December 5, 2017 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
In any given year, approximately 79 percent of Canadians participate in some form of gambling, and more than 35 percent of casino profits come from players who have a gambling problem. The hidden side of gambling is the focus of the NFB’s new 20-minute interactive documentary, Thank You for Playing, which explores compulsive gambling using a playful format that recreates the very same psychological mechanisms underlying the addiction, introducing viewers to a range of perspectives on the subject in the process. Created by Andréa Cohen-Boulakia (director), Priam Givord (design and interactivity) and Dominic Desjardins (producer), this interactive doc from the NFB’s Canadian Francophonie Studio in Toronto will be available online at nfb.ca/thankyouforplaying as of Tuesday, December 12.
In its look at the behavioural mechanisms behind problem gambling, the doc follows three players: Marie, Stephane and Robert (whose names have been changed to preserve their privacy), each of whom provides an unvarnished, personal account of addiction and abstinence. Viewers will also meet academics such as psychologist Magali Dufour, Associate Professor at Université de Sherbrooke, and neurologist and neurosurgeon Alain Dagher from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, as well as two Montreal Casino employees: slot machine technician Daniel Charest and croupier Damien Bérubé.
These voices shed light on the mechanics and source of a gambling addiction, which can afflict anyone. “We are all the same when we have a slot machine in front of us,” says Montreal Casino technician Daniel Charest. Psychologist Magali Dufour discusses the vulnerability of players and demystifies the feeling of satisfaction that comes with winning. And croupier Damien Bérubé reveals the illusion of control that’s at work, while neurologist Alain Dagher illuminates the physiological aspects of gambling: how the rewards it generates bring us pleasure and act on the brain’s dopamine system. When players win, their faith in a good outcome is strengthened; when they lose, they feel like they’ve been punished and try to redeem themselves. Without being aware of it, the player becomes a hostage to these two emotional states. Therein lies the risk with gambling.
The doc’s storyline and interactive features play on the mechanisms underlying gambling addiction in order to reveal them. Just as slot games are designed to keep players playing, Thank You for Playing is programmed to let you win just often enough—otherwise known as “positive reinforcement.” Each story is divided into chapters that trace the stages of gambling and addiction: The Big Win, Feeling Lucky, The Habit, Big Night, The Cost of Gambling Addiction and Breaking the Cycle. As we listen to these stories, we take part in a game ourselves, betting and accumulating points, ultimately engaging in a concrete experience that exposes the risks that come with gambling.
Andréa Cohen-Boulakia, Director and Researcher
Priam Givord, Interactive Designer
Produced by Dominic Desjardins, Executive Producer, Canadian Francophonie Studio, NFB
The link below gives media access to the project before its December 12 launch:
Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopsis and video clips: Thank You for Playing