Nintendo made waves today by announcing a three-part documentary series that would outline the decade-long development of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The game, which now sits as one of the highest-rated games ever created, is also Nintendo's best-selling launch title (not included in a bundle) of all time, so there are many intriguing aspects of this development cycle that a documentary series could illuminate.
Of course, the only looming question is "will it be good?" I'd bet on it. If it's handled with any sort of production value, a video game documentary can be very good, as history has shown us. Will Breath of the Wild set the high mark for video game documentaries as well? It will have to go through these five documentaries about video games and video gaming in order to claim that title.
5. True Sight
Undoubtedly encapsulating, True Sight follows the formula of its predecessor, following several professional Dota 2 teams leading up to their run in the Boston Major. But it's also undoubtedly much shabbier. In the first episode alone, you'll grasp glimpses of the boom mic in a scene where one EG player is telling us what his mom packed in his suitcase for the trip. Riveting stuff.
While these moments are few and far between, it just feels a bit padded, which stops it from being higher on this list. But when it works, it has all the human moments you would want from a video gaming documentary, with all the fly-on-the-wall qualities you want from a regular documentary.
4. Second Skin
What Second Skin shows us is that there are stories in every form of gaming. This particular look is at the world of MMORPGs. And it's an unflinching look at the popular genre. They'll look at the couples who fall in love and the people who let the game control their lives and take them to dark places.
More than anything, Second Skin humanizes a group of gamers who have been endlessly parodied in hilarious South Park episodes and YouTube videos alike. Documentaries, and filmmaking in general, are best when they take nothing and no one for granted.
3. Frag: The Movie
Probably the first major take on the eSports industry in film, Frag: The Movie was a bit on the salacious side and had all the stink of people trying to spice up an otherwise ridiculous profession by placing an emphasis on sex and drugs.
Despite all that, it's a damned entertaining, if cartoonish, look at eSports in its inception, when they were giving out $7,000 grand prizes to 20-somethings and that was considered a huge deal.
2. Free To Play
Free to Play was a high-budget take on Frag, and one that added much more legitimacy to the industry of eSports. It followed Dota 2's very first International tournament, which had a then-unbelievable $1.6 million prize pool, where the winning team would receive $1 million USD. It had all the heart of something like Second Skin with none of the more cringeworthy moments of True Sight or Frag.
It was also produced at the perfect time, just when eSports really started to explode to the billion-dollar industry it is today, so Free To Play also marks a historical turning point for the world of gaming that's even more interesting in retrospect. Free to Play is also available in its entirety on Steam and YouTube.
1. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Documentaries about the most bizarre subjects are the most fascinating. I remember watching a documentary (Finders Keepers) about a man who lost his preserved, severed foot in a storage auction and went through a legal battle to get it back. Even to someone who games, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is equally as bizarre, following one man's attempt to beat the world record high score in Donkey Kong.
In fact, after originally publishing this article, I was contacted by the producer of The King of Kong, Ed Cunningham, who informed me that he also produced Finders Keepers along with Seth Gordon, who directed The King of Kong. Writing to GameRevolution, Cunningham said Finders Keepers was almost canceled several times, but was kept alive because these stories were so similar.
Cunninigham said that "giving them a proper telling could be meaningful and not just good for a few laughs at people that are usually easy targets," adding that "We now think of Finders Keepers as a parallel universe sequel to The King of Kong."
Just like many of these documentaries, it illuminates a whole new area of gaming, the arcade scene, and shows how it's very much still alive. It's a DeLorean that takes you back when video games weren't a sport and the only thing people fought for were bragging rights. The King of Kong is still ... you get the idea.