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Video Games: The Movie

Year: 2014
Production Co: Mediajuice Studios
Director: Jeremy Snead
Writer: Jeremy Snead
Cast: Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Zach Braff, Chris Hardwick, Max Landis, Ernest Cline, Clare Grant, Hideo Kojima

I was a bit worried at first because I thought this documentary about the rise of video game culture was glossing over the timeline of how they became such a force in the late 20th century and missing out on so many pivotal hallmarks as it did. But writer/director Jeremy Snead actually goes deeper than just a catalogue of events and makes it more nuanced than it looks like it's going to be in the first 15 minutes.

Narrated by Sean Astin, it uses the history as a springboard to talk about how the technology arose (and the people who built and used it), how the industry rose and fell on several now-iconic hits and failures (the rushed production of the ET Atari game, the super Nintendo Entertainment System) and the state it's at when the film was released.

If you're a Gen Xer who grew up in the era, you understand exactly what celebrity gamers like Wil Wheaton and Chris Hardwick are talking about when they describe walking into the whistling, tooting video game arcade or unpacking their Atari 2600 on Christmas morning.

What I find most interesting after the fact is how poorly reviewed it was by critics, and the only thing I can attribute it to was that negative comment about the allegations of causing violence or the historical exclusion and harassment of women are left out or barely mentioned short of a few soundbites, and that's what serious critics wanted.

But it's a bit like Michael Moore's films and left leaning moviegoers. If you're on board you're going to agree with everything in Video Games: The Movie and if you're not you're probably not going to watch it in the first place.

It's a big screen, 90 minute hagiography for how great they are and if you're after a deep, incisive dissertation on how they fit into the milieu of culture and history of the last 50 years there's probably a hundred doctoral theses on it, but this film makes no implied promise about being that balanced.

If you just breeze over the surface (much like the film does), the nostalgia factor of games and game systems you loved and TV and magazine ads that got you excited about them is fun enough on its own.

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