The 'Positive Difference' Of Video Games Comes To the Big Screen At ESI London 2023
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Featured Image Credit: ESI London
Video games get a bad rep. Those of us who play them frequently, and know more than those who skirt around the sidelines of the community, can tell anyone that video games often do more good than harm. However, while we recognise this truth with ease, outsiders struggle, led by “news” that doesn’t offer a broad overview of what actually happens within gaming. Consequently, when we mention mental health and video games, the assumption is that it’s a dangerous combination.
ESI London 2023, specifically its innovative and new ESI Film Festival, is hoping to change opinions by delivering a candid look at the positive impact that video games and esports have on its players. As someone who lives with mental illness, and who uses games as a means to soothe the intense episodes I have to endure, I was delighted to be able to chat with Sam Cooke, the Co-Founder and Managing Director of ESI.
Whet your appetite with the teaser video for ESI London 2023!
“It’s not so much about what happens behind the scenes in video game creation but about the various video game and esports communities,” explains Cooke. “And how these games, scenes and communities impact individuals. However, we won’t shy away from video game creation if it's relevant to the overall story.”
“The way we see it there are countless stories of both video games and esports making a hugely positive difference in people’s lives around the world, and we want to showcase these. It’s about shining a light on those inspiring stories that many would never have any idea about otherwise. We want to help unearth and provide a larger platform and a broader audience for more stories just like his”.
Designed as an educational and networking event, ESI London is renowned amongst those within the industry; filled with experts in the field, delivering insightful talks about the state of the industry, where it’s headed, and what the future might hold. For 2023, however, ESI has added in further elements, including its short film festival, that offer filmmakers the chance to not only showcase their work, but also touch the lives of their peers in a unique way. Arguably, video games and film are a naturally symbiotic relationship, one which Cooke is eager to explore.
“Whilst gaming is undoubtedly now more ‘accepted’ than it once was, it’s still fairly widely regarded as a waste of time that one grows out of. Worse still, to some, gaming can be seen as something that is ‘addictive’ and that promotes anti-social or even violent behaviour.” Cooke continues, “There are plenty of stories to highlight and to shout about across games and esports. We hope that by giving them a bit more of a platform, in perhaps a different medium than usual with film, that this will have an impact (visibility being the focus here) and help in its own small way to drive positive change”.
I, for one, am happy to see the positivity within gaming coming to the fore, especially when diversity and equality are still such divisive topics within video gaming. They shouldn’t be, however, we don’t live in an ideal world, meaning that, while we strive to eliminate problematic elements, they still exist. Knowing this, I was keen to ask Cooke whether those prevalent issues are also part of the reason the ESI Film Festival was born. “We made diversity one of our themes for this year for a reason, this is a problem and challenge in esports as it is video games more broadly.”
All of which begs the question: will this segment of ESI become an integral part of the event in the future? Fortunately, Cooke has considered this thoroughly, and while he operates with wise caution, everything sounds incredibly positive. “This year was intended to be us testing the waters, hence us being relatively conservative and keeping it to just one evening, but the interest we’ve had in it has been both incredibly reassuring and motivating.”
“We’re already working on plans for a significantly scaled up ESI Film Festival in 2024. We’ve kickstarted some excellent strategic partnerships with the likes of the BFI, CenterFrame, and the Manchester Film Festival, and we’ve got a great set of judges and advisors on board too from across film, games and esports”.
Hearing the potential to keep expanding on the message that video games can impact lives in the most wholesome of ways, sincerely brought a smile to my face, and I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that we see the short film fest return in 2024. ESI London as a whole begins on 19 October and ends on 20 Oct, with the ESI Film Festival taking place on the evening of 20 Oct, held at the extremely prestigious BAFTA 195 Piccadilly. Should you be interested in being involved in the future, Cooke has a message for you: “If there’s any interest in being involved in future editions, please get in touch!”