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The Gamers
Directed by Matt Vancil
Written by Matt Vancil
Starring Matt Cameron
Chris Duppenthaler
Justin MacGregor
Emily Olson
Phil M. Price
Running time 48 mins
Country  United States
Language English
Followed by The Gamers: Dorkness Rising

The Gamers is a 2002 very-low-budget cult film written and directed by Matt Vancil and produced by independent movie company Dead Gentlemen Productions. It is an affectionate spoof of role-playing games, and often shown at gaming conventions. A sequel entitled The Gamers: Dorkness Rising was set to be released in 2006, but was delayed due to problems finding a distributor; it was eventually released on DVD in August 2008 at conventions and online.



The movie flips between following a group of gamers in a dorm immersed in a role-playing game, and their characters (played by the same actors) as they journey through a world of fantasy and wonder to defeat a being known as "The Shadow" and rescue a princess. The latter is theoretically a heroic quest, but while the game master attempts to foster in a narrative, the players tend to be more interested in their characters' tolerance for ale, whether there's anything in the rulebooks that forbids applying the sneak attack damage multiplier to siege weaponry, et cetera.

The movie both makes fun of gamer stereotypes and plays the discrepancy between an optimal RPG plot and the events of an actual RPG session for maximum absurdity. Characters attempting something dangerous freeze as dice clatter in the distance. The party thief picks the pocket of a bystander, then steals that bystander's pants -- not because he wants the pants in any way, but solely to see if his skill statistics allow it. When an unlucky dice roll causes the death of one character, the other players' characters mourn him for a moment, and then immediately start squabbling over the items he was carrying. Characters spring to action, then keel over as their players forget and are reminded that the characters are asleep, players argue and make snack runs, and their game is frequently interrupted by a girl from the same dorm who demands they keep quiet so that she can study.

The Shadow is eventually defeated, after a long quest, and the characters find themselves in a strange tunnel. On the other side of the door, they hear voices—the voices of their players, who are narrating the action in the hallway outside. Bursting into the room (as dictated by the players), the characters slaughter the gamers, then begin picking over the room for treasure. Discovering that their entire adventure has been documented by the 'strange wizards' they've just slain, they discover their character sheets (which inadvertently insults the group's warrior, because his Intelligence statistic is only 4). In the midst of these revelations, the 'Princess' (the girl who needs to study and is constantly interrupted by the gamers' noise) bursts in and reads them the Riot Act, thinking their outfits to be mere costumes; after she leaves, the adventurers seem quite stunned that their beloved Princess has such a foul mouth and temper.

See also


The film makes reference to many real issues that arise in role-playing game systems and amongst roleplaying game groups. These include:

  • Treatment of absent players: one player is absent from the table for most of the film. In most in-character scenes, he is shown simply standing motionless off to the side, being ignored by everyone present (even the enemies). This enables him to escape capture and subdual by a group of bandits, only for the player to arrive at the exact right moment to slay the bandits and rescue his comrades. In real role-playing sessions there is often difficulty and arguments over control of characters whose players are absent from the game.
  • Random probabilities: in many roleplaying games, a character's level of ability (for example, their strength) translates into a percentage chance that a particular action is possible. This means that on rare occasions a highly able character may fail while a less able one succeeds at the same action (for example, a powerful barbarian character may be unable to perform a feat of great strength (at which he should, logically, be able to easily succeed), but his slender and weaker elf companion manages the task handily due to a lucky die roll). Several instances of this occur in the film, in situations selected to highlight the ridiculous results this can produce.
  • Dead players: Player's characters can die in RPGs, leading to a difficult choice: That player must stop playing and leave the game entirely, or create a new character. When choosing the latter, that character must be inserted into the game's story, which often takes place in a contrived manner.
  • Rogue tradeoff: many fantasy RPGs include a "rogue" character who is sneaky and cunning but somewhat weak, and a "fighter" type character who lacks those skills but is strong and tough. Unless the game is carefully balanced by both the designer and the GM, the rogue character can lose out because his skills do not balance his weakness. In the film, this is portrayed by a rogue character who repeatedly attempts to use stealth and guile to cross a chamber holding a fire trap, but failing and dying each time. The fighter then attempts to cross the chamber with no such skill, and succeeds because although he is hit by the trap, he is tough enough not to be killed or even significantly hurt by it.
  • Overeager players: occasionally, a particular troupe get a bit carried away, and slaughter a plot-important NPC; in The Gamers, this turns out to be the fate of the Bandit King—several times, in fact, as the GM attempts to get through the Bandit King's opening speech while the impatient players continually kill him halfway through.

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