DVD Review: The Dungeon Masters

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

I heard about this little documentary a while ago but the promotional pictures of the young lady dressed as a dark elf in full makeup made me think this was another in a long line of “LOL LOOK NERDS!” kind of things. I decided to take a chance when this popped up on the “new this week” list for my game distributor. I sat down last night to watch this and I thought I would share with the class what I think in lieu of comments for the booklist this week.

The movie is book-ended with clips from Gen Con. We see these game masters in their natural habitat as they take a group of adventurers through some perilous journey using paper, dice and imagination. It gives a good overview of the experience of running a role playing game. Each of the people highlighted in the movie has a distinct and different style of running a game and the diversity shown should help the novice gamer decide what type of game master he would want to game with. Sadly, I doubt many novice gamers will watch this movie except in a frat house “look at the nerds” kind of viewing.

Each of the people this documentary revolves around is in a very different place in life. One is married, in the military and going through a conversion to Judaism while having a crisis of faith about his gaming. One is married, unemployed and trying to finish his first novel. One is recently divorced and trying to find her soul mate while dressed as an evil elf. The thing that struck me is that unlike most films, documentary or otherwise, there are no heroes here. There are just people trying to get through life the best way they know how, using games as an escape from the dreary reality of life instead of going into a more self destructive direction. I couldn’t help but notice similarities between the people shown in the film and the people I know in my life. Most gamers are starry eyed optimists who pretend to be cynical and surly. We all fight epic fights to right wrongs and rescue the helpless while pretending we don’t care about anything. We are a funny conundrum gamers.

There isn’t a lot of diversity in the extra features on the DVD but what is there is pretty fantastic. We get to see more interviews with various gamers, some who make cameos in the finished product. There are a bunch of clips from Gen Con that are pretty funny even if you aren’t a gamer. I highly recommend watching the extras in their entirety once you finish the movie. There is about a half an hour or so of footage.

If nothing else this movie gives gamers a glimpse into how very much the same we all are in our dreams. We all want to be happy and successful but rarely do we know how to go about doing that. I expected the movie to end with the gamers finding success and moving boldly into a brighter future but instead they don’t seem to be much farther along in life than they were when the movie began. Some may find this a little depressing but the thing I took from it was that no matter what happens, keep fighting. Keep trying to move forward. Don’t give up.

To quote Joss Whedon through the voice of his character Angel, “If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do.”

An excellent theme for a movie about my people.


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