Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Gamerz with a Z? What's this?

Oh, right, it's a Scottish film about a group of Glasgow University Roleplayers. What have I let myself in for?

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I should explain, you see, that I'm speaking from bitter experience as someone who has played role playing games (RPGs) of the Dungeons And Dragons sort for 20-odd years, fed up with seeing the hobby portrayed as the province of antisocial nerds desperately in need of girlfriends and real lives.

But, while Gamerz reprises some of the old misapprehensions - no gamesmaster I've ever played with sought out a real life dungeon in which to locate his game, for instance - and presents a largely stereotypical cross-section of the gaming population it does so in basically the right way.

Yes, the RPG group is overwhelmingly male and, yes, the token female is a goth who rather over-identifies with her elven alter-ego. But as we get to know them we come to realise that their escape into fantasy serves not only as welcome relief from a harsh exterior reality, but also reflects back into it in an affirmational way.

Ralph, our gamesmaster - i.e. the master of the universe, as it were - has long been bullied by Lennie, small-time crook and your archetypal ned about town. Having experienced a moment of epiphany whilst watching The Lord of the Rings while on acid, Lennie wants in to Ralph's game. Ralph reluctantly agrees. To his - and our - surprise Lennie takes to the game.

Unfortunately this is also paralleled by his developing interest in Marilyn, whom Ralph has developed feelings for. Worse, she reciprocates his interest, prompting a jealous Ralph to take action both within and outwith the game, thus breaking one of the fundamental tenets of RPGing, that thou shalt not let real world relationships intrude onto the game world.

Away from the RPG nerd side of things - and admittedly probably far more important to the typical viewer - Gamerz also works as a film.

First-time writer-director Robbie Fraser achieves a good balance between comedy and drama, draws fine performances from his predominantly young and inexperienced cast and, most importantly of all, puts his money on the screen with some nicely primitive effects - Cabinet Of Dr Caligari style backdrops and Lotte Reineger style silhouette animation, believe it or not - to visualise the fantasy world in a way that belies the meagre £300,000 budget.

In sum, not perfect but a hell of a lot better than I had expected and a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours.

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2005
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Comedy drama about student roleplay gamers. On limited release in Scotland.
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Director: Robbie Fraser

Writer: Robbie Fraser

Starring: Arnold Brown, Ed Tudor Pole, Johnny Austin, Ross Finbow, Jamie Honeybourne, Eileen McCallum, Stacey Sampson, Danielle Stewart, Ross Sutherland, James Young

Year: 2005

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: Scotland/UK


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