audience response forms were distributed. The feedback obtained suggests that the overall reaction to the film was positive…

Total number of forms completed – 30

Yes

No

Did the narrative and character portrayal successfully convey the issues surrounding gaming addiction?

66.7%

33.3%

Do you think the subject matter was awarded the seriousness it deserves?

100%

Did you find the protagonist’s character portrayal engaging?

66.7%

33.3%

Do you consider the film suitable for an awareness campaign on gaming addiction?

100%

Would you say that the film could be categorised as docu-fiction?

100%

From these results, one can easily derive that most of the audience engaged with the protagonist in a positive way. This achieves the objective that the film should be character driven. Furthermore, all participants agreed that the film afforded the subject the seriousness it deserves, and consider the piece to be fit-for-purpose. Whilst there was some reservation regarding the authenticity of the protagonist’s character, the overall objectives were met successfully.

Christian Gadd (985 words).

Semester 5 (September – December 2015) : Independent Film Practice.

Bibliography

Adair, Cam, (2013), ‘Escaping Video Game Addiction’, Colorado: TEDx Talks. [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHmC2D0_Hdg

BBC Panorama, ‘Addicted to Games?’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R83287N6kFg

Bruzzi, Stella, (2006), ‘New Documentary’ SE, New York: Routledge.

Bourriaud, Nicolas, (2009), ‘Altermodern Themes: Docu-fiction’, in Pooke, Grant, (2011), ‘Contemporary British Art: An Introduction’, Oxon: Routledge.

Dr. Phil, ‘Video Game Addiction’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th5rdHh_CFI

Kolkata Traffic Police, (2015), ‘Awareness Clips’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdrF1NMlbw4

BZak Productions, (2012), ‘LoL Addiction’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Pfrt17IyRk

BZak Productions, (2013), ‘LoL The Story of a Video Game addict’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT_NJ-8bMlU

Just A Skinny Boy, (2013), ‘Autism Awareness – Ten Things You Should Know’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5m5vqrFZpc

Maass, Donald, (2001), ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’, Ohio: F + W Publications.

MegaJamWebTV, (2015), ‘The Game’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://youtu.be/VJClI2JpRQg

Rabiger, Michael, (1987), ‘Directing the Documentary’, Burlington: Focal Press.

Video Game Addiction, ‘What is Video Game Addiction’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

http://www.video-game-addiction.org/what-is-computer-internet-addiction.html

Don’t Touch My Head Productions, (2010), ‘XP: The Life of a Video Game Addict’, [Accessed 02/12/15].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UPsAJDTFSU

About Christian Gadd

Christian Gadd
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