While researching my article on Gaming DVDs for one of our gift guides, I thought I had come across nearly all the movies done about gaming. It seems I missed at least one, which I discovered while searching around Netflix. That’s how I came across Gamerz.
Going in, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this movie. I knew it was about gamers, and it was Scottish, but that was about it. I was hoping for something like The Gamers in terms of concept and tone. Instead, this is actually more like a full length movie drama that uses gamers as the characters and the images within game are used sparingly. I also found myself relating to the movie on several levels, which means my experience may vary greatly from yours, should you decide to watch it.
Ralph is a serious gamer who has been working for years on his masterwork: a campaign and game system, and finishes it in time to bring with him on his first day of college. Ralph doesn’t have any friends, his parents were killed in a car crash years earlier, and he faces daily bullying. But all that changes when he enters college and finds the campus game group. He encounters nervous Davy, belching Hank, and the enchanting Marilyn. Ralph rules-lawyers the current DM until he gives up, and then Ralph takes over and uses his manuscript to run a popular game and impress Marilyn.
However, soon, the head bully Lennie discovers what Ralph is up to, and wants in the game (for reasons that I didn’t understand because of the thick Scottish: I think it was something to do with being a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies.) Thus forms a love triangle between flirtatious Marilyn, bad boy Lennie, and nerdy Ralph. Ralph’s obsession with her, as well as the game, lead him to taking a number of risks (including taking a job to steal copies of his game manual: something I relate to) that jeopardize his college career. The climax of the movie takes place in a secluded spot where Ralph runs the final adventure of his game, where all the tensions flare up once and for all.
As mentioned, the heavy Scottish makes it difficult to understand at times, but not to the point of losing understanding of the movie. It’s not a particularly funny movie, and some of the jokes fall flat: in fact, the funniest scene in the movie is the deleted scene, where Ralph sees a psychiatrist and identifies the Rorschach ink blot tests as D&D monsters. The in-game scenes are done by taking the actors in costume and silhouetting them, and putting them on green-screen backdrops. The overall effect is minimalist, but thankfully not cheesy. However, despite a really wacky and unbelievable ending, the drama and feelings expressed feel very real, and are easy to relate to. There’s nothing specific that gaming fans will get out of the movie that non-gamers won’t, but at the same time, it’s definitely made by people who love roleplaying. If you want a solid drama that stars an ambitious nerd who makes some bad decisions while falling in love, this is a good movie for you. But if you’re looking for the next The Gamers, this isn’t it.
On a personal note, I found myself getting very wrapped up in this movie. I happened to watch it on Valentine’s Day and couldn’t detach from experiences in my own life. In fact, I found it especially hard to shake since the object of Ralph’s affection resembles my own ex (Scottish instead of English though) and having college suffer because of women troubles all have happened in my life. To me, it’s a hallmark of a good movie to find yourself relating… and maybe you’ll find something of yourself in Gamerz too.