Videogame-themed movies that actually got it right

Games can work on the big screen, you just have to put gamers in the limelight

Playing Columbine (2008)

The story of a game maker being censored by his own peers

What makes it great: Free speech is a funny thing. It allowsone personto say whatever offensive crap he or she wants, but doesn't protectthat personfrom another's speech. Playing Columbine is the story of a game, Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, created by a single game maker, Danny Ledonne, and what happens when video games really do start to challenge our preconceptions.

Featuring many of the same faces featured in Moral Kombat, Playing Columbine focuses on the reaction to SCMRPG and its eventual expulsion from the Slamdance Film Festival Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition.

Upon first hearing about a “Columbine Game,” it's easy to dismiss it as a sophomoric attempt to offend people. But the fact is that both the game and this film are mature looks at the causes and aftermath of the shooting, and the dangers that we as a society face for leaping to assumptions and accusations instead of actual discussion.

See it on: Order the DVD on the film's official site


The Dungeon Masters (2008)

A look at D&D players coping with their campaigns and their real life

What makes it great: Like King of Kong and Second Skin, The Dungeon Masters is about how people in American culture cope by using games - in this case Dungeons & Dragons, rather than videogames, but the lessons still apply.An aspiring pulp sci-fi writer,a self-righteousnudist estranged from his family, and a hurricane Katrina-displaced drowess whocan'tfind the rightjob, thethree characters in the film seemdestined fora constant stream of embarrassment. It's like someone took Steve Carrell's character from The Office and made him play D&D. It's hilarious and more than a little uncomfortable at times.

But then the movie switches gears and reminds us that this isn't a comedy. Flawed though they may be, these are real people and their problems are not only real, they're familiar. We've all had to deal with money and family issues, relationship problems, and hating our boss. Granted, most of us don't lean quite so much on the false sense of security that being the master of our own little D&D world gives us in order to get through everyday life. But there are still important lessons to be learned in their oddly inspirational struggles.

See it on: Amazon, DVD or streaming


 

Monster Camp (2007)

Find out what it takes to make someone step away from WoW and into the world of life-action role-playing

What makes it great: Monster Camp is a serious look at the incredibly unserious pastime of live-action role-playing, or LARPing. However, there are several videogame-related scenes in the film that elevate it to greatness. The best is perhaps when one of the subjects can't be bothered to fill his LARP related responsibilities because he's too busy playing WoW. It's such a geeky moment, it's a wonder that there wasn't some kind of nerd feedback loop that destroyed the whole of Azeroth and/or Earth.

When not creating such time-space paradoxes, the film follows the lives of a large group of LARPers both in and out of the game. The subjects are people who, for the most part, are aware of how silly their hobby looks to the rest of the world and to their credit, they seem far more socially able and balanced than the people feature in either Second Skin or The Dungeon Masters. It's a wonderful film and fails in only one respect: even after every interview subject in the film explains why they LARP, we still kept on asking ourselves, “why the hell would anyone do that?”

See it on: Amazon (but order before it sells out)

Mar 17, 2011


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