Patrick Creadon’s All Work All Play takes us on a tour of the eclectic world of eSports – a recent and growing phenomenon of the gaming community where players compete professionally for fame and fortune on a global scale, not that different from the NBA or FIFA. A far cry – and worlds away – from the days of isolated cyber cafes, their focus is winning the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Season Nine competition, with the individual teams battling their way to the number one spot in the immensely popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) League of Legends.
The film chronicles the North American team Cloud9 as it champions through the ranks to get to the IEM Championship finals in Katowice run by Michal “Carmac” Blicharz (whom the film also follows). At first glance the film appears to be an underdog story – because who doesn’t love a good underdog sport story? However, the unpredictability of eSports, and traditional sports for that matter, leads us into an unexpected outcome.
Apart from Cloud9, the film also looks at the almost godlike players of GE Tigers from South Korea, a juxtaposition which shows the dichotomy between the more corporate-structured Asian nations and the North Americans, with quasi-homegrown grassroots teams. This places Americans on the lower rung of the competitive world of gaming, but Cloud9 is set to prove them otherwise at the international IEM.
The film explains the world of eSports well enough for those not familiar with either gaming jargon or League of Legends, never leaving the spectator baffled by the strange activity of watching other people play video games. As events unfold it becomes apparent their world isn’t all that different from any other professional sport in its structure and the evocative emotions from both players and spectators. Creadon’s argument for the validity of eSports brings the viewer to accept this fact: the same flurry of emotions are exhibited by these pro gamers and it is this humanistic aspect of loss, defeat, glory, victory, validation that connects eSports with the audience.
All Work All Play is not just for gamers; behind the monitor screen, avatar, and adolescent online handles hides dedicated people with as much passion and talent for the game as any sports athlete. Is any different than watching Forty-Niner Dwight Clark’s miracle catch against the Cowboys in the 1982 NFC Championship? Or Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal against England in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup? Instead of incredible catches or strikes, geeky people named Balls, Sneaky, and LemonNation are getting Penta Kills, and winning matches with low health bars against incredible odds. Their enthusiasm is infectious.