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Review: ‘Video Games: The Movie’ Offers A Feel-Good Look At Gaming

A Celebration Of The Game Industry And Culture

Video

Trailer: "video Games: The Movie"

Aired 7/18/14 on KPBS News.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "Video Games: The Movie."

Transcript

Companion Viewing/Gaming

"eXistenZ" (1999)

"King of Kong" (2007)

"Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie" (2014)

"Last of Us"

"Skyrim"

Video games have become a $24 billion a year business, surpassing movies, but they still don’t get much respect and are often the object of criticism. But "Video Games: The Movie" (opening July 18 at the Digital Gym Cinema) serves up a celebration of gaming.

Video gaming has come a long way since Pong and Atari video game cartridges. Jeremy Snead’s documentary, "Video Games: The Movie," traces the history of gaming through the eyes of people who create and consume them. Anyone who grew up in the 1970s and '80s will get a kick out of the old commercials that remind us of how low tech those early video games now seem.

Snead’s film jumps around a lot (you get a bit dizzy traveling up and down the graphic timeline of game history) as it tries to enlighten viewers about the gaming industry and culture. It delivers a feel-good look at gaming that is decidedly one-sided. There's a reason Sean Astin (Hobbit Sam from "Lord of the Rings") is the narrator. The film definitely wants to create a sense of fellowship about the gaming community.

But I’m not sure where some of its data comes from regarding the percentage of parents who are with their kids when they buy games or find the rating system effective. I can understand the steadfastly positive tone since gaming comes under a lot of scrutiny and gets scapegoated for everything from attention deficit disorder to the latest school shooting, and doesn't often find mainstream media defenders. Snead lets industry folks and gamers respond to criticism about violence in gaming and about whether video games are art, and they offer some good insights into both.

Despite the cheerleading, Snead does manage to deliver a genuinely comprehensive and sometimes insightful portrait of gaming. The film celebrates the innovation, creativity and artistry that goes into games. Cliff Bleszinski of Gears of War applauds the talented staff that creates games.

"You have a music composer, a writer, you have an artist who does sketch work, a technical artist, you have level designers who create spaces much like an architect. It really is the Avengers of talent if you really think about it."

Gaikai founder David Perry says, "When I learned history in school, it was the most boring thing. It was old books with black and white images in them. And I saw a girl in a video recently from Carnegie Mellon that was talking about trebuchets, which were these old medieval siege weapons, but she had actually experienced using one because she’d done it in a virtual world. And to have ... a 6-year-old girl telling you her opinion of medieval siege weapons versus my version of it, which was so incredibly boring, is a fundamental change to education through entertainment that can make history and things like that much more engrossing."

One game designer describes movies as lean-back entertainment, whereas video gaming is a lean-forward or interactive experience. You can enjoy a little of both with "Video Games: The Movie" this weekend at the Digital Gym Cinema. You can also catch a screening of "Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie" during Comic-Con on July 24 at Reading Gaslamp Theaters. The Angry Video Game Nerd has won a devout following for his rants and raves on YouTube.

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