Uber Goober DVD
Uber Goober is a 90-or-so-minute documentary about Role-Playing Games, taking a look (not quite in-depth, but a bit more than cursory) at the hobby itself through the eyes of the people who enjoy it. The overall tone of the film is of gentle self-mockery. The gamers, game designers and, indeed, the filmmakers all seem to be in on the joke.
Uber Goober DVD (2003) - $20
by Steve Metze
Uber Goober is a 90-or-so-minute documentary about Role-Playing Games, taking a look (not quite in-depth, but a bit more than cursory) at the hobby itself through the eyes of the people who enjoy it. Shot on DV, the quality of the film itself is quite good, and although the DVD menu graphics are nothing to write home about, the overall presentation is clean and effective.
The film is divided into three segments, organized in part in keeping with role-playing evolutionary theory, and also in part according to the "goober level" of the subjects of that particular chapter.
The first segment (and presumably the least geeky, so I guess these folks are "Unter Goobers") deals with wargamers and their particular slice of the role-playing pie. We watch as an assortment of hobbyists painstakingly paint miniature soldiers, build mock pyramids out of cardboard, and spend hours (edited for time, of course) assembling a detailed historical scenario on their tabletops. Tactical decision-making, rolling fistfuls of dice, and hunting down spray paint at 2 am appear equally important to these folk.
The second, and longest, segment deals with the arena most gamers are familiar with: tabletop role-playing. As one might expect, the focus is on fantasy gaming, with Dungeons & Dragons at the center of the whirlwind. Interviews with the likes of E. Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and Mike Stackpole are prominently featured, but it's nice to see that an attempt was made to give a few minutes to the genre's demi-gods like John Kovalic (Dork Tower) and Chris O'Neill of 9th Level Games (Kobolds Ate My Baby and Ninja Burger: The RPG). It becomes most clear here that the film assumes the viewer has at least some knowledge of role-playing games, as "newbie" type material such as dice mechanics and such are left out in favor of interviews with gamers, most of whom readily acknowledge their own geeky gooberness.
Running directly counter to this seemingly innocent, lighthearted, positive view of gaming is a series of interviews with the likes of televangelist Bob Larson, who does his best to convince us that Dungeons & Dragons (and, indeed, every role-playing game) is the evil spawn of Satan. Jack Chick's "Dark Dungeons" tract is also mentioned, as well as the infamous Tom Hanks vehicle "Mazes and Monsters." The documentary does a decent job of balancing both points of view, but definitely comes down on the side of the gamers, doing a fairly Michael Moore-ish job of seemingly making the religious zealots look the fools as they rail against a bunch of kids dressed like elves.
If there are any true "Uber Goobers" in the bunch, they're to be found in the documentary's third act, which introduces us to live-action role-playing, or LARPing. As a gamer who prefers a good sturdy table between me and my fellow gamers, I find LARPing a little too extroverted for my tastes. I found myself alternately laughing hysterically and cringing inwardly at the antics of these folk, who run the gamut from Vampire players doing rock-paper-scissors at each other, to Boffer-combat folk beating each other senseless in a public park.
In between each act, the documentary features curbside interviews with Austin, Texas clubgoers, asked their opinions on role-playing, girls who play dungeons and dragons and the like. Responses ranged from carefully guarded and subdued support to vehement diatribes against the hobby (though all seemed to agree that girls who played D&D would make kinkier girlfriends). Interspersed throughout are also role-playing relevant clips from TV shows like "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "The X-Files," demonstrating just how thoroughly gaming has infiltrated popular culture.
The DVD also features a plethora of bonus material, including game-themed music by "The Great Luke Ski," unedited PG-rated versions of the earlier "Man-on-the-street" interviews, a lengthy interview with E. Gary Gygax, and a tour of Mr. Gygax's old Lake Geneva stomping grounds (one of the few bits obviously not filmed in Austin), the best part of which is a drive by the local movie theater, which carried "Dungeons & Dragons" when it premiered. The reaction of the father of D&D: "What a wretched film."
The overall tone of the film is of gentle self-mockery. The gamers, game designers and, indeed, the filmmakers all seem to be in on the joke. "Yes," they seem to be saying, "gaming is sort of geeky, but it's also a lot of fun and a good way to socialize." Indeed, though many of them are wearing capes and ratty t-shirts, the gamers featured in the film represent a broad cross-section of society: male, female, young, old, tall, short, all shapes and nationalities, all quite articulate and intelligent. Gaming may be a dorky, geeky, "uber goober" kind of hobby, but in that sort of company, maybe that's not such a bad thing.