DEN TRAUM AM LEBEN ERHALTEN
Documentaries that attempt to tell the full history of videogaming often fall short, for the simple and obvious reason that it's too big a subject for a 70-odd minute cut to do justice to. Space.games.film neatly avoids such criticism by concerning itself with a single genre (can you guess which one?) and curiously goes further still by mostly focusing on games made in Germany, with the exception of the oeuvre of Chris Roberts, who happened to be at Gamescom in Germany when much of the documentary was being filmed.
Now, you perhaps wouldn't think Germany as much of an epicentre for space game development, and to be fair, the case isn't made that it is, only that Germans - the editor of GameStar magazine especially - love space games, and, as a nation, have made some pretty good ones over the years, especially when no one else seemed to want to.
Hence we see the names and many of the faces behind the X series, Everspace, The Long Journey Home, Dreadnought, plus of course the Wing Commander guy, all talking about the games that inspired them and their take on the genre's history; why space games almost died out and what caused them to return a decade later. There isn't a great amount of insight to be gleaned, although we do get to learn that the X games were a massive hit in Russia, and the point is made that, as much as we might attribute the return of space games to crowdfunding hits - and to Star Citizen in particular - 30 million installs of the Galaxy on Fire series might also have been a factor. Amusingly, we also learn that Michael Schade, founder of Everspace studio Rockfish, thought Elite (on C64) was a bit rubbish.
My only real issue with Space.game.film is that the creators clearly wanted to tell a bigger story than they were able to, which becomes immediately obvious when stepping outside Germany to visit Blackbird Interactive in Vancouver. Why Blackbird and not Frontier, say? Or CCP Games? It seemed a little arbitrary and unnecessary after so much effort had been made to celebrate the efforts - quite rightly too - of Germany's underappreciated (and underfunded, it would appear) development community.
So, not the exhaustive history of space gaming some expect, but an enjoyable and personable primer that gets across how important the genre is to those who aren't routinely obsessed with playing them. More importantly perhaps, Space.games.film is a necessary reminder that Germany has produced some great additions to the genre - particularly at a time when they were most needed.