Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Unicorn City

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 12, 2012

Over the weekend, I saw the indie film, “Unicorn City.” Unfortunately, it’s near the end of its local theatrical run already – being a tiny indie movie – and the only show offered was 10:30 PM at a nearby theater. But since it was (A) indie, (B) locally produced, (C) rated PG and “family friendly”, and (D) a comedy about gamers, I decided to support it. I mean, it’s an indie movie directly targeting me, I really ought to support it, right? I dragged my wife along, who was somewhat reluctant but willing, though she expressed concern about being able to stay awake through the entire movie as late as it was showing.

We needn’t have worried.

The trailer doesn’t quite do the film justice, though I don’t know how I’d improve upon it. I went in with moderate expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised.

The film – which I hope will receive a wider release later this year – is about gamers. One gamer in particular – a loser named Voss who lives in a closet in his brother’s apartment. He’s got big dreams of working for Wizards of the Coast Warlocks of the Beach, but in spite of his creative and game-mastery skills, he – like most other candidates for the job – lack leadership experience managing a team of people. So he comes up with the idea of creating a retreat / encampment / city for gamers, a full-on LARP experience, using his own game rules and training to turn it into a gamer’s Utopia. Of course, he doesn’t tell anyone it’s just a temporary thing he’s documenting in order to get his dream job. And – at least at first – he goes about it in the worst way possible, failing to plan, ignoring the needs of people around him, especially those of his two best friends – one of whom is quite obviously carrying the torch for him almost literally.

Yeah, you can pretty much guess where the plot goes from here, but that doesn’t matter. It’s how you get there that matters, and it is a hilarious ride. It’s a gamer movie. It’s a camping movie. It’s goofy without descending to the point of being annoying. It embraces its low budget by being about a low-budget bunch of heroes, which helps “keep it real” even when some plot points get a little on the absurd side.

My wife was never in danger of falling asleep. She laughed almost as hard as I was through the entire movie, and as we left the theater she asked, “That was a movie about us, wasn’t it? We were cooler than that, weren’t we?”

Ouch. In a way, yeah. The game store in the film is our game store – Hastur Hobbies.  Many years ago – when we were still in college, up until the time that children dominated our lives – I started a medievalist group in Utah Valley (Provo, where I was going to school). At the time, there was nothing in Utah that I was aware of like that, except for a branch of the SCA in Salt Lake that had shriveled due to internal politics. So we started our own group, similar to some groups I’d been affiliated with on the east coast. I created my own rules (for a while), and we turned some of the events into “quests” that were effectively LARP before the term “LARP” had really caught on. Yes, I was that guy. Nobody there would recognize me today. But hey, I started it! And we held battles and campouts in the same mountains as they did in the movie. Not the same spot, but the terrain and much of the background was familiar.

Then there were those times we got the cops called on us…

That long tangent may help explain why I fell in love with this movie. I knew these people. Not the actors, and not these people specifically, but I’ve known a lot of people like them. I saw a little bit of myself in some of them – at least myself from many years ago (mostly). While I think I’ve grown up a bit since then… it was still sometimes painfully familiar.  You take all these things from my life as a gamer, and crank them up to eleven, and THEN start escalating from there, and you’ve got a good-natured parody of a couple of chapters of my own life.

I think the “good-natured” part of it is what really wins me over. Yes, the main character is something of a loser from the get-go, and the gamers in the movie are a pack of social misfits that fulfill some popular misconceptions about gamers. The plot has some pretty major holes that require some significant suspension of disbelief to ignore. And gaming is portrayed with some silliness that a non-gamer might take to be “real,” while real gamers may hopefully take it as gentle mocking not too unlike what I did in Frayed Knights. But the like “The Gamers” movies, Unicorn City strikes me as a movie by gamers who are poking fun at something they know and love.  While the gamers are social misfits for the world at large, they are not all cut from the same cloth – they are all very unique in their quirkiness. And the character who most represents the ‘mundane world’ – Voss’s older brother, Jeff – isn’t exactly a picture of normalcy, either. Nor are the cops who keep crossing path’s with this bunch. Everybody’s a little weird in this world.

I’m probably over-analyzing this film, when it would be sufficient to say, “It’s a comedy about gamers, and I laughed my butt off.”  Perfect? Hey, what is? But it rocked. I’m going to buy the DVD as soon as it becomes available and force all of my gamer friends who haven’t seen it already to watch it.  I am sure they will all enjoy it almost as much as I did. If you are a role-playing gamer – especially one who has slung dice or done any LARPing in your life – you really should see this movie. Whether you are able to bug your local theater to screen it, catch it at a convention, or wait and get it on DVD, you should check it out.

And now I want to see it again…

Filed Under: Movies - Comments: 10 Comments to Read

  • Adrian Lefler said,

    Thanks for seeing the film…. We are so glad you liked it.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Thanks for making it! 🙂 I really enjoyed it, and it looks like I may be seeing it again tonight with some friends.

  • slenkar said,

    The trailer makes the film look bad, I will try to see it based on your recommendation

  • GhanBuriGhan said,

    What’s wrong with the trailer? Looks awesome! So how do I get this here in Europe?

  • Get Your Geek On with the Unicorn City Trailer! | Gear Diary said,

    […] geek … well, at MY inner geek anyway! This is one of those moments. I saw a blog post by Jay at Rampant Games about Unicorn City, and simply HAD to check it out!Here is the basic description:A hard core gamer […]

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Not really sure how you get it in Europe, to be honest. Other than maybe bugging theaters about it and trying to generate interest so they’ll lean on distributors to bring it over.

    Otherwise… I expect these guys WILL be making a DVD release for Europe as well. 🙂

    BTW – I watched it again last night, with some friends. Still enjoyed it greatly. 🙂

  • JeffSullins said,

    Is this available anywhere in Colorado?

  • Meriaten said,

    I really look forward to seeing this! Pity I’m just finding out about it now…

  • katherine Grace Bond said,

    Oh, my gosh! I have to see this with my TEENWriters! WHERE can we find it?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    You’d have to contact the Unicorn City guys and see what’s going on where. They could probably use some audiences bugging theaters / distributors on their behalf.