SXSW’s massive Interactive conference launched this past Friday, showcasing new technology and games on the cutting edge of the digital world. The selections in Indiewire‘s latest curation of Hulu’s Documentaries page are loosely inspired by the increasingly important event, focusing on gaming then and now, as well as considerations of the impact of technology on our lives.
With the thousands of options available to today’s gamers, sporting inventive concepts and advanced graphics and gameplay, it’s hard to imagine simpler times when players spent hours trying to manipulate a small silver ball around obstacles. Brett Sullivan’s “Special When Lit” aims to reintroduce the world to the wonders of pinball and remind them that it was one of the most popular and lucrative forms of popular entertainment in the 1950s and 1960s, even outstripping the profits of the US film industry.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and we enter the Golden Age of video games – while the graphics were clunkier than today’s, arcades were insanely popular, and organized gaming culture began to truly form. Lincoln Ruchti’s 2007 Sundance film, “Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade,” revisits these days, focusing on the legendary Twin Galaxies arcade’s scorekeeping, and culminating in the 1982 Video Game World Championship.
Ben Gonyo’s “Gamers” brings us to modern gaming. In an amiable attempt to understand the appeal of games and gaming culture, the filmmaker immerses himself in their world, exploring MMORPGs – or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games.
Broadening the view away from gaming, David Dworsky and Victor Köhler’s “PressPausePlay,” which premiered at last year’s SXSW, looks at the impact of the digital revolution of the past decade or so, both good and bad. While it has democratized culture – opening up possibilities for creative self-expression by virtually everyone – how much is signal, and how much is noise in the digital landscape?
Hermann Vaske’s “The Digital Bomb” follows along similar lines. Creativity in the digital realm is explored from multiple perspectives – the social, looking at work done by non-professionals on YouTube and elsewhere; the commercial, assessing interactive marketing and digital advertising strategies; and the media, tackling changes to content accessibility and delivery wrought by digital.
Finally, Melody Gilbert’s “Disconnected” takes a personal approach to exploring the impact of modern technology on our lives. Three college students agree to go without their computers in a sort of “digital detox” revealing exactly how dependent we’ve grown on constant technological access.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “Indiewire @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the Iw-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. Indiewire selections typically appear in the carousel at the top of the page and under “Featured Content” in the center. Be sure to check out the great non-fiction projects available to watch free of charge. Disclosure: Some of the selections are titles provided to Hulu by SnagFilms, the parent company of Indiewire.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance and a consultant to documentary filmmakers and festivals. Follow him on Twitter (@1basil1) and visit his blog (what (not) to doc).