['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a bi-weekly column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s selection is an independent feature that examines the lives of a couple of role-playing geeks.]


Previously on Cinema Pixeldiso, we examined the tale of a player who achieved greatness due to his dedication to the game, and by complete surprise. This time it's five players, just as dedicated, and who actually seek greatness, in the movie Gamers.

Also, this particular entry is a bit different from our previous ones. The focus isn't on video games, but RPG, the pen and paper types. But since players from both camps share much in common, we figured it was worth the spotlight. Plus it's another independent movie, and those always deserve the extra attention, and its a straight-forward comedy, so the laughs its gets are supposed to be intentional. Though whether it gets all the laughs it aspires to generate is an entirely subjective manner...


Told in a Spinal Tap-mocumentary style that we're all well familiar with, the film takes a look at five diehard RPG players who've been playing DND (Demons, Nymphs & Dragons, a play on Dungeons & Dragons for the those who are completely unfamiliar with the genre) for over fifty hours ever week for the past 23 years, non-stop. The movie catches up with as they set to shatter the world record for most hours played, which is set at 74,568.

You've got Paul, the ringleader of the group that talks to deaf people on the phone for a living, Gordon, a professional cable access camera person, Fernando, who collects horse semen by milking, and Kevin, a singer/songwriter that creates personalized children's songs, and is also the Dungeon Lord (a.k.a. the Dungeon Master from D&D, obviously).

All four have been playing together since high school, and each one is a total loser, an idea that is cemented via one on one interviews in the beginning. With the exception of Fernando, they all still live with parents, make around $20,000 a year or less, and are seeing no one. Fernando on the other hand has an on-again/off-again girlfriend whom he lives with that's an actress and who he's constantly accusing of cheating (which is why he doesn't believe he's the father of her soon to be born child). So he's just as much a loser, just in a different way. There was also a fifth regular, Johnny, but he was the volatile type that got arrested when he blew up at an elderly couple that apparently cut in front of him at the DMV.

Replacing him is Reese, the pizza delivery guy that brought sustenance to the gamers, and who begged so much to join in that the rest eventually broke down and accepted him. Of the five, he's easily the most pathetic, as well as the most interesting character from the entire story. Aside from being the kind of runt that even the other nerds feel secure to pick on (primarily Kevin, who's rather vicious about it), he's a wretched player. But what defines him the most is the devastation he has over the loss of "Farrah", a beloved character of his that recently died, which also translates to absolute hatred for Kevin, whom he places her death squarely on (aside from the fact that he gets picked on by him religiously).

Where the Laughs Begin And End

One scene has him leaving angry message after angry message on Kevin's machine, and anyone that's witnessed an angry nerd, the ones that are real weiners, completely loose it in real life will be well familiar with such a comedy of horrors. Later when he's asked why he enjoys DnD so much, Reese replies with: "For me, I'm like a young Bruce Wayne. Before he becomes Batman. However, my journey is to find the perfect game. Now, I've been to every Renaissance fair, and I've performed in battles in front of crowds of 12... to 16 people. I speak fluent Vulcan. I'm a God at Pokemon. And I'm not trying to brag, but my name is feared in the Might & Magic circles, still. And what I can do with pogs... shit.... it is just wicked sick. But there is something about DnD. I dunno, I love the game. Its perfect."

Again, its a comedy, and everyone's simply a caricature of real diehard gamers that's played up for laughs. Some character traits are clearly exaggerated for the sake of laughs, but a few facets are not too far from real life, which is where the movie shines. But it greatly depends if one has real world familiarity with folks that act such as insane about games (and not just role playing ones). Though where it falters is when it often tries too hard for laughs. The humor is fairly lowbrow at times, which in itself isn't necessarily horrible. At its best, Gamers feels like an old National Lampoon flick from the 80s. But at its worst, it feels like a National Lampoon film from the past couple of years. Or even worse, like a really long, drawn out Mad TV sketch. Which might explain why the audience is treated to the following scenes:

- Kevin, who again sings personalized children's songs by repeating the child's name in the title, having to do one with the name Dick, so he talks about how the girls like him, and.... well, you get the rest.

- A flashback of Fernando, who's originally from Argentina, illustrating how he learned English mostly by playing the game, with him awkwardly hitting on a girl with bad RPG puns.

- A pissed off Reese rubbing beef jerky into his groin (a favorite snack of Kevin's) right before a game.

- One gay man dressed up as Ronald McDonald enjoying sexual favors from a second Ronald, and honking a clown horn in approval.

- Another flashback of Reese, making out with a woman, and getting lactated on.

- Kevin again, who's a diehard Dungeon Master, to such a degree that he wears an outfit for each game, so we see him pick up a specially designed garment that's created to mark the record breaking session, which happens to look just like a KKK robe (and designed by a black woman, 'LOL'). This sets up his eventual confrontation with an angry black midget, but Gordon is assaulted instead, who is called John Rocker and then spun around.

Oh, And Remember...

Gordon by the way, is also wearing a jacket that says Rocker on the back as a part of another joke, but its nowhere near as bad as the filmmaker's attempt to cash-in on the notoriety of a racist ball player that hasn't been relevant since 2000. Oh, and there's a series of flashbacks featuring Paul, regarding his even longer-standing no cursing streak, which he didn't even break even when he caught his girlfriend cheating on him with the tribal person that Paul had supporting with funds over the years via mail and that had come to visit.

Something else the film is chock full of is 80s television and movie stars. You have John Heard and Beverly D'Angelo as Gordon's parents, William Kat (you know, the Greatest American Hero) as Reese's boss, and even Kelly LeBrock! Remember, the "hot chick" from Weird Science?

Back to the story: it would seem that destiny is unattainable due to constant complications and detours, enough to make some want to throw in the towel, but Paul simply won't have any of it. And it becomes clear that Paul's level of obsession is not shared by everyone else. Does the big game get played? Maybe. Is a valuable lesson learned by all? Yes, or at least the film tries to tell one. Again, the filmmaker's attempt at getting cheap laughs somewhat bogs things down near the end; even the character of Kevin who was pretty interesting in the beginning just ends up spouting tiresome gay jokes (which is again, much like what a real annoying gamer dork does in real life, but I digress).

Some subtlty all throughout would have been appreciated, since there are moments of it all throughout. There's a small running game that involves Fernando's love of Predator that pays off just wonderfully for example. But in the end, things kind feels off-track; the much-anticipated record breaking game session goes in a blink of an eye, and the whole thing just almost abruptly ends.

Final Score

So how's the movie? It's okay. A decent indie flick that again tries too hard for some laughs. Real gamers will be able to appreciate some of the nuances, but they'll also feel that many opportunities were lost. At the very least its not too mean spirited, which might have been the case in the hands of a larger studio trying to do the same thing.

Also, one doesn't necessarily have to be that versed with the subject matter to enjoy the film, and accessibility is something that virtually all game related movies have a difficult time dealing with. Maybe that's why the filmmakers didn't want to go that far? Perhaps. It would have been nice if they had stuck their necks out a bit further, at maybe the expense of some laughs. Then again, it nice that there was no need to pander to the audience by going overboard with the game references, though there just wasn't enough "game" in Gamers.

On a side-note, the movie was a true labor of love, shot in only six days. Quite the achievement, all things considered. And you can tell that all parties involved very much enjoyed themselves (and one can find even more evidence of such good feelings vial the supplementary bits on the DVD). But ultimately, and this is a common fault with independent features primarily, a good time behind the camera does not necessarily translate to a good time in front of it. Nonetheless, to purchase a copy of the movie, you can head on over to official site.

[Matt Hawkins is a New York-based freelance journalist and Gamasutra contributor. He also designs games, makes comics, and does assorted “other things.” To find out more, check out Fort90.com.]