The Almost Definitive Guide to Video Game Documentaries

I love watching interesting documentaries and I love playing games, and when you combine them you can get quite an entertaining couple of hours.

I have decided to list and give a decent plot for as many Game Documentaries as I can find/watch. Hopefully this will help out some people who are interested in watching these kind of documentaries.

  • Tetris: From Russia with Love (2004) - One of the first documentaries I have watched. It is about Tetris (if you didn't get that from the title). It goes into great detail about just how this addicting game has become one of the most popular games in the world. Quite a lot of information is dropped on you and it is put together pretty well. Definitely worth checking out.
  • National Geographic: Starcraft WCG (2005) - A documentary all about Starcraft. The movie ranges from the basic of Starcraft gameplay all the way to the lifestyles of the pro players. They visit the team houses, interview players and show some good coverage of games. It's a great documentary about Starcraft even if it is getting a little dated. They've made it so that even non-Starcraft fans could enjoy this.
  • Rise of the Video Game (2007) - A very good 5 part series of the history of video games. Starts out from the very beginning with Tennis For Two and goes all the way up to modern games. It gives some good background on companies and designers alike. Go check it out if you want to know just how video games started out!
  • Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007) - Chasing Ghosts is probably one of my more favourited movies. It's about the rise and fall of arcades during the 80s and also focuses on some of the top arcade gamers who were dominating the scoreboards back then. It has a good cast of characters and a lot of interesting facts about that era of gaming. I recommend seeing this movie.
  • Frag (2007) - This movie is about the life of Professional gamers most notably Fatal1ty. It covers how teams treat their players as well as the troubles gamers experience to get into the profession. This movie was okay for me, some of the facts seem to be a little dated, but if you are interested in Pro-gaming then this could be a good documentary just to see how things were. (Maybe still are)
  • The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) - If you liked Chasing Ghosts then you will probably like this one. Even if you didn't you should check this one out. It focuses in on the battle for the high score of Donkey Kong as well as some other high score players sharing their comments. It can keep you entertained quite easily with the "Good vs Evil" aspect of the movie. Go check this one out!
  • Second Skin (2008) - This movie is the one that got me very interested in video game documentaries. It follows a few people whose lives, for the most part revolve around MMO games (World of Warcraft, Everquest 2). It is quite an interested view on how their lives and how dependent they are on their game of choice. I highly recommend this one as it is well put together and a very interesting story. It also contains a scene about a boy and Second Life that pretty much had me in tears. Check it out!
  • Beyond the Game (2008) - Not a movie that stands out to me, but it's still going on the list. An independently made movie that focuses solely on professional gamers Grubby and Sky of the game Warcraft 3. It is a pretty dark look at their lives and how they get ready for their games at the World Cyber Games. It's slow moving and not really the most cheerful atmosphere. The only way I can recommend this game is if you are a fan of Grubby/Sky or are REALLY into the professional scene for Warcraft.
  • Get Lamp (2010) - An interesting movie that is all about Text Adventure games. It covers the history of how this genre got started to what the future of this game holds. A decent movie that gives you quite a bit of information about the games. It's worth checking out if you want to learn something about the genre. Also can be fun to try and spot the Lamp in some of the shots.
  • Gamers (2011) - The film focuses greatly on World of Warcraft, but don't take it that this movie is all about the game. The filmmaker explores what makes World of Warcraft and other MMOs such a popular genre. He interviews people with a wide range of opinions, from devoted fans to ex-gamers to people who think they are bad. Along the way you meet some quite interesting people. A good movie for both people new to the genre and people who are well established MMOers.
  • Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball (2008) - This movie goes fairly in-depth on the project called Pinball 2000 which Williams put together in an attempt to save pinball from fading away. It's a quick movie so don't expect much from of a history of pinball as it just briefly covers it. I'm not sure what else to say about it, as it is mostly about the Pinball 2000 and the decline of Williams.
  • Once Upon Atari (2007) - A full-scale look at the life of working at Atari. I quite enjoyed watching this as there are some really good anecdotes from the employees. For example how all the employees would smoke weed in their office throughout the day or how one of the employees climbed walls and hit his head on a sprinkler. It's a good watch just to see exactly what it was like working there, from the high points to the parts which made life hell. There are a lot of story telling in this documentary so be prepared for that!

Some more movies not on this list that will get added when I see them are (Or have time to put some information about):

  • Thumb Candy (2000) - History of Computer Games.
  • 8Bit (2006) - History of artists and video games.
  • Into the Night with Jason Rohrer and Chris Crawford (2009) - Two video game industry guys having conversations about game design.
  • Playing Columbine (2008) - History of the making of the controversial game Playing Columbine.
  • Indie Game: The Movie (2011) - Documentary on Indie developers and how they go about making their games.
  • Moral Kombat (2007) - A debate about whether violent games are good or bad.
  • Bang The Machine (2002) - A film about the Street Fighter scene around the year of 2000.
  • I Got Next (2009) - It is about the fighting game scene and also Street Fighter IV.
  • King of Chinatown (2011) - A documentary about the famous Street Fighter player Justin Wong.
  • Focus: A Documentary on Mike Ross (2011) - Follows the 4th place finisher at Evo 2010, Mike Ross.
  • The Hax Life (2010) - An inside look on the Starcraft pro gaming team WEmade FOX .
  • Charlie Brooker's Game Swipe (2009) - Has various reviews of video games as well insight into the game industry.
  • Gamer Revolution (2007) - It explores how games are changing the world and life itself.
  • Play Value (2008) - A bunch of gaming gurus and insiders give insight into the history of video games.
  • Gold Farmers (2010) - Investigates the business of young Chinese men farming gold to sell to Americans.
  • /afk (2011) - Explores the possible obsession of online games.
  • Flashback: NES (2006) - Gamespot documentary about the Nintendo Entertainment System. Contains some of the Giantbomb guys.
  • Video Game Invasion (2004) - Tony Hawk is the host of this documentary about the evolution of games.
  • Playing To Win (2010) - A series of short videos ranging from the games to the creators to social issues.
  • High Score (2010) - A group of fans keeping the arcade game play of high scores alive. Also follows a gamer trying to beat Missile Command high score.
  • Blizzard Retrospective (2011) - To celebrate Blizzard's 20th Anniversary they made a 50min look at the entire history of Blizzard to current day.
  • The Secret History of Volition (2011) - GameInformer put together a documentary on the studio that brought us Descent. Concept art and never before seen footageare just some of the stuff you will see.
  • Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters (2012) - A documentary that follows the best Tetris players as they get ready for the Tetris World Championships.
  • Us and the Game Industry (2012) - New documentary about Indie game developers which tracks their progress and ideas during their production.
  • Icons (2002-2006) - A show run on G4 from 2002-2006 for 4 seasons which focused on a different topic in the gaming industry. It has been relaunched recently, but focuses on pop culture instead.
  • Race To World First (2011) - Follows the World of Warcraft guild Blood Legion as it attempts to be the first guild to beat the newest boss encounter added.
  • Special When Lit (2009) - A pinball documentary that looks back at the history of the genre and what made it so popular back in the day.

As an added bonus I have included some non-Video game movies, but still gamer documentaries. These are based around LARPing (Live Action Role Playing), DnD (Dungeons and Dragons), and Table top games.

  • Uber Goober (2004) - This covers the whole range of gaming from LARP to table top games. Pretty interesting look at the different kinds of games.
  • Drakmar: A Vassal's Journey (2006) - A LARPing documentary, but this one follows a single kid playing the game and him dealing with real life problems.
  • Darkon (2006) - Focused around the players of the LARP community of Darkon. Quite entertaining seeing how these people live their lives.
  • Monster Camp (2007) - Another LARPing documentary. There are quite a few funny scenes in this one. Follows a group of players during their time playing as well as living their normal lives.
  • The Dungeon Masters (2008) - A pretty well made movie about dungeon masters and players of the game Dungeons and Dragons. Shows how they live their life outside of the game and how they make a living.
  • Going Cardboard (2012) - Introduces viewers to the players and developers of board games, and shows you how it is making a comeback.
  • Reformat the Planet (2008) - Delves into the music genre known as chiptune, which is music made by using video game hardware such as the NES and Game Boys.

Hopefully this little guide will help people in finding movies to watch. If you have any movie recommendations not on the list or just wish to share your opinion on some movies please feel free to do so.

I WILL be updating this page so be sure to bookmark/save this page, and check back. If you have any recommendations on how this could be better share that as well. :)

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Edited by Nikral

I love watching interesting documentaries and I love playing games, and when you combine them you can get quite an entertaining couple of hours.

I have decided to list and give a decent plot for as many Game Documentaries as I can find/watch. Hopefully this will help out some people who are interested in watching these kind of documentaries.

  • Tetris: From Russia with Love (2004) - One of the first documentaries I have watched. It is about Tetris (if you didn't get that from the title). It goes into great detail about just how this addicting game has become one of the most popular games in the world. Quite a lot of information is dropped on you and it is put together pretty well. Definitely worth checking out.
  • National Geographic: Starcraft WCG (2005) - A documentary all about Starcraft. The movie ranges from the basic of Starcraft gameplay all the way to the lifestyles of the pro players. They visit the team houses, interview players and show some good coverage of games. It's a great documentary about Starcraft even if it is getting a little dated. They've made it so that even non-Starcraft fans could enjoy this.
  • Rise of the Video Game (2007) - A very good 5 part series of the history of video games. Starts out from the very beginning with Tennis For Two and goes all the way up to modern games. It gives some good background on companies and designers alike. Go check it out if you want to know just how video games started out!
  • Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007) - Chasing Ghosts is probably one of my more favourited movies. It's about the rise and fall of arcades during the 80s and also focuses on some of the top arcade gamers who were dominating the scoreboards back then. It has a good cast of characters and a lot of interesting facts about that era of gaming. I recommend seeing this movie.
  • Frag (2007) - This movie is about the life of Professional gamers most notably Fatal1ty. It covers how teams treat their players as well as the troubles gamers experience to get into the profession. This movie was okay for me, some of the facts seem to be a little dated, but if you are interested in Pro-gaming then this could be a good documentary just to see how things were. (Maybe still are)
  • The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) - If you liked Chasing Ghosts then you will probably like this one. Even if you didn't you should check this one out. It focuses in on the battle for the high score of Donkey Kong as well as some other high score players sharing their comments. It can keep you entertained quite easily with the "Good vs Evil" aspect of the movie. Go check this one out!
  • Second Skin (2008) - This movie is the one that got me very interested in video game documentaries. It follows a few people whose lives, for the most part revolve around MMO games (World of Warcraft, Everquest 2). It is quite an interested view on how their lives and how dependent they are on their game of choice. I highly recommend this one as it is well put together and a very interesting story. It also contains a scene about a boy and Second Life that pretty much had me in tears. Check it out!
  • Beyond the Game (2008) - Not a movie that stands out to me, but it's still going on the list. An independently made movie that focuses solely on professional gamers Grubby and Sky of the game Warcraft 3. It is a pretty dark look at their lives and how they get ready for their games at the World Cyber Games. It's slow moving and not really the most cheerful atmosphere. The only way I can recommend this game is if you are a fan of Grubby/Sky or are REALLY into the professional scene for Warcraft.
  • Get Lamp (2010) - An interesting movie that is all about Text Adventure games. It covers the history of how this genre got started to what the future of this game holds. A decent movie that gives you quite a bit of information about the games. It's worth checking out if you want to learn something about the genre. Also can be fun to try and spot the Lamp in some of the shots.
  • Gamers (2011) - The film focuses greatly on World of Warcraft, but don't take it that this movie is all about the game. The filmmaker explores what makes World of Warcraft and other MMOs such a popular genre. He interviews people with a wide range of opinions, from devoted fans to ex-gamers to people who think they are bad. Along the way you meet some quite interesting people. A good movie for both people new to the genre and people who are well established MMOers.
  • Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball (2008) - This movie goes fairly in-depth on the project called Pinball 2000 which Williams put together in an attempt to save pinball from fading away. It's a quick movie so don't expect much from of a history of pinball as it just briefly covers it. I'm not sure what else to say about it, as it is mostly about the Pinball 2000 and the decline of Williams.
  • Once Upon Atari (2007) - A full-scale look at the life of working at Atari. I quite enjoyed watching this as there are some really good anecdotes from the employees. For example how all the employees would smoke weed in their office throughout the day or how one of the employees climbed walls and hit his head on a sprinkler. It's a good watch just to see exactly what it was like working there, from the high points to the parts which made life hell. There are a lot of story telling in this documentary so be prepared for that!

Some more movies not on this list that will get added when I see them are (Or have time to put some information about):

  • Thumb Candy (2000) - History of Computer Games.
  • 8Bit (2006) - History of artists and video games.
  • Into the Night with Jason Rohrer and Chris Crawford (2009) - Two video game industry guys having conversations about game design.
  • Playing Columbine (2008) - History of the making of the controversial game Playing Columbine.
  • Indie Game: The Movie (2011) - Documentary on Indie developers and how they go about making their games.
  • Moral Kombat (2007) - A debate about whether violent games are good or bad.
  • Bang The Machine (2002) - A film about the Street Fighter scene around the year of 2000.
  • I Got Next (2009) - It is about the fighting game scene and also Street Fighter IV.
  • King of Chinatown (2011) - A documentary about the famous Street Fighter player Justin Wong.
  • Focus: A Documentary on Mike Ross (2011) - Follows the 4th place finisher at Evo 2010, Mike Ross.
  • The Hax Life (2010) - An inside look on the Starcraft pro gaming team WEmade FOX .
  • Charlie Brooker's Game Swipe (2009) - Has various reviews of video games as well insight into the game industry.
  • Gamer Revolution (2007) - It explores how games are changing the world and life itself.
  • Play Value (2008) - A bunch of gaming gurus and insiders give insight into the history of video games.
  • Gold Farmers (2010) - Investigates the business of young Chinese men farming gold to sell to Americans.
  • /afk (2011) - Explores the possible obsession of online games.
  • Flashback: NES (2006) - Gamespot documentary about the Nintendo Entertainment System. Contains some of the Giantbomb guys.
  • Video Game Invasion (2004) - Tony Hawk is the host of this documentary about the evolution of games.
  • Playing To Win (2010) - A series of short videos ranging from the games to the creators to social issues.
  • High Score (2010) - A group of fans keeping the arcade game play of high scores alive. Also follows a gamer trying to beat Missile Command high score.
  • Blizzard Retrospective (2011) - To celebrate Blizzard's 20th Anniversary they made a 50min look at the entire history of Blizzard to current day.
  • The Secret History of Volition (2011) - GameInformer put together a documentary on the studio that brought us Descent. Concept art and never before seen footageare just some of the stuff you will see.
  • Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters (2012) - A documentary that follows the best Tetris players as they get ready for the Tetris World Championships.
  • Us and the Game Industry (2012) - New documentary about Indie game developers which tracks their progress and ideas during their production.
  • Icons (2002-2006) - A show run on G4 from 2002-2006 for 4 seasons which focused on a different topic in the gaming industry. It has been relaunched recently, but focuses on pop culture instead.
  • Race To World First (2011) - Follows the World of Warcraft guild Blood Legion as it attempts to be the first guild to beat the newest boss encounter added.
  • Special When Lit (2009) - A pinball documentary that looks back at the history of the genre and what made it so popular back in the day.

As an added bonus I have included some non-Video game movies, but still gamer documentaries. These are based around LARPing (Live Action Role Playing), DnD (Dungeons and Dragons), and Table top games.

  • Uber Goober (2004) - This covers the whole range of gaming from LARP to table top games. Pretty interesting look at the different kinds of games.
  • Drakmar: A Vassal's Journey (2006) - A LARPing documentary, but this one follows a single kid playing the game and him dealing with real life problems.
  • Darkon (2006) - Focused around the players of the LARP community of Darkon. Quite entertaining seeing how these people live their lives.
  • Monster Camp (2007) - Another LARPing documentary. There are quite a few funny scenes in this one. Follows a group of players during their time playing as well as living their normal lives.
  • The Dungeon Masters (2008) - A pretty well made movie about dungeon masters and players of the game Dungeons and Dragons. Shows how they live their life outside of the game and how they make a living.
  • Going Cardboard (2012) - Introduces viewers to the players and developers of board games, and shows you how it is making a comeback.
  • Reformat the Planet (2008) - Delves into the music genre known as chiptune, which is music made by using video game hardware such as the NES and Game Boys.

Hopefully this little guide will help people in finding movies to watch. If you have any movie recommendations not on the list or just wish to share your opinion on some movies please feel free to do so.

I WILL be updating this page so be sure to bookmark/save this page, and check back. If you have any recommendations on how this could be better share that as well. :)

Posted by Helios1337

Nice guide, I'll look into a couple of these.

Posted by Video_Game_King

I'd suggest not watching Moral Kombat. From what I understand, it's pretty much Jack Thompson saying "video games are bad, they gave birth to Hitler after raping Satan, we should destroy them if we want world peace." And then the American legal system disbarred him for being an idiot who uses any excuse he can for fame and "notoriety."

Posted by MikkaQ

Nice stuff, King of Kong is probably THE best documentary about video games. You can show it to gamers and non-gamers alike, and all the drama that goes into this old-school arcade scene is hilarious. It's a very well edited movie too. 

Posted by RecSpec

Also, King of Kong is on Netflix streaming.

Edited by ThePhantomnaut

For fighting games, there is Bang The Machine and I Got Next (Short Cut). There is some other ones like King of Chinatown (still only shown in theater screenings, will screen at PAX East!) which is about Justin Wong and during the initial months of Street Fighter IV and the upcoming Focus detailing Mike Ross.

Posted by TurboMan

is any of those better than King of Kong?

Posted by Gav47

The Hax Life is a pretty good short documentary about Starcraft in South Korea 

Edited by gunstar

I'd like to see options for viewing added to the titles in the OP. Stuff like netflix links, amazon links, streaming links, etc. 
 
I know for a fact King of Kong, Darkon, and Monster Camp are on Netflix Instant, no clue about the rest though.

Posted by Nikral
@Gav47: That reminds me I need to add the Starcraft Documentary National Geo. did.  
 
@gunstar:
 Could be a possibility, I live in Canada so unfortunately our Netflix isn't the exact same also we don't get access to Hulu/Amazon. I could definitely try to find links to the websites of the movies and if I have a little extra time find out links on where to watch it. :) 
Posted by Sweep

Gameswipe is pretty informative. 
 

Moderator
Posted by Chaser324

Why is this not a list on Screened?

Moderator
Posted by Nikral
@Chaser324: Because I haven't got around to it and I am more active on GiantBomb than Screened. Maybe this weekend I will get a list going there, but my priority is here. :)
Posted by MonkeyKing1969

 I don't know how to connect it to what you have or even if you could call it a documentary...maybe documentary television.  But PBS Frontline Digital_Nation has all sort of neat interviews and stories about the digital frountier.   
 
You can find it here:   http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/view/?utm_campaign=viewpage&utm_medium=grid&utm_source=grid 
 
I watched chapter 8 last night and it was very interesting.  There was also a bit that is sort of scary about how kids retain virtual experiences if they are very detailed and have an avatar that looks like them.  It was almost scary when they talked about how a child under five can make memories of doing what they did virtually.   It is all online and worth watching in my opinion.

Posted by Chaser324
@Nikral: 
Fair enough. To be honest, I probably never would've seen it if you had posted it on Screened. I can't remember the last time I looked at anything other than the front page of any other Whiskey Media site.
Moderator
Posted by imsh_pl

I think everyone should watch Moral Kombat. It gives a great insight into the 'violence in video games' issue.

Posted by animateria

Looking at the list all I could think was. 
 
F.O.E!

Posted by BBQBram

I downloaded Beyond the Game last week, haven't watched it yet. I'll be sure to check out some more of this list. King of Kong is a classic for this subgenre.

Posted by OldGuy
Posted by JJWeatherman

Good stuff. I'll check some of these out. The ones I haven't already seen, at least.

Posted by IamNOTatalkingpony

Fuck yeah Charlie Brooker! 
That guy's awesome!

Posted by buzz_clik

As an old bastard, I'm going to mention the legendary Commercial Breaks. If you're into the history of older games and wanna hear about a game company becoming history, check it out.

Moderator
Posted by MegaGoat

Gamer Revolution from 2007?

Posted by X19
Edited by Nikral

Update - Feb 11, 2011

  • Added a short description to the movies I haven't seen.
  • Added links to either the official website or if no website to IMDB to most of the movie.
  • Added a couple documentaries to list.

    Planned updates:
  • More description of movies not seen.
  • Considering a different form of organization (genre of games etc.)    
Posted by lionheart25

This was a real nice list, I appreciated the few lines of plot synopsis for the documentaries you have seen. I too have been interested in watching game documentaries, but never heard of half of these. I also liked that you linked almost every one.Thanks a lot!

Posted by CitizenKane

King of Kong is so awesome.  Better than I expected it to be.

Posted by CastroCasper

Thanks, this is awesome. I've only seen A Fistful of Quarters.

Posted by Daveyo520

The retrospectives gametrailers do are pretty good and kinda count.

Posted by Nikral

Update February 28th

  •  Added new MMO Documentary "Gamers" which I will definitely be checking out when I get home. (If I can convince Hulu I am not from Canada)
Posted by EVO
Posted by auspiciousqueue

I've seen several of the ones on the list. I recently caught Second Skin on the Documentary Channel and couldn't stop watching. I really recommend it. Some of the stories just amazed me and others were down right sad.

Posted by Pepsiman

Tetris: From Russia with Love is fantastic. It takes what can be the thoroughly convoluted saga that is Tetris' early years and not only makes it accessible, but turns it into an engaging narrative about Cold War business and politics in its own right. Seeing someone as American as Henk Rogers wax nostalgic about how he went to the Soviet Union to negotiate licensing rights with the Kremlin roaming about is endlessly interesting.

Edited by Siphillis
@Nikral: Please add "Play Value"  an online mini-series that is the basis of my video game knowledge: 
 
  
    
Posted by Nikral

Update April 4

 Added New movie Secret of Volition. 
Updated 2 movies with more information. 
 
 Hope people are finding this useful!
Edited by ZagZagovich

Thanks for the work, dude. If only there were as many comic book documentaries...

Edited by Nikral
 Did you think this list was dead?

Update May 12

Finally a new Documentary to add! Won't be coming out till 2012 though.
Edited by mnzy

Bang the Machine is not really available. Its master copies were destroyed on 9/11 (they were in the WTC) and there is only a rough cut or something that can't be released because of licensing issues. Atleast that's what I read.
They show that version at EVO sometimes, but that's it.

But man, what a list, I'll try to watch some of those.

Posted by GiveUpNed

Don't forget the tv-show Icons that used to show on G4/Tech TV. It had 5 seasons and each episode would be an hour long look into a videogame topic.

Posted by Nikral

Finally an update! Hurray!

Added 2 new documentaries 1 old and 1 new.

Posted by IndyAdvant

Incredible work you've done here. Thank you so much!

Edited by Fona_Fett

Sweet, Rise of Video Games is the only one I know of.

Why can't I favorites this!?!

Posted by kogasu

Very awesome !! I'm so glad somebody did this.

Edited by HarlechQuinn
Posted by Chaser324

Special When Lit is another competent pinball documentary. However, it's not anything all that fantastic.

Moderator
Posted by Kidavenger
Posted by FesteringNeon

Anyone know which of these are on Netflix?

Posted by pornstorestiffi

@MikkaQ said:

Nice stuff, King of Kong is probably THE best documentary about video games. You can show it to gamers and non-gamers alike, and all the drama that goes into this old-school arcade scene is hilarious. It's a very well edited movie too.

Yeah its awesome, watched it so many times.

Edited by BPRJCTX

@MikkaQ said:

Nice stuff, King of Kong is probably THE best documentary about video games. You can show it to gamers and non-gamers alike, and all the drama that goes into this old-school arcade scene is hilarious. It's a very well edited movie too.

Yes, King of Kong is amazing.

BTW, does anyone know of other documentaries in the same vein of King of Kong?

Btw, you should put up the Penny Arcade series.

Posted by Datajack

Just finished "Special when lit" on Netflix Instant, would really recommend to hit that as well.

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