8 Movies Where The Main Character Is A Game Dev

Often, you see movies that have characters trapped inside a video game like Free Guy, Tron, and Jumanji, or movies about main characters who are gamers like Ready Player One, The Last Starfighter, and Netflix’s Choose or Die. But some establish their main characters around a game developer, and they’re not as rare as you may think.

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Whether it’s a biopic, documentary, or fictional title, video game developers receive a spotlight in movies and sometimes even with R-rated portrayals. You might have seen some of these already, and some you may be discovering for the first time, but these movies are the most prominent about game developers.

8 Indie Game: The Movie

The cover art for Indie Game: The Movie, featuring the title amid a blue background and a controller hanging down.

Unlike the other films here, Indie Game: The Movie is a 2012 documentary providing a very close look at the struggles and successes of indie game development. It follows the lives of designers Jonathan Blow, duo Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, and Phil Fish as they work hard to overcome obstacles in developing their games Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Fez, respectively.

It highlights the extremely brutal emotional reality and challenges of making games, especially the time and mental health costs that come with development. It can certainly dissuade you at times from becoming a developer yourself, but it also focuses on the hopes and joys of seeing your game come to fruition and being valued by players.

7 Serenity

The cover art for the 2019 movie Serenity, featuring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway with a boat going through them.

Serenity is not your standard fare of game developer film narrative, as it’s meant more as a twist to tie the whole story together in the end. The events happening in the movie are all characters from the real-life world scripted as NPCs in a video game created by a child as his way of processing his father’s death and desire to kill his mother’s current abusive husband. And it’s precisely the son, Patrick, controlling an avatar of his late father, fishing boat captain Baker Dill, played by Matthew McConaughey.

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It’s an underrated genre-bending thriller, which you don’t expect to delve into a sci-fi and video game simulation payoff. It’s got an excellent cast of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Diane Lane, and Jeremy Strong. The film is also written and directed by Steven Knight, creator of Peaky Blinders and See.

6 Glitch

Cover art for the 2015 romantic comedy film Glitch, with the game logo icon and the main cast.

Glitch, not to be confused with the Netflix mystery show where a group of people are resurrected from the dead, is a 2015 romantic comedy film about indie developers Will and Harper, who create a video game called Proud Larry, only to have their IP reskinned and stolen by a major video game studio called Game Tekk.

It follows the main character Will, as he takes the legal battle to Game Tekk, simultaneously falling in love with his lawyer Keith’s barista girlfriend Sophie in the process. There are also some notable names in the cast of this hidden gem, like New Girl’s Lamorne Morris, Resident Alien’s Levi Fiehler, and NCIS’s Emily Wickersham.

5 Hero Mode

The cover art for 2021 Movie Hero Mode, with the main characters and Sean Astin.

Hero Mode is a more family-friendly movie about a mother and son working together to save the future of her video game company, Playfield Games, just in time for a convention known as Pixelcon and from a potential buyout by a greedy rival CEO of Xodus Games. Getting to live out his dream, Troy Mayfield’s mother grants her teenage son the reins of the development team, with only 30 days to launch a standout video game.

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Troy has to go full-on “Hero Mode” indeed, which sounds like an impossible ask, but he’s already a young coding genius who develops games like doing homework and sees his designs coming to life around him. The cast also features surprise Oscar-caliber actors Mira Sorvino and Sean Astin, the latter of which often butts heads with Troy on design in the film.

4 Tetris

Tetris Screenshot Of Henk Rogers In Car With Characters

Tetris sees actor Taron Egerton’s return to biopics, now playing Dutch video game designer and founder of Bullet-Proof Software Henk Rodgers after previously playing Elton John in Rocketman. This film tells the dramatic and suspenseful story of how Tetris made its way overseas onto Nintendo Game Boy handhelds and consoles through a series of high-stakes negotiation games with the dangerous Soviet Union.

It follows Henk’s competitive business dealings in trying to gain exclusive rights for Nintendo and his company against Andromeda Software’s Robert Stein and the corrupt father and son Robert and Kevin Maxwell of video game publisher Mirrorsoft while also developing the friendship between him and the designer of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov. There were also some great title cards for landmarks and transitions throughout the film designed in retro 8-bit graphics.

3 eXistenZ

Cover art for David Cronenberg's movie Existenz with Jude Law beside Jennifer Jason-Leigh aiming a sci-fi weapon.

eXistenZ is from the mind of David Cronenberg, director of The Fly, Crimes of the Future, Dead Ringers, and Eastern Promises. The movie is his take on the future of virtual reality games and is, of course, not any different from his usual body horror visuals and weird, gory sci-fi narrative.

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There’s a fantastic cast of Jennifer Jason Leigh playing Allegra Geller, the designer of the titular game, Jude Law, Ian Holm, and Willem Dafoe, and it’s a very reality-altering and mind-bending movie about running from assassins while plugging into the VR game. Think of it as Inception’s Dream Machine but with umbilical cords attached to orifices inside players’ spines connected to an alien-like organism console.

2 Grandma’s Boy

Cartoon illustration of all the main characters in Grandma's Boy, with Alan Covert, Peter Dante, Johnah Hill, and others.

Before Mythic Quest on Apple TV+, Grandma’s Boy was a raunchy R-rated comedy film about the culture of the video game industry, specifically from the point of view of a QA tester. The story follows an evicted tester named Alex who moves in with his grandma and her two older roommates and must adapt to his new living situation while working on creating a personal game separate from his job and pursuing a potential workplace romance.

It’s a Happy Madison production, and while Adam Sandler isn’t in it, you see familiar collaborators of Sandler’s, such as Alan Covert in the starring role, Nick Swardson, Peter Dante, Kevin Nealon, Rob Schneider, and David Spade. You also have Johah Hill in one of his earliest comedy film roles! And playing Alex’s grandmother Lily is Doris Roberts from Everybody Loves Raymond.

1 Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

The cover art for Black Mirror's Bandersnatch interactive movie with the main character and Netlix logo.

Black Mirror is a Netflix sci-fi anthology show. But in 2018, the series saw its first standalone ‘video game’ FMV interactive movie about the journey of an obsessive young video game designer, Stefan Butler, adapting a choose-you-own-adventure book called Bandersnatch by fictional author Jerome F. Davies and trying to get it published.

In true Black Mirror fashion, the movie gets really dark really fast, blurring the lines of reality and video game code, and even some of the choices you have to make get very strange and disturbing. The movie also gets very meta and fourth-wall-breaking at times, and it co-stars Will Poulter from Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 3, Midsommar, Dopesick, and Dark Pictures: Little Hope.

NEXT: Game Developers Who Changed The Industry

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