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The opening moments of GameChangers interviews the coach of a Korean esports team. When asked why Koreans maintain their success in professional StarCraft II play, he notes it’s the lack of freedom. He says so casually, even proudly.

That lack of freedom is where GameChangers is the most fascinating. Koreans utilize a “team house” system where the players live and train together. It’s a sheltered life. Another coach takes time away from StarCraft to teach basic life skills like doing laundry – skills that dedication to the game took from these digital athletes. GameChangers looks inside and shows a dedicated player base, born from a male-dominated culture.

Following two players (nicknamed MC and MMA) on their journey to a 2014 BlizzCon tournament, GameChangers successfully pulls down a veil. Although esports use glitz and excess to hype up fans, personal lives fade into the background. GameChangers builds individuals from these two superstars. One plays to support his single mother, the other helping his religious parents despite he himself not being religious at all.

GameChangers shows that cutting practice or losing the fixation means a complete collapse

GameChangers captures all facets of esports stardom; that’s when and why it works. Actual play, no matter the scale of the stage, doesn’t captivate as much as the individuals in this documentary. Yet in a clever means of syncing up, the typical sports finale leaves things unanswered. For the runner-up, now too old at merely 27, his life needs direction. GameChangers leaves on the same uncertainty as a now lost adult child whose consumption of StarCraft II no longer defines him.

Those who degrade esports for their lack of physical prowess gain insight through GameChangers. It’s cultural. Korea’s social standards allowed StarCraft II to bubble up, a compelling story, told slickly in a matter of minutes through this 89-minute piece. The backbone of this sport is surrounded by unwavering practice. A number of shots in GameChangers show players staring at their screens, fingers blazing across a keyboard by instinct. Their stares bring out unwavering focus as dictated by a national standard.

MMA makes it to the finals. His GameChangers counterpart MC does not. The reason is clear – MMA follows an ordained path based in his home country’s methods. MC zones out, goofs off, and worries about his public persona rather than StarCraft II. GameChangers shows that cutting practice or losing the fixation means a complete collapse. Only the strict, and as stated, freedom-less Korean style can overcome this pro circuit. Afterward, the system leaves them abandoned and lost, a depressing existence.

Video

Multiple methods of recording come together to form GameChangers. From phones, to live broadcasts, online video, GoPros, and high quality digital cameras, the end result is an expected mixture of quality.

Taking GameChangers at its base, generally meaning the talking head interviews and scenes at home, clarity pairs with the high resolution. Although not free of artifacts (probably the fault of this disc, not the source), their impact is irregular. Some noise is likewise nominal.

At the peak, fidelity pops. Facial detail sticks out, and establishing shots of various cities look outstanding. Strong contrast is maintained, dazzling when in the midst of stage play. The lights and sets show off production values, while this disc’s black levels deliver potent shadows.

Natural color isn’t toyed with in post. Flesh tones stick with a neutral hue and saturation jumps only as necessary. It’s attractive and real.

Audio

With support of a DTS-HD 5.1 mix, the output is meager at best. An optional selection for DTS-HD stereo is likely the original mix. The 5.1 upscale then takes crowd sounds and disperses them into each positional. Larger stadium atmospheres create some energy, if low in terms of dynamics. Limited, bland range doesn’t capture the visible excitement.

Interview segments stick to the center, rendered well without issue.

Extras

Only a trailer.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

GameChangers: Dreams of Blizzard
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Following the strict regiment of Korean esports players, GameChangers dives into the personal lives and costs of challenging for a title.

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