September 12 may have been National Video Games Day, but true gamers celebrate it every day. How? By playing video games, of course, but there are other ways to celebrate, too. Like getting a deeper look at how video games have had an impact on culture, the history of game design, and the extraordinary individuals who are turning gaming into Super-Bowl-level sporting events. Obsessed with your new Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One X? Get to know their early predecessors. Does Atari make you nostalgic? You’ll learn some jaw-dropping facts about your favorite vintage console. Are you an aspiring programmer? Meet the trailblazers who helped shape the industry. In celebration of video games and the groundbreaking tech and solid community they’ve inspired, set aside your controller for just a few hours and check out these six titles that pay tribute to gamers like you.
Have you ever considered a gamer to be an athlete? In this revealing doc, two elite StarCraft II players in South Korea are hailed like American pro athletes, with earnings to match, and the arenas they compete in could put some sports stadiums to shame. What started out as a popular way for South Korean kids to pass the time at “P.C. Bangs,” or internet cafes, strategy games like StarCraft have evolved into a multimillion-dollar esports industry, and BlizzCon is its Super Bowl. The film follows Mun Song Wan (aka MMA) and Jang Ming Chul (aka MC), two of the best players in the world who are now reaching crossroads in their careers. Will their personal struggles threaten their dreams of BlizzCon?
Meet the Leonardo da Vincis, Thomas Edisons, and Wright brothers of video games. These are the visionary developers and designers who saw video games as more than just games, but as an artform, a revolutionary storytelling medium, a platform for building communities, and a portal into new dimensions. From the creator of the groundbreaking collaborative game “M.U.L.E.” to young doctors-turned-game-designers who created a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired video game, to the founder of Atari and the creator of Pong, these dreamers are the reason we have a seemingly limitless virtual world of gaming today. Not only do you have them to thank for your new PlayStation 4, but these artists used game design to change the world.
Did it feel like Atari was dominating the world and then disappeared overnight? There is a reason for its sudden demise, and it may or may not be buried under the New Mexico desert. This eye-opening documentary follows the meteoric rise of Atari, owing in large part to programmer Howard Scott Warshaw, and its steep and sudden decline, also owing in large part to Warshaw, who was given the impossible task of designing the “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial” game in just five weeks. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the documentary is what happened to all the unsold cartridges. Did Atari literally bury their mistake?
In order to be qualified for the O-1 visa, you must prove that you are an “alien of extraordinary ability.” But given that there are over 1,000 pages of immigration and nationality rules, definitions, and stipulations, it’s not as easy as it sounds. So when a video game programmer applies for the visa, how will he be judged and will he qualify? You’ll be surprised to learn just how extraordinary these virtual designers can be.
Remember the Nintendo Power Glove? It may have been a short-lived controller, but in “Buzzard,” it’s given new life and deadly new abilities. In this dark comedy, Marty is an abrasive con artist who spends most of his time eating Bugles and making games out of them with his only friend, but when he’s forced to take to the streets of Detroit, he’ll need his trusty Power Glove to get back control of his life. You will never look at your favorite childhood gadget the same way again.
In this four-part docuseries, four communities prove that home is where your people are. And for one group of friends, their people are in the Land of Anddyfdyr. Meet Tariq, the Dungeon Master of his crew, who describes both the sense of belonging and adventure he gets from the game. Though Dungeons and Dragons is traditionally a tabletop game played with the infamous six-sided dice, it’s been the source of inspiration for dozens of video games, including “Pool of Radiance,” the “Neverwinter Nights” series, and “Baldur’s Gate” (by the aforementioned doctors-cum-developers). Judging by how much joy it brings Tariq and his friends, it’s not hard to see why it inspired so many virtual versions.