Video didn’t kill the television star

Despite the notoriety of video games for violence and foul language it did provide ‘riveting’ viewing this week, writes Brendan O’Regan

When I heard of a TV drama about the making of a video game my expectations were low, but as often happens in such cases I was pleasantly surprised. 

Gamechangers was a particularly apt title for this feature-length film drama on BBC 2 Tuesday night of last week. Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame, played the developer of the notorious game Grand Theft Auto, while Bill Paxton played a crusading lawyer out to nail the games company for corrupting young people in general, but in particular a young cop-killer.  

Both actors were excellent in role – the Radcliffe character creative, arrogant, childish, foul mouthed, with Paxton’s lawyer confident, conflicted, righteous, over -zealous. 

In a way, it was a study of two obsessive characters with vastly different world views. This was captured especially when we saw both of them Googling each other, each puzzled by what drove the other.  

It was riveting stuff, all the better because the film didn’t seem to come down on one side or the other on the issue of the harm done by violent video games. I suspect those watching from both sides of the argument would find that their views were acknowledged and presented fairly. Thoughtful people would have their views challenged, maybe even moderated, but hardly reversed.  

There were several striking contrasts – the lawyer had his family, a very supportive wife and a fairly supportive son who was getting bullied because of the stance his father was taking. The game creators, ‘Brits’ in the USA,  had no trace of family, but in a sense they were a sort of family, with the Radcliffe character driving them ruthlessly like a far more domineering patriarch  than his opponent.  

Yes there was plenty of strong language from the gamers (and weirdly from a little old lady coming out of church) and there was some sexual content in the onscreen video gameplay – scenes left hidden  in the game and triggering  a lawsuit, but a mature audience would get plenty of food for thought here. 

Artistically, it was almost faultless. Some early action looked like it was from the game itself, and the surreal ending blended game play with real life even more explicitly, adding a nice extra touch of ambiguity. 

The programme ended with a note to the effect that there was no ‘conclusive evidence’ (emphasis added) that video games made people aggressive, though there were plenty of pointers in that direction (wouldn’t intuition lead that way too?). 

That was pretty much the conclusion of Horizon – Are Video Games Really That Bad? another one of several shows from the BBC 2 on the Wednesday night, also part of their ‘Make It Digital’ week. 

There was some evidence from studies that did show increased aggression after exposure to violent video games, but connections were complex and it wasn’t clear whether the effect was lasting. Of course, other factors like family, personality and even gender came into play as well. 

Still on violence, at the end of last week’s column I wondered tentatively if we weren’t seeing a co-ordinated effort, same-sex marriage campaign style, to undermine the 8th Amendment, facilitated as before by some in the media.  I’ve become less hesitant after last week. 

Tonight With Vincent Browne (TV 3) featured a debate on the matter Tuesday night of last week, with three speakers on each side of the argument. What struck me most were the clangers and own goals from the pro-choice side; Clare Daly TD said she didn’t see a foetus as a baby and Peadar O’Grady of Doctors for Choice could see no medical basis to draw term limits for abortion (viability?). He also thought it was serving the cause of equality to dump the Constitution’s equality provision for mother and baby. 

Pro-choice campaigner Sinead Kennedy found herself defending Planned Parenthood’s trade in baby parts as if questionable parental consent or medical research made it less immoral.

Also last week, Monday’s Ray Darcy Show (RTE Radio 1) had some nods towards the pro-choice sentiments of Róisín Ingle, Tara Flynn and Una Mullally, expressed that day or previously; Monday evening’s Last Word (Today FM) had a soft interview with Róisín Ingle; Tuesday’s arts show Arena (RTE Radio 1) reported on the artists who signed up against the 8th Amendment; a guest on Wednesday’s Ray Darcy Show admired as ‘wonderful’ Róisín Ingle’s being open about her abortion. 

Campaign or coincidence?


Pick of the Week

Sunday Morning Live 

BBC 1 Sun 27 Sept
10.00 am

Includes ‘Selma’ and ‘The Butler’ actor David Oyelowo talking about films and faith.


Joe Duffy’s Spirit Level 

RTE 1 Sun 27 Sept
1.10 pm  

New Series. Topics include the refugee crisis


The Monks of Moyross

EWTN Mon 28 Sept 9 pm

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal witness to the residents of Moyross, Limerick.