The Best Documentaries for Game Lovers

The Best Documentaries for Game Lovers

Fans of video game history have three main sources of information – documentaries, books, and informative articles in magazines and on websites. Some of these options are enjoyed by those who play with a 22Bet login and those who love more versatile games. Movies on this list cover different sides of the industry, are full of trivial facts, and answer important questions without getting hung up on trivialities. Such as: how Sega briefly defeated Nintendo, how Sony reshaped the market for itself, what indie developers live on, what kind of people still set records on arcade machines? Get ready for a crash course in gaming history.

Once Upon Atari (2003)

Once Upon Atari tells the story of Atari in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And it does so in an unusual way, strictly through interviews with the developers.

Actually, Once Upon Atari was directed by Howard Scott Warshaw, creator of Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Carla Meninski, Nolan Bushnell, Rob Fulop, Larry Kaplan, and other ex-Atari employees appear in the frame.

Mostly they talk about the creative environment at the company. All the developers had to do was “turn in” the game in six months. There was no clear schedule, there were no parties on Fridays, and you could sit for hours at the arcade machines in the morning after you got to work, not at the keyboard.

Nevertheless, there were also difficulties. At the dawn of the industry, the game was usually designed by one person, it was incredibly difficult to program for the Atari 2600 console, you had to organize the mode yourself, because no one relieved you from providing a ready-made cartridge. The years at Atari are remembered with enthusiasm by the interviewees, the following places they describe as “boring work from 9 to 5 with a serious face”.

Once Upon Atari is broken up into four episodes of about half an hour each. The only downside is the almost total lack of gameplay and archival photos.

Free to Play (2014)

Free to Play covers the first The International, an international Dota 2 tournament held in 2011 in Cologne, Germany. The documentary was funded by Valve, which is responsible for Dota 2 and owns Steam.

The players Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Clinton “Fear” Loomis and Benedict “hyhy” Lim are in the foreground. The creators of the film traveled to their native countries and recorded interviews with eSportsmen and their relatives.

The film will be interesting even to those who are far from Dota 2 and from eSports in general. The biographies of the characters are fascinating, in the middle of watching it you find that you involuntarily empathize with their teams.

Indie Game: The Movie (2012)

Indie Game: The Movie invites you to observe the development of Super Meat Boy (2010) and Fez (2012). See interviews with Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, as well as Phil Fish from when they were hard at work on their projects.

Both Super Meat Boy and Fez were hits. They made the developers millionaires. But in Indie Game: The Movie, McMillen, Refenes, and Fez still doubt their success, openly share their worries, and openly berate their detractors, especially Fez.

The third “heroine” of the documentary, Braid (2008), was already out at the time of filming. Jonathan Blow, the developer of the game, discusses its meaning and gameplay.

At the confluence of the 2000s and 2010s, when Indie Game: The Movie saw the light of day, independent games were taking their first steps. Back then, Braid, Limbo, and Minecraft seriously shook up the industry. Super Meat Boy and Fez raised the indie flag even higher. Now independent projects are as important a part of the industry as AAA blockbusters.

Atari: Game Over (2014)

In 1983, there was a crisis in the console game industry in the United States due to the dominance of projects of questionable quality and the pressure of the growing PC market. Atari, the industry leader, had the hardest time. The company buried unsold cartridges and consoles in a landfill near the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico. It was cheaper to “bury” them in a pile of garbage than to keep them in storage.

For years the incident was linked to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), the failed game based on Steven Spielberg’s Alien movie. Atari was thought to have “hidden” millions of E.T. cartridges in a landfill. In the 2000s, the media and gamers were already calling the story an urban legend.

The truth turned out to be somewhat more prosaic. In 2014, Hollywood director and screenwriter Zack Penn organized an excavation of the Alamogordo landfill and recovered just over 1,000 cartridges from a documented 700,000. E.T. does not dominate among them.

Penn brought in Howard Scott Warshaw, author of E.T., and writer Ernest Cline (“First Man Standby”) to direct the film. The film has a soulful tone, and it’s a breathtaking look as you learn the history of Atari through the first half of the 1980s and get to know the details of E.T. ‘s arduous development.

The King of Kong (2007)

The current generation of gamers is addicted to “speedruns” – getting through games quickly through “skill” and vulnerabilities. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, players boasted to each other the number of points. An entire subculture of old-school gamers, chasing records on old arcade machines.

The King of Kong depicts the battle between Billy Mitchell, a retrogaming icon and holder of numerous records, and upstart Steve Wiebe. Weebee, an unemployed engineer, spent his free days at the Donkey Kong machine. Donkey Kong is considered a hardcore game, which is why Mitchell’s record has not been touched for a long time. Whoebee unexpectedly broke Mitchell’s record, but the Twin Galaxies organization, which keeps records of arcade games, turned it down, questioning Whoebee’s video recording. Weebee then surpassed Mitchell’s record in the Funspot arcade, in public. In response, Mitchell sent Twin Galaxies a video of his own new record. The organization accepted it, but years later recognized it as a fake.

Mitchell’s image in the documentary is controversial. Wiebe, on the other hand, gives the impression of a decent gamer. In recent years, the press has written extensively about Mitchell’s subterfuge and related litigation, so the conclusion of the filmmakers is probably correct.

Console Wars (2020)

Console Wars is an adaptation of the book Console Wars (2014) by Blake J. Harris. It focuses on the confrontation between Sega and Nintendo in the North American market in the 1990s.

The book is written with obvious sympathy for Sega. The central figure is Tom Kalinski, head of Sega of America from 1990-1996. It was he who promoted Sonic the Hedgehog and the Sega Genesis console in the United States.

The filmmakers interviewed Kalinski and other key Sega employees of those years: Al Nielsen, Shinobu Toyoda, Ellen Beth van Buskirk. Sega’s advertising department was constantly finding new ways to appeal to gamers: appealing to a teen audience while Nintendo focused mostly on kids, insisting on the release of Mortal Kombat on Genesis uncensored, and organizing the simultaneous worldwide launch of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Back then, in the era of physical media, this was a novelty.

The movie also reflects the point of view of Sega’s competitors, Nintendo and Sony. The downside is that it is problematic to fit a 600-page book into an hour-and-a-half-long film. Thus, a number of interesting nuances like the Sega Channel, the forerunner of the Xbox Game Pass, are left out.

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