I had the chance to watch Man Vs. Snake, now streaming on Netflix, which tells the tale of the Nibbler world record holder. Like King of Kong before it, the movie delves deep into the community of world-record arcade gaming and even brings out many of the characters at the forefront of King of Kong. I mention King of Kong because there’s undeniably no way this film wouldn’t be compared to it; it features a strikingly similar arc of individuals trying to achieve the high score of a old video game they once had high success with in their youth. Despite the comparison, Man Vs. Snake actually tells its core tale more effectively than King of Kong; the story of Tim McVey trying to achieve the world record is one of constant struggle and hardships, and you get a genuine sense of McVey, his wife, and his life. That said, it perhaps isn’t quite as memorable as King of Kong, which was made extremely memorable by dynamic between Steve Weibe and Billy Mitchell and the absurdity of aspects of the community. For better or worse, Man Vs. Snake really puts its players at the forefront to make it a more human interest sort of documentary, which in this goal it succeeds in strides. McVey, who throughout the movie says he’s trying to expand the notoriety of Nibbler, comes off as an underdog trying to reclaim his early glory. Unlike Kong, the community comes off as much more unified and welcoming; with competitors not having the antagonistic relationships as much. Even Dwayne Richard, who in some ways plays the Billy Mitchell role in this film, comes off as supportive, even when he is faced with the controversy of perhaps rigging his record.
What really is socially fascinating, for me at least, in both Man Vs. Snake and King of Kong are the communities built around these aged machines. World records of 30+ old video games aren’t typically the first thing you think about when you imagine communal gaming, but such movies speak to their power to bring people together and form bonds. One of the best moments of the movie comes in its final moments when Walter Day, whom has become a name synonymous with world record gaming, speaks to the power of video games:
“Video Games were just the device. It could have been all sorts of other things, but it happened to be video games… Video Games are like a superficial thing, it really was the essence of life challenging them, putting them at the forefront, making them have to go deep within, and really flower and pull out their own inner qualities and really decide what type of person they’re going to be”
All in all, it’s a fun and interesting enough documentary to fill your time. If you’re interested in gaming or have no prior knowledge of world record community I’d recommend giving it a shot.
A couple years back I wrote an article about how Crowdfunding was increasingly a route for independent developers to use to jump start and create their passion products. I asked the question as to when we would see bigger developers and franchises turn towards crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe to revive beloved franchises that didn’t receive the financial response they needed to secure sequels. Well, that’s happened. The dream is real, and Shenmue 3 is now something that will be made.
I could gush on for hours on why I am excited about Shenmue 3, but I won’t. The game’s announcement, however, has some historical importance I believe should be discussed. The game represents a shift in the gaming industry that may change how certain developers gain funds and support for titles. Yu Suzuki tentatively “announced” Shenmue 3 at the Sony E3 conference to gauge support for the game. Obviously support and interest was there, as the 2 million goal was reached in less than 10 hours. Once reached, backers (specifically Sony) agreed to contribute support to the game to ensure its development. Not only was it the fastest funded video game project yet, it looks like it may be the highest funded one when it concludes.
Why does this matter to sociology? With games like Shenmue 3, Yooka-Laylee, and the Mighty Number 9, developers have options to create games that may not otherwise be made. Not only that, but with fans being a major force in backing the game the game really becomes by the fans for the fans. Yu Suzuki has stated that he will involve fans in numerous ways during the development, including even potentially having major donors be characters or voices inside the game. This form of development creates a unique exchange between developer and fans and links the two more prominently than ever before. In doing so, this relationship between fans and developers creates a community around the game that may lead to a strengthening in development and experience. This community and exchange between developers and fans is a sociologically interesting one because it dramatically changes how we view and interact with the game’s we play. Games and gaming developers are no longer entities that exist outside of the reach of gamers; we are all now apart of the process.Obviously we’re at the start of this process, but the prospects are quite exciting.
Beyond development, Shenmue 3 proves that a niche crowd in gaming, one that is vocal and proactive enough, can make their desires reality. That’s an important shift in gaming, one that can inspire other passion projects or long awaited sequels to see the light of day.
So, let’s start out on this new journey of an era in which no game’s development is out of the question.
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WATCH THE ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO HERE!