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2012 Indy Int’l Film FestivalRating: 3.5 of 5 yaps

The Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters

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There’s something awfully familiar about “The Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters.”

It’s a documentary about people playing video games competitively, stretching and striving for the world record. It references the “official” video game record-keeping archive Twin Galaxies.

Okay, so any video game documentary afficionado knows I’m talking about “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” that epic doc about the struggle of two “Donkey Kong” titans locked in mortal kombater, combat over supremacy in their particular game.

There are some important differences between “Order” and “Kong”; for one, there’s no taking sides here. First off, these guys are playing “Tetris,” that immortal puzzle game, rather than Donkey Kong. We’re introduced to an eclectic cast of characters who seem to hold each other with more reverence than anyone actually watching the movie (after all, these are essentially just regular people who really like playing “Tetris”).

Chief among them is Thor Aackerson, who was something of a prodigy, winning the first Tetris championship in the ’80s and scoring, for a time, endorsement deals for video games and enjoying a measure of celebrity in the gaming community. He since dropped off the map, and with the latest “Tetris” championships looming, many are hoping he’ll make an appearance.

It’s certainly difficult to watch “Order” without thinking of that other movie. “Order” certainly has a more neutral bent to it; there’s no Billy Mitchell-type villain here, everyone seems to be pretty friendly, and Twin Galaxies isn’t made out to be a nepotistic shill group this go-round.

Much of the film’s drama is based on the climactic “Tetris” tournament, focusing on rivalries between players, albeit ones that seem more friendly than in that other movie.

But I feel like I’m being unfair to the movie to an extent. Taken by its own merits, “Order” is a perfectly servicable regular-people-with-extraordinary-hobbies documentary, a fun-enough film that fans of video games (or documentaries) should enjoy heartily.

It’s airy and light, a fun, diverting trifle that captures the fun and spirit of a group of people whom millions of people love and turns it into a strange obsession. More power to them, and to this film.

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2 Responses to “The Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters”

  1. Joe Shearer says:

    John, point taken. I have altered my review slightly to remove those suggestions (though I never explicitly said there was a Donkey Kong tournament, after re-reading I could see how there could be confusion). I don’t usually do that, but I thought it important to avoid that specific misnomer. I stand by my observation that the film as a whole, and several scenes of people playing Tetris are similar to scenes in "King of Kong."

    I enjoyed this film, but the shadow of that other movie still looms large, though there are other derivations in "Ecstasy of Order."

  2. John Sanders says:

    I don’t recall a Donkey Kong tournament in King of Kong. In fact, Billy Mitchell refused to compete. So its a little unclear how the climactic tournament in Ecstasy of Order is derivative of King of Kong. They are both good films and don’t really have much in common beyond the basic subject matter, contrary to what this writer indicates.