I have been playing games ever since I was a kid and I struggled for many years with people who thought online games were brainless and action games made you chaotic. I considered this an opportunity to present some knowledge into what gaming really can involve – passion, camaraderie and experiences you can’t get in real life. ~ Ben Dressler
Let’s face the facts, the gamer lifestyle is one thing that not a lot of people have an understanding of /AFK The Movie looks at the life of a video gamer asked to give up the one thing he’s ever enjoyed: World of Warcraft.
To the people who don’t play video games, that is called quitting. For hard-core gamers and MMORPG players around the world, that’s referred to as “Euthanasia.”
The film examines what life is like stepping away from the computer keyboard, to cut off the sole thing you adore doing, simply because you realize that it controls all that you do. But, what is the little difference between loving video games and being addicted with them? Does it make a difference and should we even care?
The subject matter of /AFK The Movie covers World of Warcraft and also online gaming. But you do not need to know the difference between Horde and Alliance to connect with the movie. We’re all addicted to something, be it cell phones, websites, video games, or sweets (or even a dangerous combination of all 4). Step “away from your cellular phone” for 1 day and find out how you respond. Is a cellphone that much different than a video game? Exactly why is one an addiction and the other one is simply a habit?
I spoke with Ben Dressler, the moviemaker who made /AFK come to life.
What was the process like creating the movie, and from his point of view, what message was it wanting to relay to gamers and those telling so-called “addicts” they must stop:
JHS: What inspired you to make the script? Did you feel like you liked to write something which could speak “for all WOW players?”
2 things. First of all, the feeling that no person had ever done this in the past. I believe it is truly unusual that you have a concept that’s kind of unique and not actually out there. When I first saw Memento I was so blown away that after a long time of filmmaking, someone could still come up with something so inventive. And even though we were not the first to combine real live action and video game video clips, I don’t know of any movie who achieved it to the extent that we did.
Second, I wanted to have a stand for video gaming. I have been playing games since I was a child and I struggled for many years with individuals who thought online games were brainless and action games made you violent. I considered this an opportunity to show some insight into what gaming can really cover – passion, companionship and experiences you cannot get in real life.
JHS: In your own point of view, why do people desire to put down the “gamer” lifestyle?
I actually believe that they just don’t know much better. The main character in /AFK says at some point: It is not just me sitting in front of a coloured window.” But that is precisely what individuals see every time they see someone “game.” They don’t see what you think, feel or even experience while you play. I have had a lot of individuals that observed me play WoW and believed it was really boring. But when I let them play for an hour or more, they would buy the game themselves. Thankfully, people who have gaming experience will grow into important positions such as journalism or politics. So eventually that inclination to look down on gamers will diminish from society, I’m very optimistic on that.
JHS: You mentioned you basically had no budget because you could not make some money from the film, What kind of restrictions did that put on you as a moviemaker?
Since I knew there would not be a budget from the beginning, I could focus on writing a script that would deal with not many characters as well as locations. We had five days of shooting for a 25 minute film with a very small crew. And since I didn’t want to rush the actors very much, there was short amount of time left for the camera and lighting unit. We also couldn’t afford to buy plenty of props so we needed to work with everything we got in our homes. The room of the main character is actually made of geek stuff from ten people combined.
It basically came down to pulling lots of favors and utilizing to the very best what was already there. I do think if you choose to work with that restriction, it will easily lead to new, creative ways of telling your story. Although I recently read that German filmmakers particularly get into Hollywood mainly because they can make low-cost movies that look like expensive movies. Well, that is flattering, isn’t it?
JHS: What would you tell individuals who deal with people asking them to “quit video games.”
It’s really hard to give a general answer to that one because it depends on the situations. Normally I would recommend to try and make those people know very well what gaming means to you. Determine why they believe games are stupid and show that you understand them also and take their concerns seriously. Do not just plunge to retaliation mode. When I was in college, I used to talk to my parents about the games I was looking forward to play and what I found enjoyable about them. Usually I could get them to relate to that in some way.
JHS: According to the insufficient success of a few major motion pictures, it seams very challenging to take the concept of a video game and turn it into a movie – with few films making an effort to “get into” the life of BEING a gamer. What was your experience in this regard?
I think there are two kinds of game movies… Adaptations and Sci-Fi movies. Adaptations are nearly always awful OR just solid action movies with the game’s name in the title… And so yeah, there’s hardly any films about real gamers – to be honest I cannot name a single one. And I am somewhat in wonder about that!
But it’s hard, and I do think that the people who make it need to know video games as completely as films….My point is that to truly learn from Video Games as a medium, filmmakers have to understand how a game tells its story, what can be translated and what things can not.
JHS: What does WOW provide that hardly any other game on the face of the earth offers?
In all honesty – there are a couple of games on earth I have not played yet! However, I think that WoW did and does an incredible job at making hardcore gaming available to lots of individuals. Way back in EverQuest days, MMORPGs were a very exclusive genre that even most gamers did not know or care about. These days you will raid with people who wouldn’t even look at themselves a genuine gamer. And yeah, maybe that is a bit of pioneer work that no other game can repeat again.