There is a formula for making a strong documentary: find a subculture,
get some cameras, and shoot the hell out of their existence.
It has to be a semi-obsessive sub-culture or it's all for nothing.
It worked for Trekkies, Spellbound and Tribute,
and it has worked for many short docs since. Gamers,
by director Kiyash Monsef, takes a look at Counter-Strike players.
started as a mod to the classic shoot 'em up game Half Life.
It plays as a group of terrorists against a group of counter-terrorists
trying to perform some objective, like capturing a bomb or
some such. It's a great little game, which has thousands of
players around the world playing over the net at any given
time. (Fanboy Planet started out sharing server space with
a Counter-Strike clan -- ed.)There are a huge number of
regular players, some of whom form into clubs, groups which
accept anyone, and clan, hard core, player units that compete
in tourneys or in the CPL, the Counter-Strike Professional
League, for cash and glory.
out meeting a bunch of players, mostly from the Bay Area,
who are in many of the major clans. You sort of get the feeling
that they are somewhat living in the game, another sign that
it's a subculture doc, but then we are presented with a Dad,
Carlito, and his son who plays as Carlito, Jr.
of their relationship both in and out of the game is the strongest
portion of the opening segments. Monsef has almost used a
post-war documentarian's eye in the interviews, giving the
game a feeling of reality, making it into a real war, which
these players have pulled each other through. It felt like
some of the classic post-Nam docs at times, which blurred
the lines between the fantasy of the game and the reality
of battle, which speaks very highly of the filmmakers ability
to connect with his subjects.
works very smartly with text. Using definitions as a separation
device, he gives us the terms that apply to the next section.
While these definitions are seldom unknown, like server, but
they give you a nice touchstone showing the direction the
next portion will travel. Every time you are shown a new speaker,
you get a graphic with their real name, their affiliation
and their code name. The code name thing gives you the important
clue about why the guys, almost all guys, play the game. They
have a new persona that they are allowed to wallow in.
are great hints at the power of the phenomenon. There is a
great discussion of an anti-violence group that plays the
game in a way that doesn't allow regular players, there to
kill stuff, to have their cathartic good time. Then there
is a great discussion of cheaters, complete with a leader
shown entirely in shadow. It was a really nice touch.
a few moments which drag a bit. After a Los Gatos tournament,
we are given a long segment with a player and his wife. This
is a highly important piece, but it moves too slowly. It's a
really long segment that isn't bad, but following the very good
tourney scene, it grinds the film a bit.
back with more tournament footage from the bigger tourneys
and they are really good. The finals of the World Championships
are very compelling. Much like Spellbound, the things
get good the closer we get to the finals. It starts strong,
and it ends strong, though there is a lull in the center.
look of the doc works so well with the footage of the game
blending very well with the documentary sections. The editing
is superb, as the cuts between the reactions of the players
and the games that they are playing seem flawless. While it's
seldom flashy, the cinematography is clean and smooth, which
with the video look makes it seemed like the type of polished
doc you might see on Discovery Channel. I'd highly recommend
for more information so you can get a look at this very solid