Videogame-themed movies that actually got it right

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 allows one person to say whatever offensive crap he or she wants, but doesn't protect that person from 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-righteous nudist estranged from his family, and a hurricane Katrina-displaced drowess who can't find the right job, the three characters in the film seem destined for a 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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They're doing Jurassic Park and Back to the Future, but we need these too


The best fake video game movies you'll never see
12 famous films and games melded together in mashed-up movie posters


  • addtostock - March 19, 2011 5:48 p.m.

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  • magnetoelectric - March 19, 2011 6:18 a.m.

    WarGames Forever!
  • masenjo - March 19, 2011 2:07 a.m.

    King of Kong is phenomenal.
  • PipBowl420 - March 19, 2011 12:27 a.m.

    Mortal Kombar 1 & 2 were both great, and stuck with the games plot.. well.. what ever plot the game had. lol but in my opinion.. Tumb Raider 1 was alright, and Resident Evil Apocalypse (2) stuck with the plots pretty good
  • Justheretowinshit - March 19, 2011 12:01 a.m.

    Noticed that the "Playing Columbine" doc was made by the creator of the titular game. If you're going to point out KoK's biased editing then I think the same should be said of it.
  • VigotheCarpathian - March 18, 2011 10:31 p.m.

    what about Zangief in the Street Fighter movie, he couldn't even give a thumbs up!!!
  • thesilentassassin - March 18, 2011 8:34 p.m.

    scott pilgrim shouldbe on this list greatest game based movie ever
  • NightCrawler_358 - March 18, 2011 6:30 p.m.

    I was looking at King of Kong on Netflix, I'm gonna have to check it out now. Thanks GR, alot of these look really interesting.
  • FauxFurry - March 18, 2011 6:17 p.m.

    I just had to comment on a line from 'Moral Kombat': "We are what we pretend to be." So, all of those people role-playing as robots in another galaxy, busty fox ladies, 40 year old 'school girls' and super heroes really are what they play they are on the other side of the screen? Does that mean that the obsessive fans are the ones who are the most keyed in to Reality? I guess that means that I'm the crazy one...on account of the fact that I often play crazy in videogames and the Internet. I'd best watch how I play around in videogames from now on lest I nuke a city off of the map for a pocketfull of bottle caps or roll up all of Japan into a wad to turn into a star. They have enough troubles right now without my contributing to them with Katamari catastrophe craziness.
  • bass88 - March 18, 2011 2:58 p.m.

    Crank. Best video-game themed movie ever. It did what Scott Pilgrim did before Scott Pilgrim. And it was funnier as it relied on telling jokes instead of references to get its audience laughing. Crank 2 is also most definitely worth watching.
  • flang - March 18, 2011 2:39 p.m.

    I would also add Life 2.0 to the list, which examined the lives of several people who are heavily involved in the game Second Life. It's similar in style to Second Skin, but somewhat more serious in tone. Hasn't been released yet but I would expect it on Netflix before too long. I saw it at the SXSW festival last year.
  • WelcomeGhosts10 - March 18, 2011 1:27 p.m.

    The King of Kong is an excellent movie, but Monster Camp is far and away my favorite out of the movies listed above. It is not well known, but deserves all the credit that it can get!
  • Darkhawk - March 18, 2011 12:59 p.m.

    All indie productions? At least KoK gets the respect it deserves here. Wiebe for the Win!
  • philipshaw - March 18, 2011 12:56 p.m.

    I have only seen King of Kong which is so good but I will have to go and get the other ones in this article
  • nomnom52 - March 18, 2011 6:39 a.m.

    Dammit! Moral Kombat isn't on Netflix Streaming anymore... Might want to fix that, Mr. Winterhalter.
  • soranamineforever - March 18, 2011 6:34 a.m.

    You forgot Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... because Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is fucking awesome.
  • austincharlesbond - March 18, 2011 6:08 a.m.

    The King of Kong is fantastic (only one I've heard of). But there are (maybe 2) good video game movies that were fiction: Scott Pilgrim & Professor Layton movie
  • Furyspittles - March 18, 2011 5:36 a.m.

    .......No Scott Pilgrim? I'm confused.
  • Crimmy - March 18, 2011 5:22 a.m.

    The Pinball one makes me sad.
  • Jacko415 - March 18, 2011 4:46 a.m.


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