Anyone who’s ever spent time around gamers – those folks who love their tabletop games, knows that there are certain archetypes involved. Not only in the characters that are played in the game, but in the characters that tend to show up with loaded dice bags and stacks of books. The player wearing experience goggles, the rules Nazi, the one trying to seduce barmaids and elven princess, the guy who only ever plays a fighter. I’ve met them all – hell I’ve been some of them at certain points in my gaming career.
The folks at Dead Gentlmen Productions, who are responsible for both The Gamers and it’s sequel The Gamers: Dorkness Rising get this. They are obviously people who grew up with fantasy, science fiction and gaming as staples in their lives. They’re also a funny and talented group who managed to create a feature length film about role playing games that’s watchable by anyone. But those in the know about 2am sessions with stacked Mountain Dew cans and Crown Royal dice bags will really enjoy this film.
This is not a big budget film and you should not go into it expecting big budget sets and effects. One of the best aspects of this movie though is that this really does not matter. The Dead Gentlemen managed to wring everything they could out of their available sets and effects and more importantly their script and actors. What they’ve ended up with is a film that’s dead on with timing, a tight script and a feature that had me laughing a lot more than most big budget, full theater releases. That’s saying a lot I think as this movie tackles not just comedy, but fantasy, games in general and the personal lives of the geeks who play them.
The movie focuses on a group of gamers, Cass, Gary and Leo who are working their way through an adventure planned out by their GM Lodge. Lodge is also trying to craft his first module for publication based on this adventure. They’re less than stellar experience leads to complete party death and frustration on everyone’s part. Cass, the rules oriented, ‘failure is not an option’ type player demands another chance to run through the adventure. The players realize that three of them many not be enough and in an effort to bump their party up to five, recruit Cass’ ex-girlfriend Joanna. Because of their reputation as a group, they’re unable to recruit a fifth player.
Joanna is treated as the token newbie girl player whom none of the other gamers take seriously at first. Cass even attempts to get her to play a fighter he generated. Joanna however has other ideas. Having spent the previous day with the Players Handbook, she’s rolled up a fighter on her own. A fighter who’s highest attribute is Intelligence.
To add to the party’s woes, Lodge has made up for their inability to find a fifth player by inserting Sir Osric, a named NPC into the party. Sir Osric is a Palladin – a goody two shoes to balance the party’s tendency to “run around looting, killing and impregnating” the entire gaming world. The movie tackles all sorts of references to gaming as an art and hobby.
There was real potential here for this to come across as awkward, tense and unfunny. Fortunately those involved knew what to expect and rather than stepping in it they gracefully danced around the awkwardness – even embraced it when necessary. They didn’t pull any punches when it comes to gaming and the movie is far better for it. My wife, who is not a hardcore role player, watched this film with a bit of trepidation. She spent a good portion of the movie laughing out loud however and we are still discussing it.
While The Gamers: Dorkness Rising came out last year, I didn’t stumble on it until a chance Netflix recommendation shipped. I watched it for the first time last week and as soon as the film ended I was on Amazon purchasing a copy for myself. I can honestly say it’s one of the better movies I’ve seen in the past year and certainly the best in dealing with the culture, or lack thereof of in the world of gaming.