Sunday, August 31, 2008

Films

Before I start, I'd like to point out that I've just recently discovered Asobrain, where you can log in to play, for free, online versions of Settlers of Catan, as well as Carcassone and a couple other silly games. They don't call them Catan or Carcassone; they call them Xplorers and Toulouse, since they aren't actually approved, associated, or licensed by the creators of Catan or Carcassone. But they're the same games, all right. You can play basically with any of the expansions, and you can play against human players or against bots or both. My fans should log in and play with me sometime!

Anyway, on to the topic of today's essay. I started thinking about films about gamers the last few days, over the course of two separate events. The first is that I felt the need to watch Über Goober. The second is that my wife found a video on YouTube that was an ad for a "series" called Gamerz.

Über Goober is a documentary about gamers. It examines the three main types: historical miniatures war gamers, roleplayers, and LARPers. It was made by non-gamers, so it does a good job of looking at gamers from the outside and examining them in a truly impartial way, exploring humour based on gamers both mainstream (like when Lisa Simpson asks a guy wearing a helmet and a shirt that says "Game Master" if she can sit with him, and he says, "Yes, if you can answer me these questions three. Question the first..." and she says "never mind," and walks away) and gamer humour (like the Dork Tower comic). It also examines the controversy involved in gaming, like the James Dallas Egbert III fiasco, as well as the role played (hah!) by gaming in the Columbine shootings and the religious backlash against gamers.It's a great film, at times funny, at times heartwarming, and at times it made me want to scream "What the hell is wrong with you?" Listening to the two guys representing Christian organisations against gaming, one of whom used to be a GM, talk about some of the scenarios he ran, and thinking, "What was wrong with you that you ran games like that?" He was talking about a raiding party taking a caravan of 50 women hostage to use as sex slaves at one point. Not the sort of game I'd ever want to play...

Anyway, it's a good movie, and I recommend it.

I also saw a film called The Gamers a few years ago. It's a short movie about a group of college students playing D&D in the dorms. Five principal actors play the gaming group; one is the DM, the others are the players, and also play the PCs as they act out the story of their adventuring party. It's very funny, and a lot of fun. You can see the trailer, although it is NSFW, based on the language used in the trailer.

They've just released the sequel, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising as well. I'd very much like to see that at some point.

This just brings me to Mazes and Monsters, the atrocious made-for-TV movie starring Tom Hanks made in 1982 (warning: the link above contains spoilers; if you want a synopsis without spoilers, try the IMDB link instead). It was basically the erroneous reports of the Dallas Egbert events expanded into a horrible untruth. I'd like to watch it at some point, just to see for myself how bad it is. I'm hoping for the humour-derived-from-people-talking-about-something-they-don't-understand aspect of it.

Anyway, I'm going to finish now with my reference to the Gamerz. This is apparently an online series made by some people I used to know. I thought it was going to be about paper-and-pencil gaming, but no, it turns out to be about slackers sitting on a sofa playing the Xbox. Which goes back to what I was saying a few weeks ago about computer gaming. Once again, true gaming is marginalised. Oh well...

Anyway. So, as with most things, films concerning gaming are hit-or-miss. There are good ones out there, and bad ones as well. Obviously, there are a lot more than just the ones I've described here. If you're aware of any that I've missed which you feel desperately need to be included, let me know in the comments below, and maybe I'll give it a mention in a future post. Until then, may the dice roll ever in your favour, and remember to

Game on!

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