I took some time this afternoon to watch Going Cardboard, a 2012 documentary about the rising popularity of German board games in the United States—at least, I think that's what it was about. And that is the problem with this documentary.
The subject of Going Cardboard is obviously fascinating to me, because it's about board games. I really enjoyed getting to see footage from Essen, and I especially loved seeing interviews with people behind the games I enjoy every day. There were some cool interviews, too. I had no idea that a guy named Zev is behind Z-Man games. I regularly see Donald Vaccarino's name on my Dominion box, but I had no idea what he looked like. (Actually, the only designer whose picture I could identify is Friedemann Friese—it's hard to miss green hair.) It was fun to hear board game publishers speak for themselves, and to see snippets of a story about a man who wanted to publish his game, Huang Di, but just couldn't seem to catch a break.
As you can see, however, there was a lot going on in this documentary. It utterly lacked focus. The sound and picture quality were cheap, but it was a low budget doc, so I can forgive that. I was not, however, impressed by the nonexistent main storyline. Was this doc about American vs. German games? About the Spiel des Jahres? About the game publishing industry in general? It tried to be about all of these things, and ended up being about none of them. This makes me sad, because each of those subjects individually would have been fascinating. The palpable enthusiasm of the people interviewed for the doc was infectious, so the raw material was pretty good. But the final product ended up being lackluster.
If you are a board gaming megafan, you will enjoy this film just because. But I probably wouldn't show this to a non-gamer to help them understand what I do with my spare time, because there isn't a strong enough hook to draw them in.