The gaming industry eclipses $100 billion in annual revenue each year. And that number keeps on climbing.
This is the perfect time to dive into the video game industry whether as a programmer, concept artist, game designer or story writer. Even if you don’t want to work in the industry yourself, it can still be fun to learn how it all works behind the scenes.
And that’s why I curated this huge list of 20+ awesome gaming documentaries ranging from the most niche indie games to massive studios like Naughty Dog.
There’s something in this list for everyone and these vids will leave you longing for some screen time with your favorite console.
The Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter was the impetus of this entire documentary. Filmed over the course of 3 years, this doc captures tons of behind-the-scenes footage from the design, development, and production of Broken Age.
It can be tough finding this documentary since it has the same name as the parent company. But if you search for the Doublefine documentary it’s out there.
You can watch this in 1080p streaming online or as HD Blu-ray disks you can order from the online shop.
It follows the creation of one of the most infamous projects in the 2010’s led by industry legend Tim Schafer. You get to peek into the entire game development process with interviews from cast and crew members.
Easily one of the lesser-known documentaries with a lot to offer aspiring game designers.
Just note the Blu-ray set includes extra scenes, commentary, and deleted footage that couldn’t make it into the original documentary. So if you want the unedited director’s cut I do recommend the hard disc version.
The Indie Game documentary is by far one of the best you could watch on game development.
It’s well known in the gaming industry as one of the most detailed and popular documentaries capturing the truths behind indie game development.
This got a prominent feature in The New York Times along with being honored as a Sundance award winner.
While this feels like a “general” indie gaming documentary it does have a focus on the team behind Super Meat Boy and their 2-year process of developing a killer title from scratch.
So you get tons of footage of the team that really shows just how much work goes into the creative process. Developing a game is tough even for larger studios like Nintendo or Square-Enix.
But going at it with a small team and a limited budget can be even tougher.
With video games it’s always the idea and the creativity that wins in the end. I think this documentary is living proof of that.
You can grab a physical copy of the doc from their online shop or watch it streaming online from any of the links on the homepage.
The Naughty Dog game studio first came onto the scene in the mid-80s and struggled for a while to find their niche.
But things paid off with their 1996 release of Crash Bandicoot. Ever since then Naughty Dog has been a strong contender in the gaming space and they just recently celebrated thirty years in operation.
Sony was nice enough to produce this incredible documentary focused on the team at Naughty Dog.
This covers a full exploration of the company’s history dating back to 1984 and their current progress in the modern gaming era.
It’s a 50 minute documentary with interviews from the whole team including founders Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin.
Best of all this is totally free to watch on YouTube. Doesn’t get much better than that!
In the 1980s Atari was a force to be reckoned with. Now it’s basically a monolithic company that no child has ever heard of.
Atari: Game Over is a documentary on Netflix that looks into the overshadowed history of Atari.
This is meant to shed light on their company’s growth and rapid advancement into the gaming market, along with their decline and market loss to competitors like Nintendo.
It totals just over 70 minutes long and was first released in 2014 so it’s still a recent documentary by any standards.
Director Zak Penn does a great job keeping your attention on the screen and taking you through the timeline of Atari’s rise and fall in the gaming industry.
The creator of Minecraft Markus Persson accumulated a net worth well over a billion dollars. This was all earned on the back of his incredible game Minecraft.
What is it about this game that made it so popular? And how did Markus develop this game into the hit we see today?
Minecraft: The Story of Mojang follows the development of Markus’ game studio Mojang so we can all see how it operates.
This is truly a story of hard work and developing a brilliant idea at just the right time.
The documentary shows a lot of hidden scenes from Markus’ life and footage never before released to the public.
It’ll give you a newfound appreciation for Minecraft and the crew behind the game.
If you’re already a fan of Minecraft then I don’t have to sell you on anything. But if you’re an indie game designer, developer, artist, anything… this doc is still worth a watch just to see how someone else made their dream a reality.
I can’t say this is a game documentary that’ll leave you inspired, although it really depends what you get out of it.
Thank You For Playing is the touching story of a game programmer Ryan Green who built a video game surrounding an emotionally tumultuous journey in his life: the realization that his(and his wife’s) young son Joel had cancer.
They created a game over the course of two years called That Dragon, Cancer and this documentary chronicles the entire idea from late nights coding to heart-wrenching doctor’s appointments.
It truly is an intimate film with so much to cover. I could never do it justice in a few short paragraphs.
But you can check out the online trailer and see what you think.
There’s plenty of ways to watch this online too from iTunes to Amazon and Vimeo, all of which you can find on this page.
Noclip is a group of filmmakers who create video game documentaries crowdfunded by the international gaming community.
They have a large YouTube channel if you wanna check it out with tons of free videos to look through.
But one I really love and highly recommend is the Final Fantasy Documentary spanning 3 parts(about 120 minutes total).
This includes real interviews with Japanese game designers, concept artists, and programmers who share their experience working on the Final Fantasy series.
Noclip does an amazing job on all of their documentaries and this one is no exception. It’s a must-watch video series for any Final Fantasy lover or JRPG fan who enjoys Square-Enix titles.
And if you like this be sure to bookmark the Noclip YouTube channel to revisit later.
While this isn’t technically a documentary movie, it is a very detailed documentary TV series that I highly recommend watching if you can.
G4TV produced Icons from 2002-2007 with a whopping 88 total episodes spanning five seasons. Each episode focuses on a different game studio, game series, or aspect of game development like character design or sound FX.
There’s an episode on the Xbox, the Gameboy, the Super Mario series and Prince of Persia and Final Fantasy… pretty much every massive gaming franchise to date.
These episodes feature incredible behind-the-scenes interviews hosted by the G4 team. This is rare footage you will not find anywhere else in the whole world.
Only trouble is G4 shut down in 2014 and they’ve never released any of their original programming on DVD. Luckily some of it has survived and can be found on YouTube if you search around long enough.
This is one series that’ll keep you entertained for weeks and there’s so much you can learn across all areas of game design & development.
The Lost Arcade takes a look into arcade culture in New York City.
This follows a few groups of die-hard gamers that never let the arcades leave. Most gaming has since turned into personal gaming in the home, but there’s a culture around arcades that never really died out.
And this documentary captures that culture brilliantly with interviews and scenes of the camaraderie behind this pop culture phenomenon.
There is a free trailer on Vimeo if you wanna check it out and you can even buy the full version right from Vimeo too.
GameLoading: Rise of the Indies is a fantastic documentary focusing on the massive influx of indie game studios in recent years.
We’ve never lived in a time where game development could be accomplished by almost anyone. It’s much cheaper to develop a game than it is to create a movie or TV show, at least if you compare high-quality indie games to modern AAA titles.
In this 90-minute documentary you’ll hear from countless indie devs as they share their experiences working on their projects and pushing through deadlines to get their games released.
It’s a tough choice as a career and even tougher as a hobby.
But if you’ve ever needed some inspiration to forge ahead with your indie project then this documentary is the place to start.
World of Warcraft celebrated its 10 year anniversary in November of 2014.
In commemoration of this game’s massive success the company released this beautiful documentary for free on YouTube. It’s called World of Warcraft: Looking for Group and it paints an elegant picture of the game’s rapid rise in popularity.
MMOs quickly took the Internet by storm and they’ve never really slowed down.
But WoW is perhaps the largest MMO with the most history and this documentary proves it.
You’ll find interviews with some of the game’s developers and get a sneak peek into the many moving parts of Blizzard Entertainment. And you can’t beat that $0 price tag.
I’ve had real trouble finding a copy of this 2014 documentary anywhere. But it’s one of the most unique and detailed movies offering a look into video games as a career.
The Art of the Game spans 60 minutes and follows the lives of some students from a San Francisco university as they attempt to land jobs in the gaming industry.
You can find plenty of press coverage on the movie along with a free trailer. But you’ll have to do some searching in Google to find the full version.
I really think it’s worth the effort because this documentary shows how much effort, talent, and personality is required to land a job in gaming.
But in the end it’s worth it if you can wake up and love every minute of what you do for a living.
The Last of Us is a video game series developed by Naughty Dog and released in mid-2013.
Given the team’s love of filming and sharing trade secrets they created this behind-the-scenes documentary showcasing the game’s development process.
Again this is an official release by Sony under their PlayStation YouTube channel. The documentary is available for free and can be viewed anywhere in the world.
Over this 90-minute documentary you’ll realize just how much work goes into creating a kick-ass video game. It’s not all play time with your team and that goes double for a huge studio like Naughty Dog.
Since you can watch this whole thing for free online I’d absolutely put this near the top of your “must watch” list.
God of War: Unearthing the Legend is a feature length documentary first released in 2010 as a journey behind the scenes in this game’s creation.
Experts in game design and storytelling share their thoughts about Kratos and the mythology of the game. But you’ll also find plenty of interviews with developers who talk about the complexities of the gameplay.
Unfortunately this is a tough documentary to find.
It used to be available on the PlayStation store but has since been removed. You can try searching around to find it streaming on YouTube or Vimeo, but for the most part this doc will be a tough one to locate.
The “Fighting Game Community” is the world of professional gaming focused on multiplayer battle games.
And this documentary takes you inside this community with a deeper look at the gamers who love the competition.
It may not be super interesting to game developers or artists since there’s not a lot of backend game dev content.
But it should grab your attention if you’re into competitive gaming or just love to study the culture of video gaming as a whole.
Filmed across five different cities over half a year, Super Game Jam is the coolest new indie game dev documentary in this list.
It does what many other documentaries have tried to do: peer into the minds of game designers, developers, artists, and writers to figure out how they make indie games that capture a fan base.
However this doc aims to pair two indie developers together and have them compete to create a new game in 48 hours. Yes, just two days!
This is a radical idea and not something you’ll see anywhere else.
But it’s a clear representation of the many challenges indie devs face in the growing game industry.
For more of a general look at the video game industry check out Video Game Invasion: The History of a Global Obsession.
This documentary spans a full 90 minutes and was first released in 2004 as a look into the wildly advancing field of game design.
Yet here we are, almost two decades later and gaming is still growing faster than ever. It’s one reason I still recommend this documentary: the contents may seem dated but it’s crucial to know where you come from.
If you’re just getting into game design or indie game development I highly recommend scouring the web for a copy of this documentary online.
I’m not sure who originally produced the doc or if it was ever released on DVD. But try doing a search in Google videos to find a trailer or a full stream.
From Bedrooms To Billions: The PlayStation Revolution is a PlayStation documentary originally funded as a small Kickstarter project.
This was created under the umbrella of a documentary team that’s produced two other great video game films.
To date this PlayStation doc is still in development but very close to release. By the time you read this it may already be out!
Yet I had to include this here because I just have not found any great PlayStation documentaries that focus on the rise of the console itself.
This is bound to be an epic watch and certainly worthwhile for video game fans.
All Your History Are Belong To Us peeks into the development process of the world’s most popular video game titles.
This series has a similar vibe to the G4 Icons TV show, except these episodes can run a bit longer and have a different directorial style.
You’ll find episodes on superhero games, EA Sports games, Call of Duty, DoTA, Capcom, Blizzard, and so many other big names in the gaming space.
This series really lets you see how larger studios and larger teams develop games from initial idea to final release. There’s a lot you can learn from this videos but it’s easy to get lost in the hundreds of hours of footage.
The Discovery Channel created a five-part series on the video game industry following its history from the very first computer game in 1958 up to modern Internet gaming.
It’s called Rise of the Video Game and is probably one of the more unique series in this whole list.
Again it’s meant to be a historical count of gaming through the decades so it covers a lot of pop culture and gaming trends, not just development.
Still you can learn a lot about game development through history and by studying the changing trends adopted by larger studios.
It was generally given good reviews and it’s one of the better documentaries that I recommend for studying gaming history.
Only trouble is, like many docs here, you may struggle finding a copy to watch.
But if you’re willing to spend some time in Google you can probably find all five episodes on Discovery’s website or their YouTube channel.