Video Games: The Movie

  • Review Date: July 14, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Homage to gaming pioneers is tween friendly but overlong.
  • Review Date: July 14, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The documentary encourages innovation and technology, as well as video game use as an interactive storytelling medium.

Positive role models

The video game industry's pioneers are depicted as visionaries who understood how games are both art and entertainment. Gamers are portrayed as intelligent, loyal, and clever.

Violence

Discussion of violence in video games and brief shots of various video games that include weapons and violent confrontations.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

Occasional use of words including "s--t," "damn," and "hell."

Consumerism

All expected given the context, but there are lots of references to and shots of Nintendo, Sega, Atari, Sony, and other video game consoles. Many popular and classic video games are shown in the various montages, everything from Pac-Man, Zelda, and Super Mario Bros to Doom, Grand Theft Auto, and a host of others.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Video Games: The Movie is a documentary about the history of the gaming industry throughout the decades. Produced by actor-director Zach Braff, the movie features interviews with industry pioneers, game designers, enthusiasts, and even celebs like Wil Wheaton, Braff, and his best friend, Donald Faison. There's occasional strong language ("s--t," "damn") and -- naturally -- tons of references to video game consoles and iconic games like Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., and Doom -- some of which are fairly violent (but only a few seconds of each game are shown at a time). Young fans of video games who don't know about the clever pioneers who made gaming part of popular culture will learn from this documentary. The film is clearly pro-gaming and interviews only industry leaders who make no apologies for violent games.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE -- the debut documentary by director Jeremy Snead -- focuses on the history of video games as an industry and a form of popular entertainment. Interviews with gaming pioneers, game company CEOs, game designers, and famous game enthusiasts like Wil Wheaton, Zach Braff (one of the film's producers), and Donald Faison are mixed with various montages of clips from popular games. The documentary discusses some of the industry's failings (like the legendary terrible game E.T.) and challenges (the controversy over video game violence and the creation of ratings), but it mostly waxes poetic about the cultural importance of video games.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Most diehard gamers probably already know everything in Video Games: The Movie, but even those familiar with he names of the early game creators will still get a kick out of the A-list gaming visionaries Snead interviews, like Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Pong designer Allan Alcorn, and British designer Peter Molyneaux. And those who aren't in the know will learn a good bit about how video games became essential household devices -- not just for kids, but also for adults who grew up playing them. Some of the many (and seemingly never-ending) interviews trace the industry's growth from an innovation and economic standpoint (several interviews are with corporate types, like Nintendo COO Reggie Fils-Aime), while others focus solely on the ways that games have influenced pop culture since the early '80s.

Unfortunately, it's pretty boring to see a bunch of somewhat famous actors wax poetic about how much Nintendo changed their lives. Does it really matter that a sitcom actor remembers the first time he played a particular game? Snead spends way too much time on these less-than-insightful musings and not enough time trying to portray a balanced view of the industry. Instead of just showing various game creators and entrepreneurs make fun of the media for claiming that video games are violent, the director missed an opportunity to provide an opposing perspective explaining why games are (or aren't) different than movies. It also feels a bit pedantic for interviewees to claim that video games are the ultimate art form -- just as or even more important than novels -- without addressing the more mainstream use of games by those who don't consider themselves serious gamers. The length and one-sidedness of the documentary makes Video Games come off as a long commercial for unrestricted video game use.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Video Games: The Movie's message about video games. Do you agree that games should be considered like movies, which are allowed to be mature, violent, and sexual without (as much) controversy?

  • Everyone interviewed in the documentary is a maker or avid consumer of video games. Do you think the content is balanced about the creation and popularity of games? Do documentaries need to be objective?

  • If video games are like movies, which games are most appropriate for kids? Which are clearly meant for adults? Check out our favorite games.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 18, 2014
DVD release date:February 3, 2015
Cast:Sean Astin
Director:Jeremy Snead
Studio:Variance Films
Genre:Documentary
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Video Games: The Movie was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 9 years old February 18, 2015
AGE
8
QUALITY
 
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written byTheminecrafting... February 3, 2015
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5
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Theminingblog

I love this and I totally recommend it."it's so cool becuse it's history but you can just say hey I have that video game. Bye
What other families should know
Great messages

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