Video Games: The Movie (Capsule Review)

40-something years ago...
Origin story.


“The movie sets itself up as some sort of magnum opus that it really isn’t.”

by Ken B.

Video Games: The Movie is first and foremost a 101 minute puff piece for the $24 billion video game industry, but it must be said that technically speaking, it’s a competently made one. It’s at least somewhat entertaining more often than not, visually slick, and there are some varying, storied, and interesting interview subjects, from some celebrities to developers of a few of the earliest modern games, but Jeremy Snead’s crowdfunded documentary feels incredibly shallow, only briefly touching upon the real meat of the subjects covered, which look at the history of games, gaming culture, development, and the industry’s future, and by extension feels empty at times. Sometimes it feels more like a commercial than an actual documentary. I’d have no problem if it was billed more as a movie about the love of video games or the fast growing community of gamers, but by calling yourself Video Games: The Movie, presenting yourself as an authoritative voice, and starting each section of the film with a seriously scored and framed quote from people like Bill Gates, John F. Kennedy, and Mahatma Gandhi, the movie sets itself up as some sort of magnum opus that it really isn’t.

I’ve never been the biggest gamer, but I recognize that the way that the gaming industry has revolutionized itself, over and over again in such a relatively short period of time is nothing short of incredible. In the 1970s there was a simple circle bouncing between two lines on a screen. Now there are half-billion dollar worlds, great fantastical creations with lifelike animation and incredible physics. Unlike Roger Ebert, I will fully agree with the notion that video games are indeed a potent art form. And even outside of first hand playing, they’re still a fascinating topic, and I’ve found a degree of enjoyment in watching other people play them, be it in person with friends or online with Let’s Plays on YouTube. So why isn’t this movie more interesting or in depth? It has interviews, semi-cleanly divided chapters, interspersed with incredibly distracting and pointless, but fun to look at montages of game footage. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. Except that’s it. It’s rigidly structured from an outside perspective, but less neat within, over-prioritized for mass consumption and crowd pleasing likability to the point where there seems to be little interest or room into maintaining the kind of insight than can live up to its title, ending as a movie that is seemingly made in equal parts for video game ignoramuses or die-hard fans, and as someone that isn’t either, it really didn’t work for me.

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