Chronicles the history of the game "Super Columbine Massacre RPG!." The film traces back the 16-bit role-playing game to its inception, through the 2006 shooting at Dawson College in which ... See full summary »
Chronicles the history of the game "Super Columbine Massacre RPG!." The film traces back the 16-bit role-playing game to its inception, through the 2006 shooting at Dawson College in which the game was singled out by the media as a "murder simulator" that "trained" the shooter, and finally the game's removal from the list of finalists at the Slamdance 2007 Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition - prompting half the entries and a sponsor to pull out of the festival in protest. Written by
An important film for those who believe in artistic expression
Playing Columbine focuses on the the video game "Super Colombine Massacre RPG!" which has been reviewed as a sick and demented portrayal of the upsetting Columbine High School shooting which took place on Tuesday, April 20th, 1999. The video game touched a nerve with many people who considered it as a slap in the face to the victims and the families of the victims who endured the reprehensible events that occurred that day.
At first glance and with an uneducated opinion I too was a bit shocked at the audacity of the programmer, but without actually playing the game itself I found myself in the position of "judging a book by its cover" so I decided to try to be impartial, play the game and watch the documentary about it.
I came to the realization that I prejudged and wrongly so. In the information age we all live in it's easy to get wrapped up in media over-saturation and condemn something in which we have no first-hand knowledge of. To do so is irresponsible, and is such in this case.
Playing Columbine serves as a historical autobiography of Danny Ledonne and his accidental notoriety of creating his controversial game and its effects. It's autobiographical because it is directed by Danny himself and is, in my opinion, executed quite well. The film takes a look at mainstream media as a whole and how his game is considered to be part of that media, but also treated separately, as video games haven't yet crossed the threshold of simple entertainment to true artwork. Making that argument is a difficult one and is illustrated within the film.
Films which have depicted identical situations to the Colombine Shootings in complete graphic detail, such as Elephant and Zero Day, are critically acclaimed and hailed for their artistic achievement, while video games which depict the same scenarios are condemned and shunned by, not only audiences, but festival events which claim to be an outlet for such expressive works.
The film describes, convincingly, that there is artistic integrity in video games and this is where the film truly delivers its message. At this point the viewer realizes that the game itself isn't necessarily the focus as much as the intent the game and games like it try to convey. That intent? Emotion. Every great work of art makes the viewer feel something profound and to create something that will misdirect the emotions and bring them to a place they never thought possible through a "simple video game" is truly a work of art.
The film also fairly represents the opinions opposite of the artistic side. Notable interviews are present with Jack Thompson, a noted attorney and video game industry critic, and Tim Winter, the Parents Television Council President. Both have thought provoking insight to what the impact of video games have and the film shows this in a balanced manner. Their interviews come off as an intellectual opposing viewpoints rather than vilified zealotry. Quite a difficult task, especially for a director who is so tangled within the story itself. Does this give the film no point of view? of course not, the film is heavily weighted towards the artistic viewpoint, but to put one's ego aside and fairly represent the opposition is what is truly at the heart of journalism. Michael Moore could take a lesson or two from Danny Ledonne.
As far as criticisms go I have to say that the technical aspects of the film are rather lackluster, but that's to be expected for a rather low-budget film and especially for a feature directorial debut. Lighting and art direction are kind of put on the back burner to give way to the excellent storytelling which is as compelling as it gets.
This film is truly a work which is to not be ignored. Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, love it or hate it, has caused an uproar and opened the door for discussion on both sides of the argument of artistic expression and the extent of our first amendment rights.
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