When Jessa and I were sorting through our DVDs, I happened to check online to see if I could still get a copy of Gamers when I noticed that the Dead Gentlemen had put out another DVD – Humans and Households / Natural 1. Being unapologetic as I am about liking their stuff, I didn’t think twice about picking this one up.
Just the packaging alone reminded me why I like their work – they never miss the chance to do something cool with what they have. The DVD case, being as it is and holding two different movies, was designed in the style of an old flip magazine (I had a subscription to Dungeon/Polyhedron way-back-when). The Humans and Households cover is on one side, and, flipping vertically, the Natural 1 cover is on the other. It’s true, I geeked out about this before I even put in the DVD, but this was pretty cool.
Humans and Households was fun for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, it puts front-and-center just how much players can overthink things (in an over-the-top way). Watching four people take ten minutes to role-play crossing the street or deal with a “trapped” mailbox is certainly something I can relate to (one of my fondest memories of gaming was spending four hours crafting a wish in one of John’s games.) The other thing that I liked, is they took the opportunity to make a jokes at the current state of social/political affairs and mixing it with gaming terminology. Whether it was the group discussing whether anyone had levels in “criminal” so that they could break into the house or the Americans and the lone Canadian discussing their racial bonuses (always being armed vs +2 to hockey), it all came across as playful, yet poignant, commentary.
Natural 1 was a different kind of commentary, not so easily summed up in sound bites or witty one-liners, and, as such, I think the humorous aspect of the film was a greater challenge. It was good, but it was tricky for me right now, as it deals with the beginning of relationships and the sharing of hobbies. It was probably also just coincidence that Shamus Young posted an article titled, “Natural 20” about his 20 year anniversary and very similar topics…
In either case, both films were enjoyable – and they were also very short. This, I think, is a strength of the writing – they managed to do quite a bit with the time they had, and they didn’t overstay their welcome. Then again, I am always a fan of a shorter, concise, story, so take that with what you will.