VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE (Jeremy Snead). 105 minutes. Opens Friday (July 18). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Jeremy Snead's Video Games: The Movie is a very enthusiastic, incredibly superficial look at the development of video games and gaming culture from Pong to the present. It's shiny and busy and empty all at once.
First-time doc director Snead has loaded his film with zippy CG illustrations, fast-paced montages of era-specific gameplay, interviews with programming legends like Atari wizard Nolan Bushnell and celebrity testimonials (Wil Wheaton! Chloe Dykstra! Chris Hardwick! Alison Haislip! executive producer Zach Braff and executive producer Zach Braff's Scrubs co-star Donald Faison!), all showcasing the range and ambition of gaming and gamers. Games are even at Comic Con now!
But as the movie goes on, it's more and more obvious that no one's actually saying anything. Snead takes a considerable chunk of his running time to argue that games are different from other forms of narrative-based entertainment because they let you wander around in established worlds and "write your own story," confusing planned interactivity with genuine creation. In fact, you can't do anything in a game that someone else hasn't already programmed.
There's an undeniable thrill in seeing an old, long-abandoned game turn up on the screen - aww, Dig Dug - but in the end that's really all Video Games: The Movie offers. Is that enough to get you into the theatre?