Not For Resale: A Video Game Documentary Review

Posted on by Ryan

Last year we published a piece about my personal experiences managing a retro gaming store and the things that are seemingly happening on a daily basis. One thing I made sure to note at the beginning was that there was a documentary in development that profiled other stores similar to ours titled Not For Resale. It was a documentary that was brought to my attention by Pat “The NES Punk” Contri after he joined the project as an executive producer and has been my most anticipated documentary for the past couple of years. So did it hold up to my expectations? Let’s find out.

In this documentary you get exposed to many different owners of these retro video game stores and their inspirations to open one up with each of them have their own unique story. One opened up a store after people kept showing up to their warehouse, which was originally a mail order business that advertised in GamePro magazine. Another started a store after selling them out of a storage shed in his backyard and was told to shut down by police after numerous people would stop by. This kind of stuff makes you have an appreciation and love for them and their dedication to games.

One thing I felt going into the film was that it was going to just take a dump all over digital games, but it actually doesn’t. Sure it does show the negative side effects, but it actually points it in a positive light that I feel not enough people talk about. While we talk about the convenience of purchasing a game directly from the comfort of your home, it does note that the cost of releasing a game digitally is a fraction of physical. We’ve been able to play some amazing games that would otherwise never have been able to flourish due to costs. A first-hand example of this featured in the film was Psyonix and their massive hit Rocket League. Another person even goes as far as to say that the overall quality of games are the best they have ever been in large part due to digital releases.

While digital is prevalent, there are still many places within the United States that do not have access to high speed internet for one reason or another. While younger people who are reading this via wi-fi at home might laugh, it’s still a very real thing. One store owner in Tennessee notes that so many people don’t have access to internet that he actually has a TV set up within the store that is devoted just for updating their consoles. Another in Tulsa Oklahoma will even help you set up your Xbox One within the store since you need the internet to do just that. This despite Tulsa being a major metropolis.

That’s one thing I respected about this documentary was its brutal honesty towards things. There was nothing that was really taboo. One owner admits there are days where they actually spend more purchasing games than what is being sold. Another just says that whenever someone asks for advice on opening up a video game store they just say “Don’t do it!” This was something I have personally experienced and was hoping that would at least be talked about and thankfully it was. It didn’t linger on it for long, but it was still worth mentioning.

The thing I do think that should have been mentioned that wasn’t is emulation. Some feel like this is also causing a downturn in physical media and gaming stores in general among the retro scene, while others note that it has been great for archival purposes. The film does showcase places like the Library of Congress and the National Video Game Museum which has been nothing but positive for the industry. It would have been great to at least have asked someone like Joe Santulli who has stake in both a physical video game store and the Video Game Museum his thoughts on it. However, I will also note that I’ve only seen the actual film and the Blu-Ray version might have some more behind-the-scenes and deleted stuff that was not available for me.

Overall we cannot recommend this movie enough. Regardless of if you are a fan of the retro scene, or modern video games, you will find something about the film to enjoy. We are hopeful that you walk out of it with a completely different understanding of a subject that you may not have seen before. While there will be a day where physical media will be a think of the past, gaming will live on forever.