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.
@BBC Was Basil Brush busy? What exactly is this random, made up bollocks?— Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) September 15, 2015
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.
Current mentions of development team: zero. Current mentions there IS a development team: zero. Going very well #gamechangers— Brian Baglow (@flackboy) September 15, 2015
Morning all. So, not a fevered dream then... Damn #gamechangers— Brian Baglow (@flackboy) September 16, 2015
So far the ACTUAL crunch montage is reminding me of fathers Dougal & Ted trying to write their Eurovision entry #gamechangers— Brian Baglow (@flackboy) September 15, 2015
Other developers shared his disappointment, including former employees of both DMA Design and Rockstar.
We need a new game engine!— Mike Dailly™ 🏴🇺🇦💙 (@mdf200) September 15, 2015
So...we've made a new game engine...
It’s apparently based on the book Jacked and the author never spoke to any of us either. #TheGamechangers— Steve Hammond @email@example.com ⌨️ (@snap2grid) September 15, 2015
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.
I don't care how accurate it is(n't). #GameChangers is a prime BBC drama starring hollywood talent & signals a cultural shift around games.— Trash Goblin | Spilt Milk Studios 🥛 (@SpiltMilkStudio) September 15, 2015
Rockstar and the BBC have been asked for formal comment on the program and the reaction it has inspired.