I’m a huge fan of documentaries about video games. While I prefer those focused on game development, a well-executed documentary on a single topic (such as video game sound, done to perfection by documentary “Beep“) can be just as engrossing. space.games.film is the labor of love born from games.film, a German production company that focuses on gaming documentaries. While it is an important look at a piece of gaming history, it lacks grip and rhythm.
As you may or may not know, I’m a filmmaker and indie game developer myself. Therefore, in my free time, I usually find myself either talking about films and games, playing games, watching films, or a combination of all of the above. I regularly scour the “New Releases” section of Steam gaming documentaries in search of something cool to feature here. space.games.film looked like a great match: I’m a huge fan of space games, having spent quite a bit of time playing Microsoft’s “Freelancer” on the PC. It also featured “Everspace“, a game which I absolutely love. And while the information presented is extremely interesting, there’s no end goal, no jeopardy. It’s a film about games set in space. I knew going in this wasn’t a “making of” type of documentary, but it would have been a service to the narrative if the documentarians behind the film would have established a through-line with a possible ending: “Everspace” releasing on the Switch? “Star Citizen” missing yet another deadline?
This type of milestones are important to creating an overarching narrative, and establishing a backdrop upon which you can build your story. There is no particular subject featured on space.games.film, other than the genre itself… and the genre is ever-lasting and eternal. There’s no jeopardy, no light at the end of the tunnel. This hurts the pacing of the film, and make for a very difficult watch in a single sitting.
Thankfully, the film has a ton of redeeming features. First off, it’s beautifully shot and artfully edited, as well as having clean, understandable sound. I know these may seem like basic things when talking about a film, but you wouldn’t believe the number of very promising films I’ve watched where inaudible, distorted audio or poorly-lit interviews completely destroy the experience.
It also has very interesting interviews with both genre pioneers and up-and-coming developers. This is a great way of showcasing new talent alongside the more experienced, more well-known crowd. But there is only so many times you can feature a talking-head shot and cut it with some game footage before it becomes a stale formula.
Don’t get me wrong: I think space.games.film is not only a technically proficient film, but also an archival piece worthy of your time. However, it also has massive amounts of wasted potential. Better direction would have seen this documentary add weight and jeopardy (I know I’ve used this term a lot, but bear with me), enhancing the emotional connection with the viewer, and ultimately, creating a better product. As it is, it’s difficult to recommend to people who aren’t already massive fans of the genre, or interested in gaming documentaries to a very extreme degree.