Our team recently had a conversation regarding gaming documentaries and I soon after decided to start my viewing list with “A Gamer’s Life: Win or Starve”, a somewhat newer documentary (2016) that gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the professional gaming scene. The film attempts to answer the question “can you make a living in gaming?”
This topic has always interested me. To think that some people can live a life of video gaming and have an income stream to support their passion is amazing, and in a lot of ways parallels a career in the NBA, MLB, etc, minus, of course, the immensely larger following and stardom that comes with conventional sports. But E-sports is growing, whether ESPN sports die-hards like it or not, and the industry could, and hopefully will, grow into a much larger entity.
“A Gamer’s Life” starts out how I was hoping it would. It introduces us to a handful of full-time gamers- streamers, players on pro teams, commentators, and others- and gets their two cents on how they feel about the scene, where it is heading, and what the lifestyle of a pro gamer looks like. They allow each gamer to share their gaming history (how it started, what games they loved), appealing to nostalgia and making the gamers more relatable.
The documentary continues in this fashion, going back and forth between the handful of personalities it follows, but somewhere around the middle of the film a sense of direction is lost. After the introductions of the featured gamers we don’t see much more of them. More of their opinions are gathered, sure, but getting to know them- following their big gaming events or even their daily lives- never really develops save a scene or two. Then, out of nowhere, a discussion on the health risks of childhood gaming comes up and a psychologist discusses his thoughts on the matter for literally 20 minutes or more. It came out of left field and at that point my attention was lost.
The film ends in a similarly uninspiring matter without much conclusion or statement. Overall, the documentary started off strong and got me excited to see it unravel but then left me quite bored. I still love the concept, though. E-sports, streaming, and pro gaming really do seem to be the future and a strong documentary could really further the growth of the industry. In my humble opinion, “A Gamer’s Life” set out to accomplish this but fell short. We wanted more connection to the scene and its members but didn’t quite get that. I still think it is worth a view, but don’t expect it to blow your mind.