26 March, 2011

Beyond the Game (Documentary)


Beyond the Game is a 2008 documentary that follows the two leading gamers of  Warcraft III as they prepare for the World Cyber Games. Just as the title suggests, the documentary is less about the game but more about the people whose lives revolve around it.
We have Sky who comes from China and is part of the gaming world going against his authoritarian parents who consider it a shame that their son is not doing an “actual” job. On the other hand, Grubber, who comes from Holland, has a relatively simpler home life. Although part of the same gaming world, both of them are different in respect to their lives, their girlfriends, their methods of preparation, their playing tactics, and even their choice of characters in the game.
The complex relationships these individuals have form the basis of the documentary.
Grubber, for example, has to live in a country where the internet connection is good. When he goes apartment hunting, having a swimming pool in the complex or the physical apartment is secondary only to the speed of the internet available. His interactions with his girlfriend, who is a model and a gamer, are mostly about game tactics.
Sky on the other hand is totally engulfed in his game that he does not have time for his girlfriend. There is an indebt interview with Sky’s girlfriend where she suggests that she can only wait and love him till he finishes with his present lifestyle. Sky’s semi-traumatic past where he even contemplated suicide on losing is heartening. He wants so much to succeed that when it does not happen it is hard for him and the viewer to see his emotions come pouring out. There is a rather sweet moment when he calls his girlfriend on reaching the final and you can tell how excited he is.
The documentary itself is well laid out. There are moments of intense emotions and euphoria. The craze and fans that are part of this culture are well documented and something I was unaware of. Both the characters are literally treated as Gods of the gaming world. There are long moments where the screen time is spent showing the game characters running around with slow melodramatic background music. All I could figure out was that maybe it was a look at the reality wherein we have our two leads that live in a world where they are treated at the highest order, yet it seems that in their personal internal lives they are on their own, alone.
All in all, the documentary is an amazing look at the cyber world that was completely new to me. I recommend it more to non-gamers than gamers because it’s interesting to explore a different side to life and the people who live it.
The documentary although slow at times still kept me interested throughout. Maybe because I was fascinated by the world depicted?
A solid rating of 4/5 in my little book.    

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