Friday, March 13, 2009

New eSports documentary: Beyond The Game

I few days back I had the pleasure of seeing Jos de Putter’s Beyond The Game, his new documentary about professional Warcraft III players. My review will pop up somewhere next week (in Dutch, sorry), but let me just say that I enjoyed De Putter’s film a lot. It refuses to get all sensational about the eSports phenomenon, instead treating it as a fact. You might think professional computer game playing is strange but, as De Putter seems to say, millions of players don’t, resulting in a professional scene where the best players are superstars able to make a living from playing these games.

The main protagonists are Dutch top-player Manuel ‘Grubby’ Schenkhuizen, rising star Li ‘Sky’ Xiaofeng from China and, to a lesser extent, retired veteran Fredrik ‘MaDFroG’ Johansson. Beyond The Game follows them, their parents and their romantic partners through their daily lives as we discover what pro-gaming means to these people culturally, professionally and emotionally.

By taking eSports and its players entirely serious, Beyond The Game manages to pierce deeper into game culture than most other media reports and documentaries made from the ‘outside’ of gaming (apparantly, De Putter had no prior knowledge about or direct interest in eSports or computer games before making this film).

One thing is sure: being a Warcraft III pro involves a LOT of training. Never will you see a documentary involving so much typing, mouse-work and staring intensely at screens. As the trailer below shows, these players even continue playing while brushing their teeth.

Beyond the Game will be released in selected Dutch cinema’s march 19. I’m not sure about the availability of the documentary outside of The Netherlands but I suggest keeping an eye on the film's blog, or local film festivals.

For those still thinking that eSports are just a weird underground thing, think again. It was just announced that one of the best Warcraft III players from Korea signed a contract for 700 million Korean won, almost $475.000. And that does not even break the standing record for highest paid eSports ‘athlete’. No wonder player from all over the globe try to flock to countries like Korea and China to compete.

UPDATE: review online now. Click here, or in the sidebar.