Directed by: Jeremy Snead
Starring: Sean Austin, Will Wheaton, Max Landis
I would consider myself a gamer, neither casual nor hardcore, but a gamer nonetheless. Currently right now I’m raising money to build my own gaming PC sometime late this year and do not own any of the popular consoles such as the PS4 or XBONE. I would also consider myself knowledgeable in the area of the gaming industry and its quirks, so when I heard a documentary was being made about this subject I was excited to see what they would do. Sadly for me, it’s only half baked.
“Video games are here, and they are here to stay.”
Video Games: The Movie is a semi-documentary that covers the history of video gaming, and what makes it so popular while still giving tons of facts about the industry. Its great for people who don’t know a thing about video gaming, but if you do know almost anything about it, its frustrating. This really is a documentary where there is absolutely no limit on what one could cover, with many topics throughout its history. Unfortunately the film decides to tackle the entire history while trying to talk about every topic in only one hundred minutes. To make a small comparison, that’s like trying to cover the entire music, or film industry and all the changes its made in an hour and forty minutes. Good luck.
I honestly wouldn’t mind an abbreviated version of its history if it went sequentially, but Video Games: The Movie jumps around in time frame for no apparent reason, literally being in the 2010’s and then jumping to 1982 suddenly to talk about the “crash of 82”. Its unfocused in its priorities and needs a reframing. That aside the film is also too positive about the industry as a whole, trying to shy away from any and all bad spots that every industry has. For example, they never cover how some people become completely addicted to video gaming, and focus on what the average, casual gamer plays in a given week, instead of covering both the casual gamer and hardcore gamer. It comes off as frustrating for not going far enough in some areas, and too far in others.
Sean Austin gives a good performance as the films narrator and guide to the film, but the film decided to get whomever it could to interview for the sake of a popular name that causal audiences will recognize instead of people who actually work in the industry. Why would you interview a Hollywood actor about a video game instead of someone like Gabe Newell who actually works in that industry and can tell you about his/her work related stories to certain topics that may come up. It’s a completely wasted opportunity for the industry.
Do I think this is a bad film, absolutely not and my gripes may come with it being about an industry I know very well and actually participate in by being a PC gamer. It may also be that they focus too much on console gaming and it feels like one big product placement story, but I digress. Video Games: The Movie is fine for people who have little to no interest or knowledge of video gaming, but to all others it comes off as extremely proud of itself and frustrating to see such a great topic get completely squandered on “what could have been”.
Presented in a 1:78.1 aspect ratio Video Games: The Movie, while decent in some areas, needs a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong, this being a DVD, the interview footage looks fine, if a little bit jagged (possibly due to sharpening) but whenever it cuts to most video game footage, especially with the newest titles, it looks like hell. What confuses me most is that with the new material being captured in 1080p, how bad it actually looks. Other than that the usual suspects are here for a dvd, which are blanding, artifcating and macroblocking. But since its only a dvd I wont count off that much.
Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix Video Games: The Movie does a solid job at creating a sound field that is fun to listen to. Dialogue is always at the center and forefront with music and some folly effects taking place in the sides and rear speakers. It’s a decent mix that never blows the roof off of anything, but certainly isn’t a let down.
Packaging and Bonus Features
The film comes in a standard DVD package with the cover art having many different characters. I counted nine characters from recent games and only four from the classic series. Why was this chosen? Well personally it might be to entice a certain new audience to pick it up, no facts here, only opinion.
Bonus features on the other hand are extremely light:
Sean Austin Mashup: (41 seconds) Sean Austin sitting in an arcade making weird noises and faces for forty seconds. What?!
Why We Love Video Games: (27 minutes) this feels like a complete segment that was cut from the film, focusing on interview footage of why the people interviewed in the film, discussing why they fell in love with video gaming and why they continue to do it. It’s a subject that I felt should have been more prominently featured. Its also interesting to see some people say “well I don’t love video games, but I love this one game”, it was incredibly cringe inducing.
Video games: The Movie is a great idea, but flawed in its execution causing the viewer to be incredibly frustrated at the layout of the film as well as its choice as who they interviewed for the subject matter. The DVD offers an okay video presentation that varies quite often, while the audio mix wont make your ears bleed. Bonus features are light and make the viewer wonder why they were cut, but aside from that id recommend watching the first fifteen to twenty minutes on Netflix to see if you like it. As for me, nah.