As esports continues to grow, so does the number of documentaries trying to capture the essence of the various cultures that inhabit the games being played at the highest level.
With so many vibrant personalities both in front of and behind the stage lights, the documentaries tend to have very distinct voices, which helps showcase the complexity of the phenomenon itself.
Here are our top eight esports documentaries of all time.
8) MTV True Life: I’m a Gamer
The original esports superstar, Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, known primarily for Quake, broke new ground with his appearance on MTV’s True Life. Filmed during a string of incredible performances in 2003, Fatal1ty was unequivocally the first professional gamer who was able to dominate seemingly any game he picked up (and he was the first one to look cool while doing it).
7) My Name is TotalBiscuit – The Life and Times of John Bain
My Name is TotalBiscuit is a tribute to the legendary YouTuber and game critic, John “TotalBiscuit” Bain, who died from cancer in 2018. It’s an hour-long, tear-inducing memoir, detailing his life, his endeavors in gaming, and his influence on the esports scene. Ultimately, the documentary is an explicit recollection of his battle with cancer.
6) CompLexity: Redemption
In the early 2000s, compLexity were widely regarded as the strongest Counter-Strike team in North America. CompLexity: Redemption follows the team and documents their struggles before they reached success.
Consisting of almost guerilla-esque filmmaking, the documentary serves as a snapshot of the earliest days of esports and also sheds light on the characters that were a part of making it. This is particularly true for compLexity owner and founder Jason Lake, who’s seen shouting and pacing behind the team as they achieve multiple upsets at the Championship Gaming League’s 2004 winter-stop.
5) Alias: Slayer
The early 2000s saw a minor surge of popularity surrounding esports. But while the primary focus was directed toward first-person shooters, such as Quake and Counter-Strike, Codename Slayer puts the focus on Norwegian Starcraft: Brood War phenom Fredrik “Slayer” Østervold.
Traveling to South Korea, the documentary chronicles the 16-year-old’s triumph at 2000 KBK Masters, making him one of the few non-Korean players to ever win an event in the country—a monumental accolade still true to this day.
4) Breaking Point
Breaking Point is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial esports documentaries of all time. While being entirely produced by Team Liquid in 2016, the documentary follows the chaos plaguing the organization’s League of Legends roster.
Centered around the roster’s star players at the time, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin, the viewers get to witness the team’s complete breakdown as a combination of egos, managerial issues, and poor results eventually spell the end of one of North American League’s biggest “what if” stories.
The two players have since moved on from Liquid, but the video still categorically holds up as one of the best esports documentaries ever made.
3) Free to play
Three years after the inaugural iteration of Valve’s The International in 2011, this documentary focuses on three legendary Dota players who fought for the (at the time) largest prize pool in esports history.
With $1.6 million on the line, the stories of Clinton “Fear” Loomis, Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, and Benedict Lim “hyhy” Han Yong are told in an informative fashion, bringing the history of one of esports’ most defining moments to life.
If fans are interested in more behind-the-scenes material, competitor Jacob “Maelk” Toft-Andersen and commentator Toby “TobiWan” Dawson have recorded an unofficial commentary track to the film, which adds a great deal of humor and insight. The International has since grown dramatically in size and in prize pool. But for Dota 2 fans, 2011 was a year to remember.
2) State of Play
Steven Dhoedt’s documentary on professional Starcraft: Brood War has three different areas of focus: The life of the game’s most successful competitors, the aspiring pro gamer, and the culture of fandom surrounding the top players.
Being filmed at the same time as the game’s biggest scandal had just been broken, the three separate storylines work in tandem to explain the impact of the controversy, creating a movie that’s as gripping as it is crushing.
The full documentary can be found here.
1) The Smash Brothers
The impact of Travis “Samox” Beauchamp’s four-hour documentary series about the competitive legends of Super Smash Bros. Melee is still palpable to this day. Offering an intricate, unfiltered look into seven of the game’s most defining players at the time, The Smash Brothers is still an absolute must-watch for any esports enthusiast.