Wednesday, April 16, 2014

EXP Podcast #272: Free to Play Debrief

Werner Herzog has been pretty busy lately, so Valve had to take it upon themselves to produce a feature documentary about DOTA 2. This week on the podcast, Scott and I dissect Free to Play, a personal look into the 2011 Internationals. You can actually check out the documentary below, in full, and when you do, let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Show notes:

- Runtime: 31 min 40 sec
- Music by: Brad Sucks


  1. I just listened to this and it was a great conversation, but I thought it was sort of too bad that you chose to focus on this movie rather than some of the the other recent esports documentaries that I would argue are better. In particular, I'd point to last year's Starcraft documentary State of Play ( and "The Smash Brothers" series that's up on Youtube.

    State of Play, especially, has a lot of the things that you noted are lacking in Free to Play. It was made by an outside documentary filmmaker without the influence of the developer (see the Reddit AMA with him at It covers the serious downsides to the Korean progaming life, including just how few find success or money in it. The follow-up short film "Rise of the King" even dwells on the serious medical problems that the top Starcraft 2 player Mvp has faced. I'd love to hear either of your thoughts on it.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation! The fact I haven't heard of it probably speaks to an interesting combo of my depth of knowledge combined and the mainstream saturation of video game documentaries; even a relatively clued in person can miss them.

    I did watch The Smash Bros. documentary. I thought it was very good early on, but there was some disappointing stuff about the way they handled some of the uglier social things in the fighting game community, plus I wish there were more about the various players actual lives/families. Even so, I thought it was pretty good and a minimally sugur-coated look at a scene that is so much more DIY than the RTS/MOBA space.

  3. If by "uglier social things" you mean all the misogyny and homophobia, I agree completely. It gets dealt with in a really flippant way, with a token gay and woman gamer shoehorned into the movie in a way that seemed like it was more about covering the Melee scene's ass than actually dealing with anything seriously. And there are obviously things to deal with, the FGC seems like if anything it surpasses the already egregious stuff that goes on in the rest of the nerd/gamer/esports world.

    I disagree with you about the other part, though. The most impressive thing to me about The Smash Brothers was the way it conveyed so much about what unique and fascinating people the main subjects are, but did it all through the lens of Smash. Sure, they could have dug into their non-gaming lives more, but I feel like that would have made the movie into an unfocused mess. And what would be the point, anyway? Why do we need to know everything about these people's lives? It would probably just end up being either hand-wringing about what pathetic broken people competitive gamers are, or else contrived pablum like the Dendi-thinks-about-fishing scene that you rightly clown from Free to Play.

    All that said, though, I'm far less qualified to judge The Smash Brothers objectively, because it was basically my introduction to the Melee scene. I watched State of Play after following pro Starcraft closely for a couple of years, so I have more context with which to evaluate it. And while it has its limits, it's a seriously impressive piece of work.