5. The Art of the Game (2014)
Clocking in at a run time of only an hour, don’t let The Art of the Game’s short length influence its impact on you any less, as its name suggests this film looks to challenge how people think of video games as an entertainment medium and seek to convey it more as a true art form. Whereas other movies on this list relay the stories of creators through the lens of their respective games, The Art of the Game places the creations firmly at the forefront for analysis.
Critics described the video game documentary as an “evocative love letter to the video game industry” and in doing this The Art of the Game succeeds tenfold, exploring the cultural importance of gaming experiences as opposed to the more technical aspects sometimes seen elsewhere.
4. Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us (2013)
Click the video above to watch Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us
One of the most focused, expertly shot, and insightful video game documentaries out there, Grounded documents the making of one of the greatest games of all time in The Last of Us from beginning to end. Grounded works so well simply because it leaves no stone unturned, letting the creators at Naughty Dog explain the processes and thinking behind such aspects of sound design, art design, and game writing to better give you a sense of how each is practiced at such a Triple-A scale.
Particular highlights present in the video game documentary include Troy Baker’s slow realization that it is more important for the characters’ emotions and reactions to be ‘grounded’ rather than using it as an opportunity to show off his acting skills, and seeing the composer Gustavo Santaolalla’s unconventional recording methods. Grounded is just as much of a case study for Naughty Dog as it is their game, and it’s free to watch on YouTube now (click the video above to watch for free), so don’t deny yourself the opportunity of seeing this amazing gaming documentary.
3. The King of Kong (2007)
Being the ultimate video game underdog tale, legendary Donkey Kong champion Billy Mitchell and everyday newcomer Steve Wiebe’s race to become the next world champion of the classic arcade game is as much a reflection on the 1980’s arcade scene as it is a tale of corruption. It’s a tale masterfully told in 2007’s The King of Kong: A fistful of quarters, and although the Donkey Kong record has since been contested following the film’s release, it doesn’t lessen its riveting through-line.
Family relationships are tested, honors are broken, and many an arcade cabinet is shaken in the time it takes for The King of Kong to play out. It pulls at the heartstrings just as much as it bashes at the fire buttons, edging you closer and closer to will Steve Wiebe to succeed against all odds in an effort to penetrate the tightly knit and biased web of video game organisation Twin Galaxies.
2. Indie Game: The Movie (2012)
Number 2 on our best video game documentary list. Indie Game: The Movie follows the individual paths undertaken by three aspiring and sympathetic indie game developers seems like such an obvious recipe for success from the outset, but Indie Game: The Movie takes this idea and runs with such a level of dedication that you can’t imagine experiencing this story through the eyes of another lens. One of Kickstarter’s most worthwhile funding successes, this 2012 film is expertly edited and really guides viewers through the tortuous process of developing an indie game.
Indie Game: The Movie documents the development of Team Meat’s hardcore puzzle-platformer Super Meat Boy, Phil Fish’s long-awaited Fez, as well as reflecting on the impact of Jonathon Blow’s time-reversal darling Braid. They’re stories set to inspire the next generation of indie devs as well as gamers with an interest, showing that there really is no substitute for pouring your heart into a project.
1. Free to Play (2014)
Watch Free to Play Above
Whilst its most common for the majority of the gaming audience to casually move from game to game as new experiences continue to release sporadically throughout the year, there’s a certain portion who devote their lives to a single game to such a degree, that said game is vital to their ability to overcome day-to-day struggles. This is the central conceit running through 2014’s Free to Play video game documentary, which documents the lives of three committed professional video game players in the run up to the $1,000,000 international tournament.
The video game documentary is notable for its inspired decision to draw parallels between the competitive gaming e-sports can facilitate with more conventional sporting activities. It serves to highlight a greater misconception, that despite the niche and unusual way these players choose to live their lives, gamers are just as capable of overcoming adversity and defying expectation. In the same way Jaws is a shark movie that isn’t actually about a shark, Free to Play is a DOTA documentary that isn’t actually about DOTA, but everything other than that!