Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sean Kelly

Doc Thoughts: Video Games: The Movie

VideoGamesTheMovieFrom executive producer Zach Braff comes this chronicling of the evolution of video games from a nerd niche to a multi-billion dollar industry. From early innovators such as Atari and Nintendo, to the modern powerhouses of PlayStation and X-Box, video games have become a major part of pop culture within a relatively short timespan.  As the debate continues about whether video games should be considered an art form, gaming culture continues to grow with each passing year.

It seems quite obvious that the goal of Video Games: The Movie is to somewhat validate gaming culture and prove that video games are indeed an art form.  However, in doing this, the film comes off as quite one-sided and even somewhat arrogant.  The film’s narration, which I didn’t immediately know was done by actor Sean Astin, frequently talks down to the audience and heavily borders on hyperbole.  As someone who has been a gamer since childhood, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat insulted at the way this film was presented.

Video Games: The Movie relies heavily on-screen infographics to give its facts and figures to the audience.  In fact, much of the film is structured by moving back and forth along a timeline of videogame history.  While the film does talk about some interesting moments in video game history, such as how the industry was nearly killed by the huge failure of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial for Atari, it almost seemed like the cliff notes version, which never went into any extreme detail.  The film also featured quotes from the likes of Nikola Tesla and John F. Kennedy, which often included highlighting a certain word from the quote.  I thought that this really contributed to the film’s hyperbolic “video games as art” argument and somewhat rubbed me the wrong way.

I thought the film fared a bit better with the talking heads interviews, though even they were a mixed bag.  Some of the better interviews in the film included actor Will Wheaton, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime, and Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima. However, for every decent interview in the film, there was also some interviewees, which left you wondering why they are even in the film at all.  The biggest offender of this is Chronicle filmmaker Max Landis, who by far gives the most hyperbolic statements in the film.  It’s a bit more forgiven that executive producer Zach Braff and his Scrubs co-star Donald Faison were included among the interviewees.  That said, I do feel that it was a nice touch that there were interviews with Kickstarter donators during the credits.

While I am a supporter of the argument that video games is an art form, I do not feel that Video Games: The Movie is successful at convincing naysayers.  The film is very arrogant and one-sided and treats the audience like they know absolutely nothing about gaming.  The film only briefly touches on the negative aspects of gaming culture, such as the “violence in videogames” debate.  I wished that this could have been a very objective and definitive history of video games, but instead the film just ended up being insulting hyperbole about how great gaming culture is.

4 | DISAPPOINTED

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).