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Outsideleft at SXSW - The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution - Documentary Review Lake on the meme-filled scattergun doc on the gamification of American culture

Outsideleft at SXSW - The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution - Documentary Review

Lake on the meme-filled scattergun doc on the gamification of American culture

by Lake, Film Editor
first published: March, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

the idea of America was founded by people escaping the reality of their origins in an attempt to build something new and fantastic

The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution (starstarstar_outlinestar_outlinestar_outline)
written and directed by Ondi Timoner

At one point during this often incoherent and confusing documentary, Jordan Belfort, the actual “Wolf of Wall Street”, states that the great thing about America is that when you fail you get a chance to go back to the start and try again. This idea of hitting the reset button will be instantly familiar to gamers who are struggling to make the next level. Try. Fail. Try again.

My own gaming pretty much ended with the first iteration of the PlayStation which will give hint to my age and possibly why I found The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution such a struggle to get any kind of handle on. I get the premise, the extrapolation of how the idea of America was founded by people escaping the reality of their origins in an attempt to build something new and fantastic. I get how the world of cryptocurrency, the metaverse, the stay-at-home gamers, the armchair investors can be seen as the logical extension of that. But I struggle understanding meme, it’s an alien language to me. When the screen fills with mini-cartoon Donald Trumps or monkeys or other basic animations I am not sure what they are supposed to be representing. I remember GameStop and the ensuing temporary chaos. I remember the story running on the news for a few days. I didn’t really understand it then. A lot of this doc is focused on the importance of GameStop and the Robinhood app and how it marked a major shift in culture and finance. But I still have no idea how it actually worked. This film doesn’t make it any clearer.

Neither really does the film establish its thesis that the January 6 attack on the Capitol Building is a representative outcome of the isolation of the pandemic and/or the online communities that were incubated by that isolation. There seems to be the possibility of logic to that but in the face of a barrage of talking heads and the low-fi animations that frequently fill out the screen there is not enough clarity of thought or cohesion for me to make any reasoned assumption. Maybe it’s just not for me. Maybe I’m too old. The possibilities of cryptocurrency, here proselytised by a man who looks like an avatar of Dragons’ Den’s Peter Jones knocked off on Fiverr, seem like so much hot air. The intrinsic value of NFTs, here lauded by Shepard Fairey who knocks out image after image which his wife gleefully reports sell out in an instant, seem like an art world prank. I longed for the kind of Adam Curtis style coda where everything I had just watched circled around into a satisfying whole. But this isn’t that kind of film. Maybe this is the world now. Maybe it’s good that I don’t understand what’s going on. I mean it all looks and sounds pretty bad from where I’m sitting.


Essential Information
The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution screened at SXSW
No trailer currently available.

Lake
Film Editor

Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.


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