Video game documentary as vacuous as games themselves
Not much for content but the graphics are okay
Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 06:00 am
Starring: Wil Wheaton, Sean Astin, Max Landis and Zach Braff
Written and Directed by Jeremy Snead
Rated: G for infrequent, mild scatological slang
and infrequent video game violence
Runtime: 101 minutes
Plays Aug. 1 at 11 p.m., Aug. 2 at 4:15 p.m., Aug. 6 at 9 p.m. and Aug. 10 at 9:30 p.m.
Metro Cinema in the Garneau Theatre, 8712 109 St. in Edmonton
Call 780-425-9212 or visit www.metrocinema.org for more details.
Watching a documentary about video games takes a special kind of person with a special kind of temperament. I am not that person, sadly.
First off, I admit that the 10-year-old Scott inside of my brain did immediately succumb to the overdose of nostalgia in the preface of this “documentary”: a montage of snippets from classic home and arcade video games like Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Tetris and others. All great time wasters. Yes, I was a boy who played these games and like most boys, I grew out of them. Better things to do with my time, I guess.
As an adult, I still have better things to do with my time than play video games or even watch this kind of pap.
Right after that opening montage, at the mere one-minute mark, Sean Astin starts off his narration, espousing how “distinctly human” they are because they were borne out of innovation, necessity and curiosity.
And that’s how I knew immediately that this was a movie expertly designed to be a grand birthday kiss about the wonder and splendor of all things video game. Further proof of this came right after Astin’s monologue, when Don’t Stop Me Now, a rockin’ Queen song, starts playing to another glittering, Vegas-like montage of scenes from some of the most popular games ever. Surely, anyone who has played a video game within the last 30 years must, at some point during all of this nonsense, have an overwhelming desire to plug a game cartridge in and fritter away another hot summer afternoon in front of the boob tube till his or her thumbs were sore.
And that’s when Wil Wheaton, he of Star Trek Whatever, chimes in. “I love video games,” he begins with a droning voice, blithely confessing to the converted, “because I have the same experience that I have when I watch a movie that I love or read a book that captures my imagination, but I am an active participant instead of a passive observer.”
Oh, so video games actually qualify as intelligence boosters? That will certainly dishearten all of those 12-year-olds sitting on the side of their schools pushing buttons on their iPods or handheld Nintendo DS consoles instead of playing soccer or shooting a few hoops during their lunch breaks.
We are led down a rabbit hole of mendacity about how video games are good, how they have a unique and fundamental role in society (that will never dissolve, only change form), and how we’re only now beginning to understand and explore how they can improve human existence.
Pardon me for being a naysayer, but bah humbug! What a colossal load of tripe! One commentator even remarks how video games will eventually become so intrinsic to our daily lives that we won’t even notice them.
Here I am, a middle-aged fellow without a single game in my house. Imagine my dismay. You must wonder how I manage to survive?
This is the kind of patently propagandistic documentary that even zombified video game die-hards will surely see through, or should. It’s like watching an educational video in junior high about how doughnuts are made. The comparison is apt: digest one and it turns your midsection soft. The other simply turns your mind to dough.
Wil Wheaton would probably know this too, although he doesn’t have a doctorate in anything ... but did play a space traveler on TV once!
Sure, we get the cursory glimpse through history – all thanks to video game historians, no less. There’s the great debate over who is the Grandfather of Video Games – is it Nolan Bushnell or Ralph Baer or Shigeru Miyamoto? Or the team at MIT back in the day? Farther back even? Who knows?
We learn how games get developed and see the whole world of gaming culture, if it could be called such a thing. What does it even mean to be a gamer, and perhaps more importantly, what kind of person would care to put that on their résumé?
This all comes courtesy of some gaming industry insiders, gaming culture writers and the standard retinue of celebrities including Wheaton, producer Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Max Landis and other actors. We are only left to wonder where were all of the academics on the day that filmmaker Jeremy Snead came calling for their all-too-important critical opinion. Perhaps wakeboarding or playing extreme Frisbee?
I gotta tell you that the only thing that feels more like a waste of time than actually playing video games is watching 100 minutes of this gobbledygook documentary about them but it’s not really my bag anyway. I can't say much for the content but the graphics were pretty good though.
In short, this movie is really only for people who play video games more than they want to talk to their children or parents, or spend an afternoon in the garden. Everybody else, carry on.