Are you ready for Gamers Gone Wild? The opening minutes of Frag play like a scandal-mongering TV news program, featuring surveillance-cam footage of angry public arguments and wet bikini girls cavorting in a hot tub, complete with a stern-voiced narrator asking probing questions. Is this a cautionary morality tale?
No. After that attention-grabbing preamble, the documentary quickly settles down into a more serious groove, delving deeply into a subject that has been mostly ignored by the mainstream media -- but not by filmmakers. Seth Gordon found a deeply emotional human interest story among devoted video gamers in last year's superb The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. Lincoln Ruchti focused on a group of 80s gamers in Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Archive, also from last year. Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza chose to reinforce many of the worst stereotypes about gamers in his zippy, colorful doc Second Skin, which premiered at South by Southwest last month.
At the control of debut doc director Mike Pasley, Frag explores a wider spectrum of issues, digging into racism, corporate sponsorship, jealousy, competition and ambition. The investigative aspects are balanced by a healthy appreciation and respect for the people involved. There's no sense that the film is looking down its nose at an incomprehensible phenomenon, nor is there an excessive amount of hero worship, even though the best known gamers have their own devoted following.