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Top 5 Video Game Documentaries


It is rare for me to consider the world beyond the digital landscapes of video games. As an avid lover of the fictional, I seldom give thought to the dimension of fact. But as I researched this article I realised that this is the place where the magic starts and it can be just as wonderful and bizarre as the pixelated dimensions I so often wander. 

From watching millions upon millions of people gather to celebrate a game to game developers pouring their very life essence into their creations, I was astounded by just how breathtaking the world of gaming can be. I implore you to follow this same journey and watch these five documentaries. You will never look at gaming in the same way again.

Vice Magazine’s “The Celebrity Millionaires of Gaming”

No one does documentaries quite like Vice. They have a knack for penetrating the cultures they are studying and know how to make their viewers relate to the experience. In this documentary you follow journalist, Matt Shea, to the gaming wonderland of South Korea. Here he enters the monolithic world of competitive League of Legends where an audience larger the population France (87 million) gathers to watch professional players compete for millions of dollars. Most of these players will probably be unknown to most of us but in South Korea, they are gods among men.

But this fame and the pursuit of it comes at a great sacrifice. Players are forced to play up to 18 hours a day in windowless rooms by agents whose only interest in them is profit. It is a world where the greatness of fame constantly struggles with the psychological pressure of achieving success, and a lot of these young players are crippled by it.

The documentary also further explores themes such as South Korea’s growing problem with internet and video game addiction and the bizarre methods used to “cure” it, from brain shock therapy to the government controlling at what times under aged players are allowed to play games.

No other documentary explores the gaming culture of South Korea to this extent and it definitely worth the watch. 

Video Games: The Movie

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history." – Mahatma Gandhi 

This is one of the opening quotes in Video Games: The Movie and is one that lays the perfect groundwork for what follows. This documentary will take you on a nostalgic journey from the much disputed roots of electronic gaming right up to the present world of digital orgasms.

Many of the gaming industry’s titans such as Hideo Kojima, Nolan Bushnell (and Will Wheaton?) make an appearance and give their insights into the evolution to gaming, making it abundantly clear that “gaming is here to stay”.

The documentary boasts a brilliant balance between stirring emotions and presenting hard facts and takes us on a wonderful journey through the corridors of time, from a world where video games was nothing but a dream to where it has become one of the single largest entertainment industries in the world.

“Like so many things distinctively human, electronic games were born from a combination of innovation, necessity and curiosity.”

If you want to fall in love with gaming all over again, then take the time to watch Video Games: The Movie.

MineCraft: The Story of Mojang

Minecraft is one of the greatest cultural phenomena in modern history. I might not be the most religious of Minecraft fans but the time I did spend in its procedural pixelated wilderness, with its high level of freedom and emphasis on exploration, made it clear why this game is so incredibly addictive.  

What started out as a simple sandbox prototype created by one man, namely Markus “Notch” Persson, has rapidly grown into the one of the most influential milestones in gaming history.

Minecraft: The Story of Mojang takes place in 2010 and follows 12 months in the life of Persson and his journey with Minecraft, documenting “one of the most unique success stories” in gaming.

Through the duration of the film you will witness the creation of Mojang and the series of events that lead to the rapid rise of Minecraft. Many gaming industry experts such as Peter Molyneux, Tim Schafer and Steven Totilo also provide their insights into the prominent place this game has taken and add a lot of substance to the overall feel of the documentary.

Whether you are a Minecraft lover or not, this documentary covers one of the most important stories in gaming history and should definitely be on your must-watch list.

Indie Games: The Movie

The aspect I found really special about this documentary is that it really delved into the hearts and dreams of indie developers and how, what we might only perceive as an entertaining virtual experience, are the very expressions of their soul.

The documentary was created by Canadian filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot and aims to show gaming through the “past, present and future” tenses of the development process. 

It follows developers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes of Super Meat Boy and Phil Fish of Fez during the development of their games while Jonathan Blow talks about life after the success of Braid. You will see how these individuals dedicate their lives to making games for us to enjoy and witness the heartbreak they experience when faced with the offensive feedback from, what Phil Fish calls, “the army of assholes”. 

Indie Games: The Movie puts more emphasis on the personal tribulations and experiences of the developers than deliver cold hard facts and tries to relate more to its viewers’ hearts than brains. It is a fascinating and moving documentary that will make you think twice before you comment on a game again.

DOTA: We the Community

To be completely honest, I pretty much didn’t know anything about DOTA before I watched this documentary (which is apparently a blasphemous travesty to mankind). I knew it existed, had something to do with Warcraft and some of my friends referred to it as “the greatest game of all time”.

At one point I do remember watching a bit of a feature documentary called Free to Play that only focused on a competition known as The International that, according to some, is the moment that changed DOTA and Esports history. Unfortunately the magic was lost on me as I couldn’t really comprehend the nostalgic atmosphere it was trying to evoke.

But DOTA: We the Community, a mere 20 minute documentary, served as the perfect introduction to this foreign world. It uncovered the roots of how DOTA was a simple game born from the Warcraft 3 editor and went on to become one of most widely played games on the planet.

Back then there was no money involved and the game grew and evolved purely from the passion and dedication of its community (especially an anonymous individual known as “IceFrog”). This went on for about eight years and by the end of it the game’s graphical quality started to become outdated and its clan of religious followers wondered where the future of their beloved game lay.  

That was until the almighty and divine Valve stepped in, acquiring the intellectual property of DOTA, and recreated the game in new graphical glory. This revived the spirit of the community and what soon followed was The International, a massive competitive DOTA 2 tournament that took place at Gamescom 2011 and offered a grand prize of $1.6 million. 

For its time, it was totally unheard of to offer such an extravagant prize for winning a game tournament. For the DOTA community it was a dream come true. For the rest of the world it was the moment that sparked the rise of Esports.

Wiehahn Diederichs: Twitter | Facebook / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

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