Sunday, May 7, 2017

HotDocs 17 Film Review - Living The Game

Daigo Umehara @daigothebeast is the brightest star in the emerging world of eSports. When he walks to an event venue video game fans whisper in hushed tones there is Daigo. He takes chances with he plays, gets down to 1% power on occasion then rallies back to a dramatic win in his game of choice Street Fighter. Along with Umehara several other elite Street Fighter players are studied and profiled including Yusuke Momochi Umehara's main rival who  employs a conservative stile of play. The piece follows the players to major events, gives a history of the tournaments and documents the rise in prize money cumulating with  2015 EVO in Las Vegas Nevada with a winners prize of $120,000.

The film focuses on three tournaments The Capcom Cup which is where the documentary opens with Daigo's arrival at the San Francisco event to the awe of the spectators waiting on line to enter. The Topanga World League in Tokyo where it seems that Daigo and Momochi are always in the final with the later always loosing and the afore mentioned pinnacle of the sport the EVO Championship. The history of the rise of e-sports is best reflected in the interview of American pioneer Justin Wong who burst on the stage to win at the age of 15 collecting a modest winners cheque. Wong speaks to a sentiment of most gamers that to tell parents, family and friends that they do this professionally is looked down upon. Another top player Luffy from France sites the sigma of being a gamer as the reason that he maintains a full time job at an advertising agency. So his parents can at least tell their friends that their son works in advertising.

Takao Goutsu decision to feature a few gamers giving their background story gives the viewer the chance to choose a player to root for as the tournaments come up on the schedule. The photography decisions work well to deliver the intensity of the live tournament. Cinematographer Kouichirou Miyagawa visuals shift from the dueling players on stage, to the handwork on the oversized joystick, to the action on the regular and big screens  then to the fans going crazy watching the offensive, defensive moves leading to an expected or surprise K.O.

Living The Game is a window into the world of eSports. It's a growing market with rabid fans, superstar players and tournaments with ever increasing prize money around the world. A few of the top Street Fighter players are the films subject. They talk of their strategy, playing styles, practice routines and scouting reports on their main rivals. The film is a satisfying look into an underexposed competition that is defiantly worth a look.

*** Out of 4

Living The Game | Takao Gotsu | Japan/ France /U.S.A. /Taiwan | 87 Minutes.

Tags: eSports, Pro Gamers, Street Fighter, Madcatz, Evil Genius, Monster Energy, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Gamer Bee.

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