|Index||2 reviews in total|
I suppose the most obvious comparison to draw here would be to 'King of
Kong', and in doing so 'Beyond the Game' holds up well; it's nowhere
near as highly edited and dramatized, the people are not turned into
caricatures, and overall it feels less obviously manipulative. Both Sky
and Grubby have redeeming qualities (the documentary doesn't take
sides), and a lot of the scenes feel far more genuine. That's not to
say 'Beyond the Game' isn't guilty of cheese, as evidenced especially
by its far too common lingering close ups, and random footage of
Arthas, the hero of Warcraft 3, running around aimlessly in the snow
while melancholy music plays in the background. I'm not sure what those
sections are supposed to convey.
Its biggest weakness is that 'Beyond the Game' oftentimes feels unsure of itself. The title suggests that the game itself is not the object of the documentary, but rather Sky and Grubby themselves, in which case I feel like I still don't know enough, especially about Grubby. Sky's life, as revealed through interviews with his parents and shots of their hometown, and also interviews with his city friends, manages to cast light on some of the bigger aspects of Chinese culture, and he almost becomes emblematic of disaffected youth. On the other hand, Grubby's mum likes making him sandwiches, and his Asian girlfriend is not only a stunning former model, but a gamer; the tenderest scenes between the two come from discussing Warcraft tactics.
I'd recommend 'Beyond the Game' to video gamers and non-video gamers alike; it provides a rare, if shallow, insight into e-sports industry, but more than that it is a fascinating, if underdeveloped, exploration of the kind of obsessives who play a game as a profession.
The film follows Warcraft III players Grubby-4K from Holland and SKY
from China as they prepare for and play in the 2007 WGC championship. A
tiny bit is about retired player Madfrog. The documentary, however,
does not linger on the personal lives of the players so much and almost
not at all on the game of Warcraft; instead it tries to convey the feel
of the lives of the people involved. I think that is a refreshing,
albeit impractical, perspective in a movie: you get to feel inside
their world, without having to actually know any of it. In that sense,
this is a movie made for non gamer audiences.
Three main highlights of the documentary felt worth discussing. The first was the comparison between the two players. Li Xiaofeng (SKY) is a country boy, with peasant parents beating him with sticks for playing instead of trying to be a doctor and then laughingly admit it on tape. That glimpse into rural China is the second thing that caught my eye. SKY admits in the very beginning that he doesn't think he is very smart, but he works a lot on practicing 12 hours a day. Grubby is a Dutch player who values creativity and his parents are irrelevant to his career choice. Much more important is his Singaporean model and fellow gamer girlfriend. So it's like a battle between genius and persistence.
The third point is the actual championship, where two young guys that live for the game they play are isolated in booths playing on the computer, while an entire building filled with light and reporters and cameras and people and commentators and so on and so on is built around them, like a giant leech. The ending, displaying the results of the next year's WGC and the fact that Madfrog is working as a guard in a prison, drives this point even further. These are sportsmen, just like any others, their blood sucked by the industry, then discarded when they are not fit enough to be superstars.
Bottom line: nice insight in the lives of professional computer game players, a recommendation for gamers, non gamers and parents alike. Not perfect, but a good documentary regardless.
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