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Alumni’s film puts spotlight on gaming and grief


A person sat on sofa in front of television playing a video game

A group of former University of Bradford students have highlighted using nostalgic video games to help cope with grief in a poignant short film.

Ahseem Yousuf, Harry James Martin and Saul Padgett, who all graduated from the BA (Hons) Film and Television Production course at the University of Bradford in 2021, have made PONG. 

The five-minute film follows Dan who, while grieving the loss of his father, finds an original 1970s Atari 2600 video games console in his father’s greenhouse. Dan, played by Lincoln Whalley, is taken back to his own childhood when he plays games including Pong, Asteroids and Pac-Man on the Atari console.  

An adult looking over proudly at a young boy as they sit on a sofa together

The film, available to view on YouTube, also features Dan playing a more modern video games console, the Nintendo Switch, alongside his own young son, Max, played by the actor’s real-life son, Elijah. 

PONG originated from a film contest in Keighley with the theme of video games, where the team decided to look at grief and how playing on a games console could remind people of previously playing them alongside those who have since died. 

former student wearing a jacket looks into the distance in a street

Ahseem, the film’s writer and director, said: “Dan finds an old games console which takes him on a trip down memory lane where he remembers how he and his father played games together. The film looks at the question; ‘what’s more important, the games or the people we play them with’. 

“I looked at my own life and found that games were always a place where I could connect with my friends and family. 

A 1980s video game is played on a TV screen

“When I play consoles like the PlayStation 1 and 2, it takes me back to being a kid and gives me a comforting feeling unlike playing a modern console, even though the technology now is a lot better. Dan’s discovery illustrates how nostalgia can transport us back in time.

“We wanted to show the circle of life with Dan now taking the time to play games with his son as his father took the time to play with him.”

head and shoulder picture of a person wearing glasses sat down looking into the distance

PONG, filmed in Bradford over two days, will be included in the festival section of the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo, held in Atlanta, USA, this July. The film’s team also plan to submit PONG into several film festivals. 

PONG is the latest venture by Ahseem, who previously worked with fellow University of Bradford alumni to produce a video game. 

former student wearing baseball cap holding a TV camera over their right shoulder

He has written the story for ‘It’s Grim Up North’, an adventure game based on Bradford and Yorkshire, which sees alien shape-shifters invade Earth and it is up to an elderly detective to find them. He does this by testing aliens’ knowledge on a range of Yorkshire icons including the Yorkshire Rose and Bradford-born artist David Hockney.

The first of the game’s four chapters was released earlier this year. The game received a £30,000 grant from the UK Games Fund after a successful application.