Responses by Dominic Desjardins, producer, National Film Board of Canada
Background: From National Film Board of Canada’s Canadian Francophonie Studio and Toronto-based creative agency Reflektor Digital, the 20-minute interactive documentary “Thank You for Playing” explores compulsive gambling using a playful format that recreates the very same psychological mechanisms underlying the addiction. Following three players, each of whom provide a personal account of addiction and abstinence, the documentary introduces viewers to a range of perspectives on the subject.
Highlights: “Thank You for Playing” offers both a video documentary and short, gamified experiences. At every turn of the story, these short interactive moments challenge the users’s sense of comfort and their ability to control the outcome of the game, which ultimately sheds light on the different phases of gambling addiction. To highlight the underlying mechanisms at play in a gambling addiction, we chose a simple design inspired by casino slot machines.
Challenges: Finding the tone of the interactive piece took a lot of time and effort. We went through many iterations and prototypes before we found experiences that were complementary to the documentary piece. We quickly realized that having the user simply gamble was not enough; each chapter of the experience needed to bring the user to a different realization about the mechanisms of gambling addiction.
Favorite details: The experience can be accessed on multiple platforms, which was hard to achieve given the complexity and speed of the HTML5 animations.
Navigational structure: We needed to offer interactivity around gambling that wasn’t just a series of games, but rather experiences providing insight into the mechanisms of gambling. Otherwise, the film would have been insufficient, and the pauses would only distract the user instead of moving the story forward.
Anything new: We learned a lot about building a meaningful relationship between interactivity and video within web documentaries.