Video Games: The Movie (2014)
NR / 105 min
Documentary / Animation / History
Starring: Sean Astin, Al Alcorn, Peter Armstrong
Director: Jeremy Snead
Movies and video games have always had a weird relationship. Big corporate companies would often cash in on the big movie releases of the summer, making video game adaptations to go alongside these blockbusters. They always fell short, with the exception of a few. On the other hand, we are starting to hear a lot about movies based off video games. Assassins Creed, World Of Warcraft, and Uncharted have all been in talks to receive movie counterparts. What about a movie based on video games as a whole? Well, Video Games: The Movie had the heart and soul, but ultimately didn’t make the mark.
The documentary takes a look at the story of video games, and the people and events that got them to where they are today as one of the entertainment world’s biggest industries. The documentary wasted no time displaying the graphs and charts that proved video game’s dominance in the entertainment market. I didn’t think this portion of the project was necessary, considering I didn’t need any convincing that video games are on top.
Narrated by Sean Astin, Video Games: The Movie contains a bunch of interviews and bits from some of the biggest names in the industry, as well as the journalistic industry that covers them. We saw the likes of Cliff Bleszinski (who was also the executive producer on the project), Al Alcorn, Nolan Bushnell, Will Wheaton, Chris Hardwick, Donald Faison, Peter Armstrong, and many more. I was pleasantly surprised about the amount of talent that was on board. There was little narration during the course of the story. The story was told by the game’s creators and the people that influenced them as time went on.
There was a timeline of video games that basically served as the backbone for the documentary. We went up and down the timeline, exploring the games, systems, creators, and other events that impacted the industry, as well as its fans. Along the way, the documentary covered some of the industry’s biggest issues, like the big Industry Crash, as well as the influence of games like Grand Theft Auto on violence. All of these issues were covered on a surface level depth, and they don’t really dive deep into any one of them. They did a good job at mostly covering everything, but maybe that’s the problem of a movie trying to document video games as a whole. How do you cover everything at a satisfying level?
The biggest problem about the documentary was its lack of new material; stuff we haven’t seen before. I’ve read a lot about the history of the video game industry, and I’ve seen a fair share of historic videos. Nothing that Video Games: The Movie covered was necessarily new, or enlightening. There was a notable absence of talk about the mobile gaming industry, including smartphones. They have had a profound effect on gaming, and they were nowhere to be seen. I also would have liked to have seen some other issues plaguing the industry, like the free-to-play arena, as well as the issue of online gaming and harassment. Perhaps this documentary wasn’t the right venue for issues like these, but I would have liked to see something different than just “the history of video games.”
There were times were the documentary felt like a promotional video for video games. In between periods of interviews, I would see these drawn out highlight reels showing scenes from video games of yesteryear, as well as the games we are playing today. These “highlight reels” of sorts weren’t really needed, and they didn’t offer anything to the table. They were just there to get people excited about gaming in general. If I wanted to do that, I would just go watch a batch of trailers. I didn’t need a feature length film to do that for me.
Hearing the story from some of the industry’s greats was a nice touch, but Video Games: The Movie could have been so much more. There was a lack of depth, which was surprising to me. Instead, we got a bunch of fan service and highlight reels to get everybody feeling good about games. I would much rather have a documentary covering specific issues or events in video games’ history, with more insight. The documentary suffers from being too broad, and trying to do too much. If you want a good documentary on video games, I would probably point you to Indie Game: The Movie. It’s much more intriguing than Video Games: THE HYPEFEST VIDEO GAMES ARE GREAT YOU GUYS!