Free To Play (2014) – Review

A documentary from Valve featuring some of the best DOTA2 gameplayers from all around the world as they meet in a competition in Cologne to compete for the best team prize of, wait for it… a cool one million dollars. Yes, you real-world, three-dimensional people, whilst you are slogging your guts out in some windowless hovel for minimum wage to feed your kids Aldi baken beans, these nocturnal timewasters are lining their pockets with gold and their innards with Wotsits for being good at something that isn’t even real.


eSports. Hmph. It’s a bit like calling that bag of McCain’s oven chips ‘freshly frozen’. In short, it doesn’t make any sense. If sitting in front of your computer screen and pressing other buttons on a keyboard is classified as a sport, than I am a world champion and deserve a knighthood for my services to typing. I am without equal (thumps chest, victoriously)

It’s like asking Eric Bristow (Darts) to throw the Javelin for Steve Backley at the Olympics because his arm is a little bit hurty. In short, you can try it, but just being able to hold and let go of something doesn’t make it a sport, or for that matter, make you any good at it either. There is a reason Darts does not feature in the Olympics.

Hmm, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Cue our focus on socially inept, buck-toothed, square-eyed loners that rarely leave the house unless it is to spend time with others of ‘their kind’ and even then, conversation is one-dimensional and largely uncomfortable. Featured here are three young men (well, they’re boys, really) from various parts of the planet as they prepare for and take part in this alleged ‘clash of the titans’. Along their respective journeys, we get to hear about their childhoods (average), their families (average) and the motivations for doing what they do (money, only chance of getting laid by equally geeky, albeit rare, fangirl)

So, erm…okay. Why do we care about these people that only moments ago were complete strangers (with additional social problems that usually end up wth them wielding a rifle on some bell tower in an American school) to us? I have heard more passion and better life stories from any contestant on Britain’s Got Talent or the X Factor. I generally don’t like these people any more than I understand them and I would avoid them in real life. Given that this is the case, I am even less likely to inhabit the same space online with them for very long if I was ever unfortunate enough to be in any of their company. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure they are not bad people, but really, life is too short to be spent in the company of a person whose life-goal is to become a level sixty wizard, or whatever they do in this particular game.

As a documentary, it does shine a glaring light on the ‘eSport’ phenomenon and the people that live within it, and makers Valve try really hard to make this a story about more than gaming, tugging forlornly on the heartstrings of the audience, under the misguided notion that the people they have chosen to be featured are in any way interesting for anyone other than their respective mothers. The reason that they fail in this regard should come as no surprise. Gamers making movies doesn’t have a habit of working out, historically.

At seventy-five minutes long, this is probably way too taxing for the average gamer to sit through, as they become bored without something new and shiny to look at every thirty seconds or so and yet if this documentary is not for that demographic, then I really can’t imagine who it is aimed at. Purely on the content, they will quickly annoy at least half of the planet by not featuring a woman in some fashion. We continually read in the press that half of all game players are now female. Of the males that remain, the majority of these playing games have an average age of over thirty. So, a documentary focusing on the lives of three boys all barely out of school is a puzzling choice. Well, whatever, if Valve want to pay for a documentary that no-one will watch for whatever reason sounds like a good idea (not to mention a salutory lesson) to me.

The whole point of the documentary is to find out who wins this contest, and you may or may not have a favourite by the time the grand final arrives, even if the film does not endear any of the individuals to you. The only thing you really need to ask yourself by the end of it is if you really care?

If you play the game, then you might well enjoy it and will also most likely hate this review of the film. If both of the previous statements are true, then I apologise for causing any offence, but really, you need to get out more.

from Blogger


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