Down The Tube: A Developer’s Guide To Television

By RPS on April 1st, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

You may have heard about last weekend’s extraordinarily disastrous attempt to film and broadcast a Pepsi-sponsored game jam, called GAME_JAM. At enormous expense (rumours fly of around $400,000), a group of in-indies – the likes of Zoe Quinn, Davey Wreden, and Robin Arnott – and YouTubers were supposed to be taking part in a reality-show-cum-game-jam for four days, to be professionally filmed, edited and broadcast on YouTube. The event didn’t make it through the first day before a number of the developers walked off set and refused to return, and everyone involved was upset and pissed off. It didn’t make it to day two. For a comprehensive account of what happened, you ought to read Jared Rosen’s article on Indie Statik, but the short version is: one of the people in charge was a sexist arsehole, the sponsorship was so ludicrous they weren’t allowed to drink anything other than Mountain Dew (not even water), and the atmosphere was miserable beyond anything conducive to making games. It was a massive, hugely expensive, disaster.

In response, we and asked Size Five GamesDan Marshall to use his experience working in television production to write a guide for developers when it comes to TV. What to look out for, the tricks of the trade, and why it’s probably best avoided altogether. We should stress, this is a general guide, and not directly related to those peculiar events in LA.

Hello! You might not know this about me, but before I made silly video games for a living, I helped make largely-dreadful TV programmes for a living.

With TV production budgets shrinking, and video games becoming increasingly popular, it’s only a matter of time before flavour of the month is TV shows about The Indie Scene, Game Jams , the [Your Country] Games Industry, whatever. I am aware that as an ex-TV indie dev, I’m in a unique position to share some of the facts-and-opinions stored up in my brain.

Bear in mind, most of what I ‘know’ is from the British TV industry from about 5 years ago. Most of it is presumably applicable to other countries, but always look into it yourself, thoroughly, find out what’s what.

This is your career we’re talking about. Your career is arguably one of the most important things in your life, so I want to argue that you probably don’t want to be gambling it on the say-so of someone whose job it is to make interesting television.

For minor TV roles, we’d normally get “contributors”, as you’re all called, to sign a Release Form. Some productions require one for anyone who is on camera, others will stick up signs saying, “This event is being recorded, if you don’t want to appear on TV, talk to a member of Production.” You absolutely must do that, if you’re at an Expo and don’t want to be shown picking your nose in the background on someone’s 52” HD screen, in 3D.

The Release Form is a handy and relatively-harmless bit of paper that’s only about a page long, and tends to be written in relatively comprehensible English. READ IT. It basically says, “We can do whatever we like with the footage for [£1], which you agree to having received,” (upon signing, some people ask for their £1, but 99% don’t). The pound is a token fee, presumably because there has to be something for it to be legally enforceable. Without the £1 it would not be a valid contract and may not be able to be relied upon. The TV people will have been told by their lawyers to get this signed and will make statements in their agreements based on the fact that these are all signed and correct.

Regardless, the Release Form is largely to cover The TV Guys after-the-fact against you saying, “HEY I was in your TV programme in the background, I want £15,000 for my appearance,” and also so they have free reign to use the footage they got as they see fit. In most cases, where you’re just doing small bits-and-pieces, or in the background, that’s not really ever going to be as sinister as it sounds. Once signed, The Release Form will generally go in a cupboard, forgotten about, unless you call the TV people with reason for them to go scrabbling about looking for it in a panic. It’s genuinely not really a thing to get excited about.

If you’re doing anything that involves an actual contract, I’ll say it again: this is your career. Your public and professional image. Imagine going to GDC and everyone knowing you not by your games but because you’re “That guy from that thing and oh my God wasn’t he awful?”.

It might seem like it’ll be a bit of fun, but if there’s a whole production around it and contracts flying around, it’s serious business to someone, somewhere. Someone wants to get as much mileage out of you as they can, for as little hard cash as possible. It is absolutely worth your time to have a quick chat with the likes of Alex Tutty [other lawyers are available, but he’s rather good – RPS Legal Ed], to make 100% sure you know what is required from you by that contract.

Look at it this way: from experience, if I were doing a small TV thing and a Release Form was put in my hands, I’d read it, sign it and forget about it. If they wanted a contract signing, I’d drop the whole thing and walk away.

If I desperately wanted to do it, I’d talk to a lawyer and be fully prepared to drop the whole thing every step of the way. What we’re talking about here is the right of the TV people to be able to cut and edit the footage how they want and you not having any say (or right of review and edit).

That old adage of, “They can take enough footage and cut it together to make someone out to be whatever they want,” is a bit of a myth. You can’t take a weekend’s footage of someone who has just been genuinely lovely and friendly and make them out to be Queen Arsehole of the Show with a couple of crafty shots of them about to sneeze so they look angry. Maybe if you’re filming 24/7 for three weeks, but certainly not for the smaller productions you’re likely to be involved in. Bear in mind with voice over, though, you can do what you like. Couple of shots of you working and someone talking over the top about how “certain people aren’t pulling their weight” and it doesn’t matter if it was you they’re talking about or not, the deed is done.

That said, it’s worth noting that American contracts tend to have a standard clause in there saying something along the lines of, “We can make up any story we like about you.” It’s a standardised thing, but talk to a lawyer. I did some work on a UK-US crossover show, and the US contract went round the office email like wildfire. Jaws dropped; we couldn’t believe how audacious it was. We couldn’t believe anyone would sign it. The same type of contracts do exist in the UK but they are not used that often. I’m sure if you think about it you can think of the obvious candidates for this with people who are desperate to be on TV and be famous and so don’t challenge these agreements.

It should be said that most people working in TV are brillo, and just want to make fun, interesting TV in the same way that you just want to make fun, interesting games. But don’t make the mistake of thinking the lovely fresh-faced Researcher you’ve been dealing with is calling the shots.

TV doesn’t work like games. Imagine if after every Half-Life game, Valve—ok, bad example. Imagine if Valve EVER MADE HALF-LIFE GAMES ANY MORE and after every game the entire development team split up and went to find jobs at different companies. That’s what TV is like. Executive Producers (which is a term with significantly more oomph in the UK than US, by the way) tend to stick around, but everyone else will work on different shows, for different companies, in different parts of the city they live in.

The point of this is that people are working on a show for maybe 4-8 weeks, and then they’re done with it. They move on, have a little holiday, and start production on something else. Most of the Production Team will do the filming, and then the editing and post-production is way out of their hands. So if you think the public-facing people are going to be around after filming stops, think again. The people you forged a genuine, friendly bond with during filming are, in most cases, going to have absolutely nothing to do with how it’s cut together. The people in charge now, I hate to say it, are complete strangers and generally couldn’t give two hoots about you. They’ve got a TV show to edit together.

They’ve got to make a load of footage about geeks sitting in front of computers into compelling into engaging TV for which ordinary people will sit through adverts.

Let’s talk about how it’s cut together! Editing is REALLY EXPENSIVE. Some productions will pick their contributors based on who’ll be entertaining on TV, then write a script based on those “characters”, and then do the shoot. That’s right, script comes first. That’s because it’s much easier to manipulate people into doing what’s on the script and edit it down afterwards, than it is to shoot a shit-ton of footage and then try to wrangle some sort of story out of it.

‘Manipulate’ is a strong word, but that’s what it is. “Now we need to do this shot. Now we need to get an interview with you about this. Now it’s time for This Part of the process”. Reality, by which I mean how things actually progress naturally, doesn’t really need to ever enter into it.

Oh, there’s so much more I could write. If you have questions or concerns about anything, or want to hear more, absolutely please do pester me @danthat or email dan@sizefivegames.com, I’d be delighted to offer any advice.

Look, just be really really fucking careful.

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68 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    frymaster says:

    What I like about the original impetus behind this article is it’s a pretty optimistic one, really. Outsider comes in, tries to create drama, community unites and shows him the finger. It’s less so for the people who wanted to make the show, but, while not malicious, they have a responsibility in the way they let this brand guy take over.

    To quote from reddit:

    “I am reminded of Strip Search, the reality show for cartoonists that Penny Arcade put on.
    What they very quickly found out was that, if you put a bunch of professionals in a reality show setting, they don’t create drama; they network.
    It is the same general principle here – the contestants are there building bridges, not burning them.”

    • Premium User Badge

      It's not me it's you says:

      For completeness’ sake, it’s worth noting that Stripsearch was actually lovely to watch because the editing was a pretty light touch – it was clear people were digging each others company and were generally having a pretty good time of it. I at the time likened it to it being a reality show (two challenges per episode, one for a small bonus, one to stay on the show, random gamey mechanics, etc) shot like a documentary – it felt that those people were put into a weird situation that everyone fully acknowledged was weird and then the cameras were basically there to record what happened next.

      I don’t think there was a single fight in any of the episodes, trumped up or otherwise.

      As for the show the article is about, I’m glad it came down the way it did, and kind of glad to see the fallout is so public – maybe someone will take the original idea of a documentary about a game jam (which I’d totally watch) and actually make it. That’d be rad.

      • Sploitz says:

        ” maybe someone will take the original idea of a documentary about a game jam (which I’d totally watch) and actually make it. That’d be rad.”

        Some is already been doing that, actually. Check out Super Game Jam (http://supergamejam.com/)

        Also, I believe Zoe Quinn and a few others are working on doing a more legit version of the show they were trying to do in the first place. It’ll be cool to see if anything comes of it.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yeah I think the general success of reality TV has come from casting wannabe famous people who will create drama and screw over their fellow cast mates if they think it increases their chance of becoming a “star”. This ofc creates a drama filled and unpredictable production that some people can’t get enough of.
      In this situation these people already have careers and aren’t looking to get noticed outside of their games so because the cast wasn’t producing drama they decided to try and create some with a clumsy sexist angle and it backfired on them badly.

    • qrter says:

      The thing is, people DO enjoy watching the kind of reality tv that is about people being generally nice to eachother and getting along.

      It’s one of the bigger reasons why the Great British Bake Off (and lately, the Great British Sewing Bee) has become such a success in the UK – there you have a reality competition where individuals try to actually be their best at something, and being supportive of the other participants.

      • Muzman says:

        There was an Australian situation like that, but I can’t damn well remember it off the top of my head. It was also a cooking show, from memory. The dogma with these things is you have to create conflict in order to have drama and interest. I think the judges and the contestants resisted these things and certain competitive elements too. To their credit, the production company went along with this. The show was the most popular of its type for breaking with tradition like this. (could be they took their cue from the English first, as often happens, but anyway)

        We don’t know what we think we know about how things work.

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          I think a lot of the time people are very conservative with these things, because their arse is on the line and there’s less risk in following a formula. Either that, or like people have said, there’s a confluence of money and creative direction at a higher level that corrupts any goodwill in people at the bottom rungs of the ladder.

        • Groove says:

          Could it just be the Austrailian version of Masterchef? Much like the British Masterchef it was just fairly normal people doing some cooking, and judges judging that cooking quite fairly.

      • Premium User Badge

        frymaster says:

        …which brings us back to Strip Search :D

        Pretty much everyone came across as a bunch of lovely people I’d like to hang out with

  2. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    The way the concept for GAME_JAM went from interesting-sounding ‘fly on the wall’-style docu about game dev to awful-sounding fake-reality bullshit still kind of blows my mind. The titanic arseholiness of the (as reported) principle antagonist is absolutely breathtaking also.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rizlar says:

      Indeed, the Indie Statik article wasn’t even dated April 1st! The idea of those taking part saying ‘fuck you’ and walking away from a falsely negative, corporate, money-grubbing, ‘reality’ TV production fills me with joy.

    • Premium User Badge

      tikey says:

      I think that if they want to salvage something from this disaster they (the production companies) should make a documentary about what happened and what when wrong, talk to the devs, show the positive side of the whole ordeal (the tightness and correctness of the indie community). It’d be interesting and a good opportunity to make something good out of this.

      • Premium User Badge

        darkChozo says:

        There’s talk on the Twitterverse about trying to organize something that is basically GAME_JAM minus the corporate overhead (not the Devolver thing, this is new). Should be interesting.

        • SD says:

          I think that tikey is talking about the concept of making a documentary about the failed jam itself, from the footage shot along the way, an idea that I agree with whole-heartedly. That, as opposed to Quinn’s idea for a “rebel jam” (or whatever it is to be called), which I’m also quite interested in.

  3. jarowdowsky says:

    I’m reminded of BBC 2′s attempt to recreate the Stanford prison experiment. In the end the guards and prisoners rejected their roles, formed a commune and started to share booze and smokes before the TV company shut it down and explained they weren’t doing it right…

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      There are a bunch of criticisms of the original experiment, so it’s not 100% surprising that not all humans are sociopaths when given authority.

    • RagingLion says:

      Oh man, I remember that. And loved it. That really was quite the thing to behold and I found it all completely fascinating.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Sounds intriguing, Question: did someone from participants knew what they were doing – which means they could “sabotage” it from the very start?

    • natendi says:

      I remember that, didn’t they try to make a massive deal whenever one of the prisoners/guards had an argument or when something slightly disruptive happened in a vain attempt to show the experiment ‘working’?

  4. Laurentius says:

    If they wanted drama they should have invited “game journalists” and “game critiques” .

    • Ahkey says:

      How about “brand promoters” and “TV producers”?

      They’d have everything they need all ready to go.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      Bath Brother. The Avon Shore. Something something.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        TBH if you’re looking for chav-baiting in Future’s home town, a night out in Bath is usually going to be to the backdrop of drunk women in high heels with phone numbers on their shirts.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Skeletor68 says:

    The product placement sounds nauseating from Jared’s article. Even the people hosting it were disgusted judging by Dodger’s all caps tweets about ‘DEW PACKS’. Sounds like a good idea naively implemented. Hope they have better luck next time and are free of sexist assholes.

  6. Caiman says:

    Good advice up there Dan, but I’d also add this: do not work for free. People get very excited about the prospect of being on the telly, and production companies will absolutely exploit this to get as much out of you for the minimum possible cost. But you’re a contributor, you’re providing content for the show, and your time should absolutely be paid for. The producer gets paid, the researcher gets paid, the sound guy gets paid, the fixer gets paid, the person making the tea gets paid, you should get paid. Don’t expect to make millions, but don’t let yourself be undervalued either. If you despise money, get them to fund something useful to you.

    • danthat says:

      I’d suggest you won’t get far with this, unfortunately. On rare occasions on shows I worked on, production has paid certain perks for contributors, but by-and-large if any of them came asking to be paid like it’s a job they’d just be dropped quick-sharp and we’d simply find someone else. It’s a supply and demand thing.

      On the off-chance you’re an *exceptional talent* whose appearance would make-or-break the show, like say you’re Notch, you might get away with it. But 99% of the time I’d suggest no, you won’t get paid.

      • Premium User Badge

        SuddenSight says:

        I think the bar where you should treat yourself as “exceptional talent” is lower than you let on. If you have a career and some name recognition (which everyone invited for this GAME_JAM does) you should value your reputation and your time.

        You probably won’t get paid *as much* as someone more famous, but that doesn’t mean you are so easily replaceable.

        As always, the key to coming out well in any bargain is to not need what the other party is selling (in this case, noteriety).

        • Ben says:

          @SuddenSight – it depends on what kind of show you wind up on. It’s only the big ‘reality’ shows like Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity (or I Love The 1980s) that pay. Shows more like Wife Swap or Come Dine With Me won’t, The Only Way Is Essex starts off paying nothing then goes up to about £50 a day for the more popular returning characters after a season or two. In a less-celeb-based setting like that (and that’s ‘celebrity’ to the intended audience, which will probably not be, in the exec producer’s opinion, an audience who are aware of individual devs), they’re likely to just find another dev who isn’t asking for money.

          • danthat says:

            Yeah, I worked on dozens of TV shows and we didn’t pay a single contributor for their time. Presenters, yes, but in “reality TV” (or “observational documentary” as it was called when I started) no money ever changed hands. And some of those programmes were with “stars” of previous reality TV shows.

            Loads of reasons, really. “it’s not reality if you’re being paid to act up”, there are plenty of people willing to do it for free, you need to maintain an aloof position of superiority over contributors (ie “you’re lucky”), and budgets are just *too too dreadful* to even consider paying people.

            It simply isn’t a thing that happens.

          • Caiman says:

            Reading the above, I suspect we’re talking slightly different types of contributors. I suppose I’m more used to working on shows where contributors have a significant amount of expertise or talent to bring to the show, whereas reality shows this isn’t necessarily the case. I still think it’s exploitative and wrong, though, but as you say as long as there are people willing to allow themselves to be exploited then asking for money isn’t competitive.

          • Groove says:

            @Ben

            Bloody hell, I’m not sure whether to feel sorry(er) for or scorn(ier) the people on Essex. Looking like that much of a tit and not even being paid just beggers belief.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Out of interest, is there a career reason to appear on the TV if you already have a job in another field and aren’t looking to break into broadcast media? I don’t really see the benefit, although I understand that appearing on TV could be attractive for some people on a personal level.

        • danthat says:

          It’s certainly good from promo reasons; indie games tend to be in a bubble, we all assume everyone knows about our work but the sweeping majority really, really don’t.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            Fair enough; I suppose there are a decent number of people who might like indie games if they heard about them, but aren’t in the habit of checking websites that cover them and don’t know people who play them.

      • Caiman says:

        But the reason production companies try not to pay is because they don’t factor contributor / talent fees into their initial budget. They have to pull funds from something else (usually their expensive evening meals!). If contributors routinely asked for some compensation, it would force more companies to budget for it. I’ve been approached by companies that did exactly this, although I usually fall off my chair when they offer contributor fees without me asking. More usually they fall off their chairs when they see what I’m asking. I’m a bad example, because reasons, but I don’t agree that it’s an unrealistic expectation. Exceptional talent might simply be someone who unexpectedly is great in front of a camera, or who has great chemistry with others, and a good contributor can end up making your entire show work.

  7. Dinger says:

    Okay, first question: have the jokes for the IGF awards ceremony gotten better in the last couple years? ‘cos my last recollection was they were of the “ha ha, nerds in 2D” variety.

    Second, that little article shows the reason why there’s an interest in doing a TV show. Last I checked, he had over 250k hits, and it’s a long piece.

    Third, Dan’s discussion should be classified under “How not to be sacrificed on the Dorito-strewn altar.

    There’s interest for this sort of thing. In the case of Game_Jam, the scapegoating is going to the alpha creative on the floor who saw an opportunity to create a reality show. The battle was lost long before that undoubtedly upstanding citizen allegedly pressed with the sexist questions. On the account given, the battle was lost the moment that creative control was given (or ceded) to someone whose job it was to promote the sponsor’s image.

    Now, getting back to the Doritos, I’m guessing that the participating businesspeople (that would be those “indie devs”) were pitched a Youtube game jam by their friends at a small media outfit; Mr. Rosen suggests that he had a voice in recruitment, and that he was covering the event at the behest of that same media outfit. The thing got sold upstream, when Mr. Pepsi-promotion company came in, and Mr. Rosen had to make an unenviable choice between the developer community he loved and the media company he worked for. He wrote a compelling account, blaming the one guy in a position of power who was not his boss or the developers, got a cubic ton of hits, and kept his job. It’s a masterful piece of rhetoric, and may even be true.
    But here’s the thing: Dan’s point is that one has to be very careful with Television people, because professionally they are not your friends. Game Journalists should not be your (professional) friends either. I’m sure Mr. Rosen wrote this because he felt there was a story there, but I also sense he felt a duty to repair the damage the “indie scene”. Friendship is access, and that’s a dangerous equation that leads to a world of gatekeepers and kingmakers. He did a great job of showing a moment of collective strength in the face of tremendous pressure and in deflecting the blame. We are all there, and we are all guilty.
    So, use each other to your professional benefit. Get drunk together. Sleep with each other. Just remember what your professional obligations are, and keep to them, regardless of whether you’re sleeping and drinking with Square Enix or Smestorp.

    • StormTec says:

      Since you seem so skeptical about the allegations against Matti, I can only assume you only read Rosen’s piece about it.

      Here are personal accounts of what happened from Adriel Wallick and Robin Arnott, two of the devs in the show:

      http://msminotaur.com/blog/?p=187

      http://soundselfgame.com/?p=302

      It’s not a “blame game”, if it’s actually true. Also, Rosen was fired, and then unfired (according to his tweets) after writing that article. So it appears to have pissed someone off to some extent.

      • Dinger says:

        Indeed, I read the story, and the other accounts, and the twitter feeds. It’s fascinating, and, contrary to the opinions of some out there, very well told (well, except for the seven paragraphs between the initial mention of Jason and a passing reference to his name. Who? What?).
        I agree that everyone puts Matti in a bad light, that, on every account given, he behaved unacceptably and that he was fired. I’m not contesting that. What I’m saying is that it’s a masterful piece of rhetorical positioning. Who hired Matti, and what was he supposed to be doing on set? How did someone who, by all published accounts on this story, was a (insert your favorite reference to a body part or leftover piece of plastic here) end up running the show? Who had the creative vision at the wheel? Who went out and worked their contacts to assemble the team? Many people put their butts on the line to make this happen, and it wasn’t just undone by some bumbling clouseau-esque employee.
        This reads like the Gallic Wars.

        • Premium User Badge

          Llewyn says:

          Matti Leshem’s the CEO of one of Pepsi’s key PR outlets and has a background in TV production (and second-rate acting). Given that he came with the money and would seem well qualified it’s more than feasible that he could simply have assumed de facto control – all it would take for that to happen is for someone at Maker to think that maybe it would help keep Pepsi sweet (which would in turn make their new masters at Disney happy).

          The interesting question for me will be whether Pepsi (and Protagonist’s other clients) start to suffer any public criticism of their brands due to association with this guy. I suspect they’re too far removed, but we’ve seen stranger things happen on the internet.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          I have thought this myself. The whole project seems flawed from the start because no way would one idiot making a couple of stupid comments be able to derail a whole TV show, he would just be removed from the building and it would carry on. Yet somehow the blame seems entirely placed on this one person, when there clearly must have been bigger issues at hand. Either that or if the developers did walk out because ONE person said some offensive stuff then I would argue that is a huge overreaction, there must have been a whole bunch of stuff at fault here.

          Llewyn
          There is absolutely no way this will affect Pepsi one jolt. Nobody outside of video games enthusiasts (i.e. people reading RPS etc) will even hear about this. Even then the blame is being placed squarely on this one person. The amount of people that care enough to completely veto a company over this will make about 1/1000000th as much difference to Pepsi as your average person dropping a penny on the ground.

          • Premium User Badge

            SuddenSight says:

            Adriel Wallick does address some of your points. She writes that the rest of the staff tried to smooth things over after Matti was fired, but she couldn’t bring herself to trust the producers again when they had already shown they were willing to hire someone like Matti in the first place.

            Honestly, I doubt that Matti’s comments alone sunk everything. The developers were already stressed and annoyed by how the event was more of a reality show than a documentary. However, all of the developers were at least willing to give the whole reality show ensemble a try. Whether they could have salvaged the show if Matti had never been around or if the whole idea was sunk the moment it became a reality show is an interesting question that we will probably never know the answer to.

        • Muzman says:

          The implicit power of money and personality can confuse many a chain of command. From the sounds, there was one crew of cobbled together freelancers and another of more seasoned scandalmongers with some RTV experience and people with branding agendas. The execs likely found themselves swamped with stuff to oversee and it’s very easy to see how other interests or even habitual production behaviour starts to creep in if you’re not careful. The execs were probably hoping for a more collegial environment with everyone working toward the same goal. It’s not a bad ideal, but easily exploitable when the wrong elements are at work.

    • mechabuddha says:

      I noticed something similar. The article is nicely worded (even if it meanders). But doesn’t really say anything meaningful other than 1) stress the supposed impartiality of the author, 2) describe an out-of-touch atmosphere, and 3) blame it all on a single guy who is an outsider. All of this may be true. Most of it probably is. But the author is clearly vested with everyone involved in the incident, so I take it with a grain of salt. Beware the unreliable narrator, even if they happen to be reliable this time.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Philopoemen says:

    My TV experience has been limited, but it was hugely weird. We were followed around for a week by a crew from one of those police reality shows, filmed for forty hours, multiple to-camera pieces (which most of which would have been rubbish, because we freaked out with cameras in our faces), and in the end it resulted in about 4 mins of actual footage in a 30min episode.

    That said the four guys we worked with – camera-man, sound guy, other guy, and field producer – were awesome, and I’d work with them again in a heartbeat. They were experienced in “reality” TV, and they said the most important part for a successful show is conflict, as it gets a regular audience, and if there isn’t conflict you make one. Its also safe for networks, and cheap to make, so no surprise GAME_JAM devolved into it. Documentary doesn’t draw crowds like GAMERS vs JAMMERS does.

  9. Urthman says:

    That “not even water” should read “not even coffee.” Water was the only non-Mountain Dew drink allowed on set.

    • Ahkey says:

      Apparently they had to fight even for that, and to drink it in an ‘off-stage’ area.

      Even then, Matti was arguing for them to drink it out of empty MD cans.

  10. kalirion says:

    Wait, I’m confused by these two statements:

    The Release Form is a handy and relatively-harmless bit of paper that’s only about a page long, and tends to be written in relatively comprehensible English. READ IT. It basically says, “We can do whatever we like with the footage for [£1], which you agree to having received,”

    Look at it this way: from experience, if I were doing a small TV thing and a Release Form was put in my hands, I’d read it, sign it and forget about it. If they wanted a contract signing, I’d drop the whole thing and walk away.

    So exactly how is that a harmless form, when to me it seems it allows them to do anything they could do with a “contract signing” anyway?

    • danthat says:

      Release Forms tend to be for small jobs. Appearing briefly in an interview or something. Yes, they can use the footage of you how they like, but you need to weigh up how likely it is there’ll be anything you don’t like when it’s a minor gig.

      Contracts will be for bigger, 2 days + jobs, with a less defined “role” in the production and constant rolling cameras. They’ll be serious, weighty documents, to cover every eventuality in case they want to do something out of the ordinary with the footage.

      • kalirion says:

        But then even for a smaller bit gig, if they need to “spice the show up” they can show you as a complete asshole and there’s nothing you can do about it, right?

        • Premium User Badge

          Llewyn says:

          If all they’re getting out of you is 30 seconds talking to camera on the subject you’re prompted about, or in many cases just being part of the background activity, then no. Not unless you actually manage to be a complete asshole for those 30 seconds, anyway. In that case they’re unlikely to do anything to redeem you.

          • kalirion says:

            And how many hours will they be filming you for that 30 second shot?

          • danthat says:

            Normally interviews and small self-contained bits will be an hour or so, at most. It’s all about context – if you’ve signed a release for for an interview (say an hour’s recording) or because you’re in the background of some action and not the primary focus of the show (maybe all day) , it’s absolutely up to you to make sure there’s nothing bad they can use, and they’re unlikely to even WANT to bother trying to make you out to be something you’re not. Small release form roles aren’t “star” people, they’re also-rans. There’s little to be gained from twisting their words.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            That said, if you’re giving an expert opinion, there are shows that start out with an agenda (e.g. benefits fraud is a serious problem, austerity during a recession is a good idea, the Moon landings were faked, the Queen is a lizard, etc) so it’s worth considering whether being featured in something where they’re already trying to present a position you may well disagree with is a good thing, given that they might be twisting what you say or presenting you as a straw man to be beaten down.

          • Groove says:

            I’d hate to be caught on camera claiming that the queen isn’t a lizard.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            I’ve seen a Channel 4 documentary where a NASA scientist was used as a straw man to attack the notion that the Moon landings were real. TV companies and news organisations really are that venal that even solid positions can be attacked to make a story, and people who don’t know better will be convinced.

  11. *Junon says:

    Just in case anyone is as confused about this as I was for a bit yesterday… this sham of a reality show was ANOTHER game-jam related new-media documentary series. As reported here on RPS just a few days ago, Devolver is producing the Super Game Jam documentary series, which sounds more and more like the premise of GAME_JAM but y’know, done right:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/03/18/moving-images-super-game-jam-documentary/

    • jorygriffis says:

      Thank you, I totally was confused. Super Game Jam looks pretty cool.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I actually missed that. Pretty excited by the concept. Just looked up Liselore Goedhart’s work, and I’m really keen to see what they and Tom Francis come up with. Actually, all of the pairings look amazing.

  12. trjp says:

    I love the way people get involved in ‘reality TV’ thinking that it somehow shows ‘reality’.

    It never did

    At best it takes people who will make a fool of themselves and puts them into a situation which will force them to perform.

    At worst it’s entirely fabricated/scripted/set-up and just intended to look like the stuff they previously fluked with people who were exhibitionist idiots.

    Seriously tho – reality TV = bear baiting. Anyone who thought this would have been anything other than a way of putting game developers in a room and calling them “nerds” and “geeks” and asking them if they melted in sunlight, is naive to say the least.

    p.s. I am also disappoint at the lack of caption for the first image and so I offer this

  13. sinister agent says:

    Once signed, The Release Form will generally go in a cupboard, forgotten about, unless you call the TV people with reason for them to go scrabbling about looking for it in a panic.

    And then, 50 years later, someone like me has to spend three hours trying to find the bloody thing so it can be cleared for the My Grandma Was Into Pokemon Holovid.

    Try not to get food all over them, please.

  14. Muzman says:

    “[I] may have heard”. No I haven’t heard a single thing and I watch Polaris network stuff quite a bit (although bits sound familiar as off hand references).
    This all sounds amazing. Was it covered?

    • Muzman says:

      Reading more now I got a chance: Holy crap! This should be many a story, in time (I guess it’s still too fresh).
      This has echoes of the mad follies of the tech boom. Or more specifically, where the tech boom crashed into the games boom ( Wizards of the Coast, Ion Storm etc). Only this time it’s where the Indie games boom crashed into the New Media boom.

      Also, I really have no idea how that format got off paper in the first place. Even if everything had worked: challenges between developers and youtubers? I don’t even…

  15. captain nemo says:

    What total sh*tfest. Feels like the Spike Video Game Awards garbage. No wonder I’ve stopped watching regular television.

    If you want to see the polar opposite (a bunch of talented creatives trying to make a game in a crazy short period of time with no corporate/media bs), give yourself a treat and look at Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTzTjf-I-A8

  16. Premium User Badge

    melnificent says:

    I’ve done three different things for TV and lots for radio/magazines/papers

    The first and most fun/hardest was a documentary style production on Domestic Violence in 2004. The release was the standard single page, we will use this footage as we see fit boilerplate. Most of it was question and answer in front of a faked setting*. There was some footage involving my daughter** in the garden and kitchen and an external setting shot.

    Secondly was a pilot project for a local scheme around 2008, again single page release and it was great fun and the final product was good too.

    Finally, was an advert shoot in 2011 (I think), again standard single page boilerplate releasing the footage of myself for use in the advert. The shoot took all day. The camera crew didn’t know when to back off from people being filmed and seemed intent on causing upset to film it for something else. We just told them they’d done and to leave.

    Other media seems to have less in the way of contracts and more informal discussions around things. Both local and national print media and radio ask for an interview and then bang it’s done and produced. Nothing signed, and in the case of radio generally live from a studio or via phone.

    All due respect to the indies in this as some people can get Starstruck and play up for the cameras on demand.

    *Faked setting. It was a computer monitor with a lamp stuck to the front to simulate light from the screen, a keyboard and mouse plugged into nothing. I spent about 30 minutes pretending to use the “computer” while it was filmed.

    **Which due to an unrelated legal matter was not my daughter, honestly.

  17. Gabe McGrath says:

    Just logged in to say how nice it was to see a pic of the lovely Emily Mortimer from The Newsroom
    amongst the assorted TV pics.

    Thanks RPS.

    (Sigh……)

  18. uh20 says:

    gaming with sweaty people might benefit from mountain dew and cardboard pizza. Probably not a game jam

  19. Premium User Badge

    Bury The Hammer says:

    “But no one, not a single person there, expected Matti to push the stuff so unnaturally, barring any drink that wasn’t water or Dew from being consumed while the cameras were rolling” implies to me that they were allowed to drink water?

  20. frightlever says:

    No W1A love?