Game On tackles gaming addictions with humour

  • June 4, 2010
Jonathan AndradeWhen Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School student Jonathan Andrade took on a Grade 10 religion art class project last year, he didn’t expect to finish as a finalist in Toronto’s Hot Docs “Doc It!” showcase for documentary films by youth.

But to his surprise, he did, and last month, continued the editing process for his short film Game On in anticipation of his school’s own  ‘Just’ Docs Media Festival which takes place June 9.

“I hope they get some laughs, first of all,” Andrade said of the six-minute film. “And I hope it shows that (gaming) is a problem, even though our movie was very lighthearted.”

Andrade, as director, and classmates Bill Nguyen, Jonathan Tran and Jesse Gallagher took a stab at themselves, chronicling a week of their own withdrawal from video games. Whoever broke the gaming fast would have to subject himself to watching The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.

“The initial idea we pitched to our teacher was going to be a heavy-handed, look how sad this person is and look what’s it’s done to them, but she came up with the idea of doing the movie on ourselves and, well we were embarrassed because we’re all just awkward teenage boys, and you can kind of see the awkwardness on screen too, and so it ended up being kind of funny,” he said with a laugh. “But I do believe it is a serious issue. It’s a medium that reaches a lot of people and it’s a very addictive medium as well.”

Andrade added it’s also an issue that people push to the side because unlike substance abuse, gaming addiction is relatively new, having only surfaced within the past 30 years.

“It’s kind of like television, where parents will say, ‘here take this and play,’ and then they spend hours and hours... instead of going outside to play.”

Andrade said he realized one of his own friends had an addiction because he admitted to sometimes playing video games all night and then skipping school because he was too tired in the morning.

All students in the school’s religion arts program, like Andrade, must explore social issues that impact today’s youth through a Catholic lens. The program, started six years ago, is designed to help students explore Catholic social justice principles in a creative way, with the support of the National Film Board, which has a mandate to be the “conscience of Canadian citizenry.”

Andrade said if the course had been purely academic, he could have seen himself becoming quickly disinterested. And yet he pulled out his textbook to explain how gaming ties in to social justice.

“It ties in to ‘human dignity’ and ‘family community participation,’ ” he said, pointing to sections of a colour wheel marked “Wheel of Justice: Catholic Social Justice Themes.”

Creating a film also meant group work that forced each of the students to put in equal effort, he added. No one person could sit in a corner “goofing off” while others worked since they each had to appear on camera.

Jeana McCabe, Andrade’s teacher last year, said they began using the arts thrust, through the optional religion arts classes, to try and improve attendance and interest in Catholic issues.

“So Grade 9 would be religion drama, Grade 10 would be video production, because that happened to be my background. Grade 11, we created a world religions multimedia production course and then Grade 12 we just recently took the religion/philosophy course and ethics course and changed it into experimental video production,” McCabe said.

Each year eight finalists are chosen to be screened at the ‘Just’ Docs Festival and only in one other instance has one of their students made it into the Hot Docs “Doc It!” youth showcase which was featured at the Royal Ontario Museum May 8 this year.

For videos and information on the ‘Just’ Docs Media Festival, which takes place 1 to 3 p.m. June 9, see

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