BBC Panorama ‘Addicted to Games?’ (Dec 2010)

As part of my research into how to construct our short film in terms of both narrative and craft skills I have been researching how the media have documented the issue of video games previously. I discovered a short documentary from the BBC’s Panorama brand that aims to highlight the growing issue of video game addiction.

I found this documentary to be useful in both helping identify the type of characters who play videogames and also techniques used by the film maker to portray the  narrative in terms of shots and audio used selectively to give an underlying tone. I will explore both aspects below.


I don’t think there is any doubting that the use of video games has risen dramatically over the past 20 years, they are now common place in society and part of many peoples daily lives, be it on mobile, tablet pac or more traditionally the home console. I found it interesting that when creating this documentary the programme makers chose to emphasise violent games in particular over the many other forms of game genre that are equally addictive and I think this was done to fit into the programmes narrative that games or game addiction is somewhat akin to other types of addiction such as alcohol or drugs.

By relating the narrative to other hard forms of addiction I think makes it easier to shock the audience and create more of a talking point by including shocking figures and statistics to back up claims.

With any documentary narrative I think it’s important to stand back and consider all the information presented. In ‘Addicted to games?’ one sequence concentrates on an artist. Robbie Cooper and how he filmed peoples reactions through the screen of their TV’s while playing video games and watching normal TV programmes.

BBC`s panorama   videogame addiction     part 1   2   YouTube

In this sequence the presenter discussed how the reactions were different between normal TV viewing and the use of video games suggesting that somehow video games were more addictive based on reflexes in participants faces. I found this information to be a bit misleading as the two forms of media (Video game and General TV) have major differences, ‘normal’ TV being predominantly a passive experience while gaming due to it’s very nature is highly interactive. I think the use of this information in the documentary with little context as to the differences between the mediums only serves to further cement the programme makers intended narrative that computer games and excessive gaming in general is something that should be frowned upon.

In relation to our short film I think we will be using the narrative that has already be set by the media in general that video games can be dangerous to society. We will be making assumptions that our audience is aware of the suggested dangers of compulsive video gaming  and use this to build up a story based on this assumption.

Audio Visual Concepts

While I think the topics raised are questionable I found the techniques and conventions used in the making of the documentary to be really useful when researching how our film will look.

In our production meetings we discussed how the finished film might look, we wan a mix of both handheld camera shots alongside more static and stable shots to emphasise the difference between the gamer and the other characters in our story. ‘Addicted to Games?’ employs similar characteristics in terms of look to how I think we want our film to look. In this documentary when there is focus on the gamer the shots become noticeably more hand held or ‘rough and ready’, I think this builds on the idea that this is some sort of underworld environment, that we as an audience are exploring voyeuristically. When the shots move to general views and expert opinions they are more stable which I think emphasises that this what we are hearing from ‘experts’ is to be believed and the norm.

To further portray this ‘underworld’ environment that the programme makers have constructed they use a lot of extreme closeups which suggest to me we don’t get to see the whole picture ,we are given snippets of the environment in order to create our own image of what it might be like to live in this environment. Closeups include the players eyes, hand movements, shots of the controller being used and closeup over the shoulder shots of the player playing a game. I think these shots are just enough to explain the environment and adds to the impression that this type of activity is claustrophobic and is anti social.

BBC`s panorama   videogame addiction     part 1   2   YouTube

The selective use of audio, game footage and lighting is also important when creating the look for this documentary. At the very start of the programme the audience are jolted with load sounds associated with violent gaming such as gunshots and shouting, The gamers rooms are dark and cold with blueish tints and the footage is faced paced with agitated camera work. Using this audio and game footage immediately places the audience in a certain mindset when considering the programmes theme. You could argue that if the programme had opened with less of an impact, maybe using the ‘Candy Crush’ or ‘Super Mario’ soundtrack then the audience would be in a totally different place when considering the ‘dangers’ of video game addictions.

I think the techniques used to convey the different environments will definitely be useful when thinking of our film. Our film has similar contrasts between the everyday life of a family and this dark environment that our main character inhabits. I think we can use similar types of shot sizes and audio techniques to portray the environment to the audience quickly and effectively especially as we have limited time to explain the story world in a five minute short.







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