Andrew, yours was the the second strong recommendation for this movie that I heard in about 24 hours, so I decided to avoid delay and went to see it last night. It is definitely a good movie.
One thing that surprised me, though, was that it didn’t seem to explain or explore much about video gaming – there was nothing told from a developer’s or designer’s perspective. Perhaps that side has been covered well enough, though, and players and the culture of play is the interesting space now. However, there actually wasn’t even that much told about classic gaming or arcade culture, except for the nook of it that is Twin Galaxies and high-score attempts. However narrow the Classic Gaming Expo may have been in its own way, there were many different classes of activity going on there, not all of them monomaniacal and some of them (such as collecting) are obsessive in different ways. I wonder if the movie could had featured, even briefly, a cooperative multiplayer game such as Gauntlet? Or a healthy competition, where both sides were having fun? Steve Wiebe getting a Donkey Kong board as a gift, which happens to be a pivotal event, at least provides a glimpse at how the sale and exchange of arcade boards and the restoration of cabinets and such happens, and shows that members of the community are generous, even if there is something behind this generosity at times.
The King of Kong presents a classic underdog/challenger story that is interestingly framed by classic gaming. It is funny that it doesn’t detail more about video gaming, but what it does reveal was really lacking before. An aspect of the movie that I particularly like, for instance, is its depiction of how gaming can be a positive force in a person’s life alongside family and work. Giving us some insight into this is a very nice accomplishment.
I particularly liked the characters themselves, who like those in Word Wars (a not as entertaining documentary about Scrabble tournament players), were fascinating people. On the one hand, the characters in King of Kong reinforce the stereotypes of geeky/maladjusted gamers, but the presence of the nice guy / family man Steve, plus Doris the octogenarian Q-Bert player, helped paint a more well-rounded picture of gamers, even obsessive ones.
I also really appreciated the filmmaking and editing, they got some excellent footage, and put it all together quite well.
Note some of the ongoing controversy about the film; Twin Galaxies doesn’t mention the film, reportedly in preparation of a rebuttal of it. Nor does TG seem to acknowledge Steve’s taped score shown in the coda of the film.