Video Games: The Movie – The Review
By Marcus Estrada
It’s not much of a gamble to suggest that if you’re on Cliqist that you love video games. Every year more and more people discover the joy of playing games and may eventually even call themselves “gamers.” Even so, there are still a lot of folks out there who aren’t quite sure what to make of games. Are they just toys for kids? Do they cause people to become violent? When did the graphics become so good? Video Games: The Movie attempts to showcase the history of gaming in a very positive and friendly light. It is a documentary focused toward those who aren’t deeply knowledgeable about the ups and downs of gaming, console wars, and all that stuff. How does the movie hold up to someone who already has an intense, nearly encyclopedic knowledge and love of gaming?
The documentary is still fun, although this is definitely something to watch primarily if you want to “explain” games to someone. Video Games: The Movie begins by giving a brief timeline of gaming’s history. They start out early, and even delve ever so quickly into the prehistory of games before settling on things like Pong and Spacewar. The jaunt down memory lane is super quick and focuses primarily on consoles that today seem to garner the most nostalgia. There are segments on the Atari 2600, NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and PlayStation 2. Even though Sega consoles are shown on the timeline there is practically no time devoted to their properties at all. It’s kind of sad to see how a once-important console manufacturer wasn’t even given a small spotlight.
After this brief, very specific rundown of consoles from the beginning until today Video Games: The Movie then rewinds itself to earlier in the timeline. Why? So it can get more in depth about historical events that it glossed over in the initial pass through. At this point it explains the Video Game Crash of 1983, the video game violence controversy, and a few other events. However, the Video Game Crash segment felt silly by effectively pinning the entire thing on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. This is a very common telling of the event, but E.T. only serves as a great scapegoat. After all, the cause was related to an oversaturation of the game market with subpar products in total – not simply one terrifically bad game. Funnily enough, despite leading in with E.T. they never even address the Atari cart burials…
Other topics that I didn’t really expect to be covered were given a chance to shine as well. For example, there was a discussion of the future of gaming. Luckily for the producers, there are cool technologies out right now which they could (and did) use as a starting point. Both the Oculus Rift and Virtuix Omni saw screentime to support the notion of a virtual reality-based future. Although the Rift has already proved to be a loved device, I still worry these references will date Video Games: The Movie quickly thanks to the rapid changes in tech trends.
For an indie documentary the production was mostly excellent. There are copious well-shot interviews with amazing figures in the world of gaming. Men such as Nolan Bushnell, Peter Molyneux, Reggie Fils-Aime, and others all provided interesting talking points. But notice that I say men specifically. The ratio of male interviewees to female was probably about 10:1 which is fairly unfortunate considering that, yes, there were women involved in gaming from the beginning until now. They have routinely been glossed over by gaming historians and unfortunately that trend continues here.
Coming from the standpoint of someone who is already aware of many aspects of game history there was nothing new for me to discover in Video Games: The Movie. In fact, my knowledge made me more apt to critique the documentary over its slant on stories and complete lack of discussion on certain aspects (Sony and Nintendo’s near partnership being one of the most glaring omissions). Of course, this is more of an attempt to give a broad introduction of video games to people who don’t yet know a ton about them. By painting games in a positive light Video Games: The Movie might make non-gamers wonder what they’ve been missing all this time.