In September 2013, Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V broke six Guinness World Records, including the fastest-selling entertainment product of all time. It’s an incredible accomplishment, although it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the video game developer, as depicted in “The Gamechangers” – a one-off BBC film.
Following the highly successful launch of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in October 2002, Sam Houser (Daniel Radcliffe) and the rest of the Rockstar development team begin work on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. However, they soon find themselves caught up in a legal feud against American activist and lawyer Jack Thompson (Bill Paxton), who questions the morality of violent video games, after a teen claimed he was influenced by the series.
Director Owen Harris and writer James Wood adopt a similar flair to “The Social Network”, with desolate styles, a poignant soundtrack and an intensity that runs throughout. These are accompanied by striking cinematography that embraces a similar perspective to the series the film is based off, which just goes to show the ever-blurring lines between modern day video games and films.
In the lead role, Daniel Radcliffe appears to have well and truly left his Harry Potter days behind him, depicting Sam Houser as a vain, obnoxious genius in a very strong performance. It’s for this reason that Jack Thompson, excellently portrayed by Bill Paxton, comes across as the more likeable of the two.
The Gamechangers’ main downfall is its script, which is brimming with exposition. In one particularly cringe-worthy scene, Sam Houser addresses his sibling Dan (Ian Keir Attard) as “little brother”. Nevertheless, it does raise a number of questions about whether video games incite violence and the issue surrounding America’s love of violence, but fear of sexual content. It’s just a shame such points are only briefly touched upon.
Despite being described as “random, made up bollocks” by Rockstar Gameson Twitter(who filed a suit against the BBC earlier this year for trademark infringement), The Gamechangers is a satisfying telling of a compelling story. Yet the film’s biggest achievement is making video games accessible to the mainstream television viewer.
The Gamechangers is now available to view on BBC iPlayer in the UK.