Currently, the prevailing definition of the word “gamer” is “someone who plays video games.” However, the label has an older connotation. For years, gamers were people who populated the tables of college dorm basements, comic store back rooms and Mom’s dining room, one of them hunched behind a screen describing unspeakable horrors while the others rolled dice, complained about rulings and flung Cheetos at each other. Thankfully, that hobby is alive and well in the world of testosterone-charged first-person shooters and time-destroying MMOGs. With love in its heart and tongue firmly in its cheek, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising shows us how these “real” gamers live and play.
Produced by the Dead Gentlemen, Dorkness Rising is a follow-up to the original film called The Gamers. However, it’s not necessarily a sequel. The story centers on Kevin Lodge, a man struggling to create a unique campaign world for Dungeons & Dragons and writing up its first module. His regular gaming group, however, is frustrating him at every turn due to their shameless power-gaming rules-mongering ways. To fill the ranks of their small group, one of the players – arrogant, by-the-book Cass – enlists his ex-girlfriend, Joanna. It turns out that Joanna, like Kevin, is more interested than the story than the rules. The perspective shifts between the players and their characters, and as the adventuring party embarks on their quest to retrieve the Mask of Death from an evil necromancer, the gamers themselves begin to grow in their understanding of both their characters and the reasons they play these games.
At first blush, there’s a lot of similarity between The Gamers and Dorkness Rising. It has gamers rolling dice, yelling at one another and making off-color jokes at each other’s expense. If you’ve never sat down for a session of Dungeons & Dragons before, you’ll get a pretty good idea of how they tend to proceed. There are plenty of jokes about both the nature of table-top role-playing games and the people that play them. Some of these might fly over the heads of a general audience, but anybody who’s rolled dice to determine a hit against a goblin’s armor class can tell you they’re right on the money. Beyond the scenes and jokes themselves, the film’s probably been responsible for an explosion of conversations that begin with someone saying “Dude, something just like that happened to me when…”
The surprising thing about Dorkness Rising isn’t the humor, however. This film has got a lot of heart. It parodies the lives of gamers and plays up the hilarity of some of their arguments out of love rather than spite. The story has a lot to say about the nature of friendship, the way people immerse themselves in their hobbies and the process of storytelling itself. Despite the ways in which certain characters behave, the film never resorts to mean-spirited or blatantly gross-out humor to get a laugh. That isn’t to say that this comedy is high-brow, by any stretch – there’s bawdy jokes aplenty. But the jokes never really exist for their own sake. Like action that has the audience riveted in a well-directed film, the comedy in this story grows organically from character interaction and growth.
The only real drawback to this film is that it’s aimed at a very specific audience. A lot of the jokes, references and situations will be utterly lost on anybody who hasn’t ever played a table-top role-playing game before. And beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot to say about Dorkness Rising. Chances are, if you’re at all connected to table-top gaming, you’re aware of this film and you know if it’s up your alley or not. While there’s a lot to like about both of the films in The Gamers series, beyond their good-natured humor and the surprising quality of the storytelling in the second one there isn’t a whole lot to say about them. They’re funny and clever and aimed straight at table-topping dorks everywhere. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then by all means pick these up on your Netflix queue. But not everybody’s going to enjoy the same kind of thing. That’s just as true in the gaming world as it is when it comes to movies. I remember this one time I was playing a rogue in a Planescape campaign and…
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.
March 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm
Excellent review. You talk too fast, though!