Review: ‘Video Games’ just plays at seriously examining the industry

‘Video Games: The Movie’
Video game designer Cliff Bleszinski in the documentary “Video Games: The movie.”
(Variance Films)

That video games — a technology-driven mix of art, commerce and competition — are here to stay is undisputed. It’s now the biggest entertainment industry and an influential culture.

So why does Jeremy Snead’s “Video Games: The Movie,” an exhaustive history from MIT labs in the ‘60s through Pong, Atari and the Nintendo-Sony-Microsoft era, from knobs to joysticks to cloud-powered connectivity, feel like an insecure promotional tool instead of a documentary?

There’s a slick, colorful pull to the history Sean Astin enthusiastically narrates, as graphics improved, business lessons were learned (the Atari-"ET” tie-in debacle is especially fascinating) and once-derided fans formed a powerful entertainment bloc.

But thornier issues of game violence (the gorier bits are never shown in the torrent of game clips), gender representation and effects on childhood development are barely addressed. And when they are addressed, it’s by defensive interviewees, most male. It’s a lovefest in which critics’ voices and debate are simply absent, and the only talking space is wonder, nostalgia and excitement for the future.


The world of video games, like the ever more universe-rich titles on the market, is worthy of probing, but “Video Games: The Movie” is for the cheerleading crowd only.


“Video Games: The Movie.”

MPAA rating: None.


Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Playing: At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.

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