Rockstar, DMA staff heap criticism on BBC's Gamechangers

Dramatisation of Thompson/Houser conflict is "random, made up bo****ks"

Several key developers, including Rockstar Games itself, have taken to Twitter to heavily criticise The Gamechangers, the BBC dramatisation of the conflict between the Houser brothers and disbarred lawyer Jack Thompson, which aired in the UK last night. Although clearly labelled as a dramatisation, the program is also listed by the BBC as a "factual Drama." If you're a UK resident, you can watch it here.

The 90 minute program takes place during the period in which Rockstar was creating San Andreas, the game with which GTA became the world's biggest selling entertainment product. Rather than looking at the creative process, it focuses on Sam Houser as a workaholic renegade and the antagonism of Thompson, who believes he is protecting the innocence of children and society at large. Despite an all-star cast including Daniel Radcliffe and Bill Paxton as Houser and Thompson, The Gamechangers has met with a roundly negative industry response.

Decried as being at once poorly written, completely unrealistic and totally unrepresentative of the development process, the high-profile TV movie has been given scant praise from any industry quarter, instead inciting the ire of those it was depicting.

Swearing on Twitter isn't Rockstar's only avenue of recourse for what they feel was a poor representation of their work - the studio is also suing the BBC for the unauthorised use of its assets for the film.

Brian Baglow, a veteran of the Scottish development scene who was a writer on the very first game in the GTA series, was clearly not impressed by the adaptation, at least in part because of its reticence to mention any of the actual work being done by the development team.

Other developers shared his disappointment, including former employees of both DMA Design and Rockstar.

Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead also penned an excoriating assessment of the program, calling it "weird and meaningless."

"In what is perhaps the film's nadir, Houser and his posse venture into Compton to research San Andreas," Whitehead writes. "They apparently chose to dress like East 17's backup dancers, and encounter a car full of gangbangers. It's already clear where this is going and, sure enough, once the menacing Bloods discover that these pasty white Brits are the guys who make Grand Theft Auto, they become the best of friends and offer to show them around the 'hood. Not only is the scene toe-curling in its content and presentation, but it informs absolutely nothing in the story."

Not everyone thought The Gamechangers was without merit, however. Spilt Milk Studios praised it for bringing culturally mainstream attention to bear on gaming.

Rockstar and the BBC have been asked for formal comment on the program and the reaction it has inspired.

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Latest comments (8)

Alex Barnfield Lead Engineer, 17-BIT2 years ago
I can't comment on the quality of it having not seen it.
What I will say is that this quote "The Gamechangers has met with a roundly negative response." caused me to google for reviews. Nothing in the mainstream press seemed overly negative, first hit 4* from the telegraph, second hit Digital spy with another 4* review.

Was that line solely in regards to the gaming press, or did I just happen upon a couple of rare exceptions?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alex Barnfield on 16th September 2015 10:54am

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Dan Pearson Business Development, Purewal Consulting2 years ago
Clarified above - some reviews have been good, although they tend to have come from the perspective of those seeing it without prior knowledge of the events depicted or the processes involved.
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Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop2 years ago
Turns out that nobody outside of the industry cares about accurate portrayals of game development in their drama, in much the same way that they enjoy The Social Network without seeing people actually developing Facebook, and police procedurals are popular despite skipping over all of the paperwork. Who would ever have guessed?
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Show all comments (8)
I thought it was hilarious!
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd2 years ago
Yes, of course you'd expect some simplification for the sake of pace and accessibility to a mainstream audience, but it was still an awful film. It was like they'd filmed a first draft.

Why this film has been connected to the Make It Digital campaign is a complete mystery. It doesn't give any insight into the how and why of GTA/Rockstar and the significance of the UK games industry (the action taking place entirely in the US).
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
Lol, it wasn't that bad, good for a giggle.

I like how it almost tried to blame Rockstar for ruining Jack Thomson's career and tried to make the audience feel sorry for him. Poor Jack, there was not enough room on the Rockstar raft!! And the 'R* boys in the hood" scene was pure gold, showing how the American mean streets really are and how being a game developer gives you real-life god mode! :D

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 16th September 2015 2:44pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
I am pretty sure that if you pointed a documentary crew's camera at Houser/Thompson, you would not end up with much material on the topic. As a result, they have to live with the picture writers make up based on their actual public performances of yesteryear.

When it comes to Compton, would you rather see a sequence in which dangerous people turn out to be not that dangerous, or a scene in which those tasked to serve and protect beat Houser into a hospital for being at the wrong place with the wrong people? After all, it is the BBC version, not the Charlie Brooker one.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 2 years ago
It was harmless. It wasn't to bad to watch, but I did expect a lot better since it had Owen Harris directing who worked on Black Mirror. It really focused on a narrow time line and I thought was going to show the rise of the medium and the rise of Rock Star. Throwing in the table tennis game was just sloppy. The whole thing Felt rushed and a bit sloppy.

I guess I'm disappointed but my expectations were high.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 18th September 2015 2:22pm

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