Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Gamers: Hands of Fate by Alexis George

Eleven years ago, whispers of a low-budget indie movie began to spread around convention floors and geek social circles. With a 48 minute runtime and a budget under $1000, the film The Gamers amassed a small but respectable following of fans for the production company, Dead Gentlemen Productions. Over the course of the last fourteen years, Dead Gentlemen have been garnering a very fond group of followers with their other titles, namely the online series JourneyQuest (2010) and Demon Hunters (1999). In 2008, a sequel title called The Gamers: Dorkness Rising released on dvd. The cult following grew, dvds were sold, and rumors of a third film spread like wildfire.

For those unfamiliar with the trilogy, The Gamers follows the brief story of (surprise!) a group of gamers and the oddly parallel adventure of their Dungeons and Dragons party as they take on The Shadow (The Shadow? THE SHADOW). Called “an affectionate spoof of role-playing games,” the title has been uploaded to youtube countless times and continues to sell around conventions and online. When the company was given a real budget and the freedom to play with effects and location, Dead Gentlemen released the sequel film Dorkness Rising. The feature length film follows Lodge, a failing dungeon master for a group of players with “a reputation” for destructive gaming.

In 2012, Dead Gentlemen set out to kickstart the third title in the franchise, The Gamers: Hands of Fate. With over 4,000 backers, $405,916 was raised for the pledged $320,000 budget goal. 

Picking up where Dorkness Rising left off, the story follows Cass, the misogynistic min/maxer of the gaming party. In an effort to impress the girl at the local gaming store, Cass enrolls in a tournament for the CCG The Romance of the Nine Empires.

If you’re a tabletop gamer, if you frequent cons, or if you’ve seen the inside of a gaming store in the last six months, it’s actually pretty important you see this movie.

Why? I could bring up the fact that the script is comic gold, or that the characters are relatable, or there’s just something about watching convention films or shows (i.e. The Guild S5) that ignites a sort of nostalgic dopamine release in most geek brains.  

But it’s more important than that, and bear with me.

The movie brings up some remarkably relevant commentary on what’s going on in our little geek realm right now. There is an underlying conflict that’s been happening between different types of gamers for decades. You’ve likely seen it recently at the table, if you’ve had the fortune of gaming recently.

Min-maxing is a term given to the act of trying to create the “best character”  in regards to game mechanics, i.e. minimizing traits of a character that are deemed useless and maximizing stats to do the most damage. It is a strategy used by “Munchkin” players, who commonly play non-competitive games with the intent of scoring the most kills, gaining the most loot, essentially winning without care for the narrative story or roleplay aspect.

Cass, the protagonist of Hands of Fate, is the colloquial Munchkin player. 

All of this fits in my adventurer's kit, I SWEAR.

You’ve  likely heard about the recent 5th Edition playtests happening for Dungeons and Dragons. It’s important to know that at the conclusions of these beta tests, players are asked to submit survey responses and send in how they want to see the game evolve. In a similar way, the movie reflects this in how the winners of the CCG tournaments affect the narrative storyline of the card game, and have chosen to revoke plot and the less statistically apt but still relevant heroes of the storyline in place of mechanics. This is sort of happening. So, if you love gaming, you might consider taking some initiative (ha) and visiting a con floor or one or more of the playtests going on locally. If that’s out of routine for you, it will at least be a fun thing to try out, and if you want to have an effect on the games you love, please get involved and send in your opinions during the surveys and betas.

HoF can be downloaded directly or dvd’s can be purchased from the company’s online store, available at

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