Everyone Deserves A Little "Gameplay" Review

This is the story of everything that happened next.

Being a bit on the nerd side myself, it's hard for me to dispute the central theme of Gameplay (2014), which is that video games have become an integral part of human life. The argument goes well beyond Candy Crush and Farmville--though they are definitely a part of it--to the psychological ordering of global retail. The phenomenon began in a very humble state. Utah, in fact, with a group of computer nerds playing a game of their own creation called Spacewar! where they shot little square dots at larger square dots. Nolan Bushnell met these guys one day and was inspired to put together a similar toy box alongside pinball machines. His first attempt failed quite miserably, but his second entry into the field was a massive success: Pong. A game with two paddles going up and down to bounce a little ball back and forth was the first successful attempt to make humans go crazy to the sound of *pop*.

The story of Gameplay continues along chronologically for the most part, pointing out large-ish monuments to the total immersion we seem destined to fall into. First comes the clone age where a good idea is quickly copied into innumerable transparent clones that squeeze each other out of markets but push design forward in an attempt to differentiate until a glut in the market disembowels industry. Then comes Nintendo and their effective protection of brand and technology. Home units, role playing, better graphics, and wider engagement in the form of social gaming make "video games" something for everyone. That's to say nothing of the symbiotic relationship video games have with home computers.

Gameplay is strong on chronological history and even dips its toes into the social controversies (as well as social benefits) of video games. But even at an hour and a half, the documentary is too wide to go deeply into any particular questions or interests you might entertain. You aren't going to get much on the nitty gritty details on CPU speeds. We get a few of the big leaps forward in game design, but only to check the name and top-line innovation rather than thorough side-by-side comparisons that might allow you to see the real evolution and borrowing between games. As is, Gameplay walks the line between real nerd appeal and a basic primer for the uninitiated. Perhaps we'll get more in Gameplay 2 when it inevitably comes to PBS.

There are no bonus features.

"Gameplay" is on sale September 8, 2015 and is not rated. Documentary. Directed by Richard Goldgewicht. Written by Bill Loguidice, Matt Barton.

Jason Ratigan • Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.


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