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From High Scores to Classic Donkey Kong, these Docs Take On Video Games

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Since it’s a relatively new medium, there haven’t yet been that many good, thoughtful movies made about video games. But here are some exceptions that you can stream right now.

Indie Game: The Movie (2012)

Released at the beginning of the 2010s boom in independent game publishing, this documentary profiles a trio of designers as they struggle to put together their latest titles — with minimal teams or simply on their own. Directed by James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, it’s a great primer on how game design incorporates both aesthetic and technical concerns. It also has one of the best original scores of any documentary to come out in recent years.

On Amazon Prime and other platforms.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

On one level, this documentary by Seth Gordon is about the various people who have fought to claim the world-record high score for the 1981 Donkey Kong arcade game. On another level, it is about the broader world of esports and those who are obsessed with these records. But on a far more important level, it is about the incredible ego and dastardly deeds of Billy Mitchell, an astonishingly ridiculous human being. He may or may not be the “world’s greatest arcade gamer,” but he is unquestionably one of the best documentary villains ever.

On various platforms.

Summoning Salt (2016-Present)

This YouTube channel releases short films about the histories of various video game world records. From Punch Out!! to Mario Kart to Pokemon and more, the tricks that people find to beat games as fast as possible are endlessly fascinating. Each episode in this series creates a compelling story around a competition over a specific record, building tension until you’re getting unbelievably hyped just watching someone play a video game. It’s marvelous.

On YouTube.

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Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He lives and works in New York.



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