A documentary that’s less focused than your average first-person-shooter narrative, Video Games: The Movie opens with a barrage of statistics before segueing into a sketchy history lesson-cum-industry promotion.
Director Jeremy Snead’s documentary initially feigns interest in gaming’s origins, but by eschewing a chronological structure, Snead sabotages any lucid investigation of the medium’s evolution from its Atari past to its Nintendo glory days to its Xbox One and PS4 present.
More problematic than its lack of a compellingly laid-out time line is the film’s habit of hopping between points of interest, so that every one of its chosen topics — gaming’s ability to create a sense of community; game violence and its effect in the real world; mainstream and indie methods of storytelling and production — is treated with a few catchy sound bites. Snead raises interesting arguments about gamers’ fundamental desire to identify with characters (and dramatic situations) and games’ unique capacity for fictional immersion, yet he’s less concerned with in-depth analysis than with classic game footage and montages of old-school Nintendo and Sega advertising-campaign materials.
Moreover, by repeatedly insisting that games are art, and that gaming is now cool, Video Games: The Movie comes across like an insecure assertion of an oft-marginalized subculture’s importance.