February 7, 2019  (Web Review)

Gamechangers: Dreams of BlizzCon

(2017) 89 min. In English & Korean w/English subtitles. DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $24.95. FilmRise (avail. from most distributors).

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

You don’t have to know anything about the video game StarCraft II to appreciate the documentary Gamechangers. A study of the “esports” phenomenon that has become huge in South Korea, filmmaker John Keating explores the enclosed world of professional gamers who eschew regular life to practice and compete. Delving into the history of esports, the film traces how street-level gamers started a culture that was inevitably overtaken by a deep-pocketed gaming industry. At gamer schools, champions and near-champions are coached every day, and Keating focuses especially on two players as they head toward the annual Super Bowl of StarCraft II, an Anaheim-based blowout called BlizzCon. These twentysomething players, known by their handles MMA and MC, not only have to deal with the pressures of BlizzCon, but also must worry about eventual retirement and the end of big money, as well as two years of military service they are obliged to perform. The film can be tedious at times—watching gamers tap keyboards will not appeal to conventional sports fans—but Keating is primarily concerned with the human side of this digital phenomenon. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)