First-time full-feature documentary writer/director Jeremy Snead tackles the subject that has dominated so many lives, making it seem that man can fall in love with machine and live somewhat happily. Begun as a Kickstarter campaign which had an original goal of $60,000, but had $107,234 pledged, this movie, "VIdeo Games: The Movie," is more celebratory and celebrity laden than cerebral.
The Kickstarter campaign claimed that this would be the "first ever in depth feature length documentary about the video game industry" and had 1,134 backers.
According to the Kickstarter campaign page, the goals of this documentary were simple. First, Snead posited that gamers were misunderstood. This subculture had an "amazing, vibrant community."
Secondly, Snead claims that the video game industry is misunderstood and that the industry is driven by passion and dedication.
Third, Snead wishes to contest the claim that violence in games has a negative influence on players. This is not the whole story.
Sean Astin ("The Lord of the Rings") narrates and we have a lot of talking heads to contend with. Some of them famous beyond the gaming world such as executive producer Zach Braff ("Scrubs" and "Garden State") and his pal Donald Faison ("Scrubs" and "Remember the Titans") along with geek icon Wil Wheaton ("Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The Big Bang Theory"). Others are famous in the video game world: Cliff Geszinski (co-creator of "Gears of War"), Doug Tennapel ("Earthworm Jim"), Hiroyuki Kobayashi (creator "Resident Evil"), Nolan Bushnell (creator of Atari, Inc.) and Palmer Luckey (creator of "The Oculus Rift").
The mantra for development is: Easy to understand; hard to master. The easiest to understand is probably something like two "paddles" hitting a ball in digital table tennis or a shooting game like Space Invaders or an escape game like Pac Man. Other games require an attention to detail and sometimes even a knowledge of history.
Not a video gamer myself, I was surprised at how many of these games I recognized and how far the graphics have come within my lifetime. While it is nice to know that Hitler didn't need video games to make his plans, that doesn't really seriously answer the concern of violence. The concern was serious enough to get to the U.S. Supreme Court, but not everything that is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech is equally laudable.
Health concerns don't end with off-line violence using guns. There are also concerns about anger management issues (video game induced rage), repetitive motion injuries, obesity, and in recent cases death. The documentary doesn't address those concerns either.
The 2012 Polish documentary "Men At War," was a more contemplative look at one game, one international community and the questions that surrounded the passions and the passionate. Also in 2012, the documentary "100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience" gave a more personal look at a subculture within a culture that embraces change and electronics more than the U.S.
Of course, "Video Games: The Movie" is more ambitious but its very crowdsourcing credentials may be holding it back from any critical analysis. If it doesn't give analysis of cultural representation, we'll soon have lots of other documentaries to compare this documentary to--"Good Game," "Gamer Age," "Free to Play," "From Bedrooms to Billions" and "The Art of the Game"--all out in 2014.
"Video Games: The Movie" is a bit of a stroll through memory lane and a chance to gush about mostly guyhood pastimes. Funded by fans, this documentary is more about celebration than critical thought. It will be released on several VoD platforms on 15 July 2014 and theatrically on 18 July 2014.