Listen up all you moms and dads who tell your kids they’ll never make anything of themselves if all they ever do is play video games. Prepare to eat a giant slice of humble pie.
A documentary film set to release in spring of 2014 might prove there’s more to gaming than meets the eye.
Die Noobs, which is still in production, follows two everyday gamers who set out on a journey to become professionals. And yes – if you weren’t aware – there is such a thing. Wisconsin native and UW Oshkosh alumn, Erik Cieslewicz, is directing the film.
It stars Zachary Below (also the film’s producer) and Jason Rubek, a couple of buddies who played video games together online, yet never met in person until filming of Die Noobs began last winter in the Green Bay area.
Throughout the course of the film, Below and Rubek encounter a host of celebrity video gaming enthusiasts including NFL players Tom Crabtree and Chris Kluwe, M. Shadows of the band Avenged Sevenfold, a Playboy Playmate and a UFC Heavyweight champion.
In addition, the documentary will also introduce outsiders to big names in the world of professional eSports and examine its growth around the world.
It’s no major revelation that video games have come a long, long way since the days of Pong.
The fact is, for most Millennials, video games were always a big part of life.
Gaming has evolved from a form of cheap entertainment found in arcades into a lucrative business, a competitive sport and even an art form.
“I love the unique storytelling ability games have, winding and branching narratives that adapt to player choices,” director Erik Cieslewicz explains. “To me, it’s an experience unlike any other type of media can offer. I feel like an active participant in telling the story rather than a passive recipient”
The Birth of a Big Idea
While playing in a two-on-two game of Starcraft with Jason Rubek almost a year ago, Zack Below suggested meeting up and playing in a professional gaming tournament. The more they talked about it, the more they liked the idea and realized it could be an interesting and original story.
Below and Cieslewicz went to the same high school together, so Zack called up his filmmaking friend to pitch the concept. It just so happened that this was exactly the kind of project Cieslewicz was looking for.
Cieslewicz has won awards and was even nominated for an Emmy for his work in television news here in Wisconsin. He’s since left that behind and moved to Washington, D.C. where (among other things) has been working on a web-series called Confab.
“I really wanted to do a documentary after getting my start in television news; returning to that form sounded really great,” says Cieslewicz. “Zack e-mails me out of nowhere, without even knowing that’s what I was looking at, and says he wants to make a pro-gaming documentary. It was providence.”
The plan for the Die Noobs storyline is to follow Below and Rubek as they try to transform themselves from noobs into professionals – or as they put it “the most powerful pro gamers of all-time.”
“Noob” is a somewhat derogatory term often used in the gaming world to describe a novice, inexperienced gamer.
The pair has been training with video game icons and celebrity gaming enthusiasts to help them reach their goal of becoming masters.
One of the first famous names to become connected with the film was former Green Bay Packers tight end Tom Crabtree.
Gaming in Green Bay and Around the Globe
Just as Below and Rubek were beginning their journey, Crabtree was ending his with the Green Bay Packers. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shortly after participating in the film. But Crabtree left Titletown gracefully, and Packers fans remember him fondly for his humor on social media, his ridiculous mustache, and the touchdown pass he caught from placeholder/punter, Tim Mashatay, during a trick play versus the Chicago Bears in 2012.
“Tom is just as cool of a guy in real life as his online persona suggests,” says Cieslewicz. “He was receptive to everything we wanted to do and really easy to work with.”
Thefirst week of shooting on Die Noobs brought the cast and crew to Green Bay for a gamer party at Champions Sports Bar and Grill where Crabtree was the guest of honor.
Things almost got off to a shaky start as Rubek had travel problems. It was the first time Below and Rubek would meet face-to-face – even though they’d been playing video games together over the internet for 12 years.
“I was plastered with the film crew/friends by the time he got to the hotel because his flight situation was murdered,” Below remembers. “He had to drive up from Chicago in a rental car – legally a four hour drive. He made it in like three hours and I am pretty sure he drove 200 mph the whole way.”
Below calls their 2 am meeting “awkward and sweet.”
The gaming party in Green Bay was a huge success and set the tone as the cast and crew moved forward with the project. The event also helped out a charitable organization with funds going toward the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“It was Zack’s idea to bring that in as part of it and I can’t get over how awesome it is that we not only had a great time, got some great footage, but also helped out a worthy cause,” Cieslewicz says.
The stars began aligning for the project in a big way as production continued.
Die Noobs aims to show how people from all walks of life participate in the phenomenon of competitive gaming. It’s not just for geeky guys living in their mom’s basement. There are rock-stars like M. Shadows, tough guys like UFC fighter Josh Barnett and yes…even attractive females.
Die Noobs includes segments with former Miss Oregon, Anna Prosser Robinson who is now an eSports professional, as well as Playboy’s Miss October 2012, Pamela Horton. They’ve also spoken with internet sensation, violinist Lindsey Stirling.
“There is an awesome story to be told when it comes to the community and long term viability surrounding professional gaming,” says Below. “The 2013 pro-gamer is articulate, influential, passionate and dedicated to his craft.” Or her craft, as the case may be.
The eSports movement isn’t something that’s limited to North America either. Cieslewicz and crew have been trotting the globe to explore the effects and growth of gaming on an international level. As this story is being written they are returning from filming in South Korea.
“Ultimately, we want to use Die Noobs as a vehicle to show the world how cool and massive the gaming community really is,” Below says.
Cieslewicz is excited by the fact that he’s helping break ground, creating an in-depth look at a world that hasn’t been explored this way until now.
“While there have been a few docs like the amazing King of Kong and Chasing Ghosts that delve into competitive arcade culture, the world of eSports is uncharted territory for mainstream film,” he says. “These pro athletes celebrities and musicians will help bridge the gap between the known and the unknown by taking common threads between, say winning a Super Bowl, like Tom (Crabtree) did, and winning an eSports championship.
So will the Noobs reach their goal of becoming video gaming champions? We’ll have to wait to find out. The film culminates with a big competition this fall, in which Rubek and Below will put what they’ve learned to the test.
UPDATE: You can catch the premier of Die Noobs documnetary on TwitchTV. Live broadcast on August 29th, at 4 pm. Encore live broadcast August 30th, at 4 pm (central time).
More About Die Noobs
- Visit the official website deadnoobs.com
- Like Die Noobs on Facebook for updates
- Check out the film’s YouTube Channel for clips with celebs
Special thanks to Adam Bauman for the use of photos. Visit adambauman.com.