So what is the best way to learn about MMORPG’s the gaming world and the culture surrounding it? The answer is to immerse yourself in their world and ask a ton of questions and that is exactly what Ben Gonyo did in his film Gamers.
Ben spent over two years inside the world of gamers and came back with a wealth of information. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Ben about his film and what he learned on his journey.
Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little about the documentary film, Gamers?
Ben: Gamers documents my two year journey into MMORPG games. I played the games and documented what it was like. I interviewed more than 100 gamers, critics, super fans, psychologists and developers. Special guests include Jay Mohr, RA Salvatore and Curt Schilling.
Obsolete Gamer: What led you to wanting to do a documentary of this type?
Ben: I’ve always loved games. Once I graduated college and started working in TV I had a lot less time to play. I kept hearing about WOW and what a huge hit game it is. How people are crazy for it. I used to play Warcraft 1 back when it was RTS. So I decided I’d find out everything I could about MMORPG and make a documentary about it. It was a great experience and opened a lot of doors.
Obsolete Gamer: What was the process of getting the documentary made?
Ben: A lot of research and then setting up interviews and shooting them. Also traveling to conventions, getting clearance to shoot and hiring help. Lastly I had to edit it and get permission from all the companies to show their game footage in my film. To my knowledge my documentary is one of the few features that Blizzard has officially ok’d WOW footage in.
Obsolete Gamer: Over two years gathering data on MMORPG games, can you tell us about some of the things you learned about the industry?
Ben: I learned how big the gaming industry is, roughly $45 billion a year. Yet MMORPG games are relatively small at less than 5% of it. But they are the fastest growing outside of social network games like Mafia Wars on Facebook. In addition, MMORPG games are higher risk/higher reward because they take 3-5 years to create and have budgets in excess of $20 million dollars. The business structure is similar to a Hollywood film.
Obsolete Gamer: There are a ton of stereotypes about MMO players what was your overall take on them compared to the people you met?
Ben: MMO gamers are great people. They generally have a good sense of humor and like to laugh at themselves. They also tend to have jobs, which plays against the “unemployed” stereotype. With that said, they are also the first to admit that they probably spend a little too much time with their games. Many of them realize that they play too much, that it’s not good but admit that they really like it and find it hard to stop.
Obsolete Gamer: There has been a lot of talk of MMO addiction, with your research what were the similarities and differences between MMO addiction and other addictions such as drugs?
Ben: MMO addiction is more social rather than physical, like drugs might be. Players like the sense of accomplishment, the easy rewards, the online “friendships,” which are easy to establish yet have little strength in the real world.
The similarities to other addictions is that it interrupts the normal, healthy patterns of a productive and happy person and replaces them with things that are easier yet less rewarding in the long term.
The difference is that players are often not affected physically (save a lack of exercise.) MMO addiction is a little easier to break and most players are able to step away from a game after a year of abuse. They are able to realize that maybe this game is not the best for me and I’ll take a break. Many drug addicts struggle lifelong with addiction.
Obsolete Gamer: What were your observations on the social aspect of MMO players both inside and outside of the game?
Ben: Inside the game, social interaction is the strength of the MMO genre. It is what makes it so compelling. The games can be rather boring without friends to pal around with in game. I talk about this in the film. When my guild disbanded I became very bored in game.
Outside of the game there are often not many social connections. In fact players often cut down time spent with real world social groups and replace that within game social interaction, which can be unhealthy.
Obsolete Gamer: Was it difficult to have people talk candidly to you about themselves considering the stigma of being an MMO player?
Ben: Not at all. People were very open and honest. Gamers are an open group, which made documenting them easier.
Obsolete Gamer: It is the belief by many MMO gamers that larger corporations could care less about the games and the gamers and it is just about profits, what did you discover?
Ben: I disagree with that. Of the companies I spoke with and got to know, I would say these are passionate gamers wanting to create the best game possible. Yes there is a business to be run and I’m sure there are boards that care less about the game and more about the profit but overall developers are gamers. Very few people want to go to the trouble to create a game if they don’t care about gaming. Also some games are going to be failures, it’s like that in any creative field. Overall I think developers do care and take it personally when a game does not live up to high standards.
Obsolete Gamer: What was the most interesting story you came across during your two year span?
Ben: A friend of mine named Alison told me about her close friend Kevin whom she never saw any more. She said that his involvement in WOW put a huge strain on the friendship.
Readers can watch the section for themselves on Babelgum:
Obsolete Gamer: Was there anything you wanted to get into the film but could not?
Ben: Yes I did a section about Massive LAN in Buffalo, NY. 80 person LAN party in a rented out volunteer fire hall. Great people and funny times. Just did not fit into the film.
Obsolete Gamer: What’s next for you?
Ben: Hoping to do another gaming film in the future. Right now I’m shooting a documentary about a trio of guys that make monster movies in their basement. Hilarious stuff. Already got a TV deal done for that with Doc. Channel. It’s called THE NEW BLOOD.
New Blood Online: www.newbloodfilm.com
Also developing a series of short films at www.LocalLocal.tv