It isn’t easy to change a cultural assumption, and any fan of video games knows that no matter how many releases break the billion-dollar sales threshold in record time, society at large remains steadfast in their belief that games are most likely to be time-wasters or hobbies than a legitimate medium. And it’s that belief that the recently announced documentary The Art of the Game is looking to challenge. The product of 2K Games and Story Developing, the documentary follows a crop of design students seeking to tell the best story possible, and choosing the unique nature of a video game to do it.
Following a group of students from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University as they compete for a job in the video game industry, the documentary steps away from a simple reality-TV-esque competition by calling on industry journalists, script writers, and creative leads to discuss the changing face of video games as a legitimate storytelling medium and cultural influence.
Challenging groups of students to put their storytelling talents to work in the form of a Borderlands short film, while shining a light on not only the explosive growth of the video game industry among the average consumer, but the potential – and challenges – of creating a new entertainment medium. According to director Matthew Davis Walker, even billion-dollar sales numbers can’t hide one simple fact: society at large is still more misinformed about video games than enthusiasts may realize:
“The financial success of interactive entertainment in recent years has propelled the medium past film in the eyes of Wall Street, yet too often games are still treated as time-wasting toys… People overlook that games have tremendous impact on how we learn, communicate ideas, and convey empathy, and they do it in ways we’ve previously never imagined possible.”
While Indie Game: The Movie may have earned praise for its look at the human cost of developing a small-scale video game, it would be fair to say that the documentary was less about video games, and more about the people who make them. So for gaming enthusiasts hoping to see skilled video game experts and designers talking about the legitimacy of games alongside film or other forms of entertainment, The Art of the Game is likely the documentary they’ve been waiting for.
It seems odd to think that while Hollywood rushes to adapt The Last of Us to film, and movie adaptations of Ubisoft’s games are attracting top-tier talent, the stigma of video games as a distraction or pastime can continue. That’s clearly what all involved with the film are out to counter, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time until dismissive attitudes are a thing of the past.
The Art of the Game can be viewed May 9-11 via Machinima’s app on Xbox One and Xbox 360, and will be available for free on Machinima’s Main YouTube Channel, and the film’s official Facebook page starting May 12, 2014.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.