One of the few non-comedic movies by gamers, about gamers, and ultimately for gamers, Darkon
(Ovie Productions/Seethink Productions, 2006) is a documentary that focuses on the activities of the Darkon Wargaming Club, a fantasy live-action role-playing (LARP) group in Baltimore, Maryland.
Moreso than movies of any sort by non-gamers about role-playing gaming (e.g., the execrable Mazes and Monsters
explores the purposes, positive aspects, and benefits of the hobby and the motives people have for participating in it. While it also hints at the all-consuming effect RPGs can have on their participants, it is ultimately more of an apologia for the hobby than an examination of it.
From a technical point of view, Darkon
is well filmed, excellently scored, and structurally sound. One thing it does not do, however, is explain what a LARP is. Naturally, this does not matter much as far as gamers are concerned, but the absence of such explanation severely limits the value this film could have had as a tool for telling the non-gaming world about something about which it has limited awareness and little understanding. It is also a little on the long side, with multiple, interchangeable battle scenes, some of which could have been cut in lieu of some interviews with some third parties who could have helped put LARPing and RPGing in context.
A product of its times, Darkon
draws as much on the genre of reality television as it does on that of documentary, with asides to the camera by its various subjects that shed light on their motivations and relationships in and out of the game. Depending on whether one likes reality TV or not, this could be seen as either a benefit or a detriment.
Some of the costuming and props used by the Darkon LARPers are impressive, with especial kudos going to the Dark Elf reenactors (who do not appear in the film nearly enough). Firing catapults and a wooden fortress that is actually burned at the end of a battle demonstrate the willingness of this club's members to go above and beyond in their gaming.
is worth a watch by anyone interested in seeing a particular side of the gaming genre. It is likely, however, to be just as confusing as it is enlightening to outsiders, and does not go nearly as far toward producing an understanding of the hobby to those not already familiar with it. Darkon is 93 minutes long. It premiered and won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and is an official selection playing at the Hot Docs, Maryland Film Festival, Silverdocs, LA Film Festival, Britdoc and Melbourne International Film Festival. It aired on the Independent Film Channel Nov. 12, and that might thus be a good place to keep an eye out for it. To comment on either this review or the movie itself, go to its page on our interactive Forum!
Labels: Baltimore, Darkon, documentary, gaming, LARP, live-action role-playing, movie, RPG