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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

UB Alum Takes Film to Next Level

All across the country parents are telling kids and teens to put down the video games and go outside. Whether or not they realize it, they're also telling their children to pass up on the chance to make six figures a year.

Over the past few years, professional gaming has become an underground phenomenon. Players in Major League Gaming (MLG), most of whom are in their late teens, make hundreds of thousands of dollars playing games like Halo: Reach and StarCraft II competitively. Now, with his new movie, Game Changers, Robert Imbs is looking to not only craft a compelling tale of friendship and growing up, but to also bring the world of professional gaming to light.

The story of Game Changers focuses on Brian and Scott, two friends and former pro Halo MLG players. While working at a failing IT business, the two find themselves playing Halo at someone's house and losing several matches. Brian snaps and decides to make one last run at becoming a pro gamer. Scott reluctantly agrees and the two set out to discover whether or not they've still got what it takes to frag with the pros and what it really means to grow up.

Although all the characters are fictitious, Imbs did find inspiration through real-world circumstances.

"The [story is] not based on anyone directly but, I do have to be honest, I am a gamer," Imbs said. "I was a student [at UB]. I was a founding member of SMASH club - the Super Smash Bros. club. I grew up playing video games obsessively. I could've seen myself dedicating my life to becoming a pro gamer. So, this is also an exploration for me."

The only thing holding Imbs' film back from being made is funding.

Imbs and his crew are currently attempting to raise $30,000 through the site, which allows users to make donations to help finance the project. Currently, Imbs has raised roughly $6,100 and has until April 21 to collect the remaining $23,900.

On the final day of fundraising for Game Changers, Imbs and his crew will be having a 12 hour telethon that can be streamed through the film's website. It will feature talks on the cinematography behind the film from the crewmembers as well as a Dr. Mario Deathwing Challenge.

However, even if they don't hit their goal of $30,000, Imbs said the film would still get made with filming taking place in August throughout Buffalo. He has been working on the concept for Game Changers for two years and is dedicated to getting it made.

This will be far from Imbs' first foray into film. As a student at UB, he created SATV before graduating with a degree from the department of media studies in 2003. Since then, he has written and directed the award-winning Couch, founded the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, and has attended several other festivals including Toronto and Sundance. However, he admitted that not all of his experiences in film are positive.

"When I graduated I cut a feature film that was called The Maize: The Movie, which I am proud now to say was rated the worst horror movie of all time on IMDB," Imbs said. "At the time it really hurt my ego, but I was just the editor, and now I think it's kind of funny."

Imbs is determined to make Game Changers a success, though. He has even gone as far as to enlist the help of someone who knows the world of MLG intimately - professional Halo player Naded.

Naded (Brett Leonard) of Team SV has been signed on as the film's official gaming consultant. He will work with Imbs to make sure that the film is a proper representation of the professional gaming world.

"I want to make sure that when I write scenes they're accurate," Imbs said. "Even though most people who watch the film won't necessarily know the differences if they're not gamers, it's important to me to make this a very realistic film. I hate nothing more than fake techno babble jargon."

Imbs has also been working with PR representatives at MLG to organize an on-site filming of a live MLG event for pick-ups in Game Changers.

However, even without the help of Naded and MLG, Imbs would not be in the dark. He has been playing video games for much of his life and spent a large amount of his time at UB engaging in Halo LAN parties with his friends.

"We took it seriously, like a religion" Imbs said laughing. "We would play hour-long capture the flag matches on Blood Gulch and when you lost there was an hour long discussion of what the team did wrong...I remember we were playing at Flint Village and it was Team Kitchen vs. Team Couch and we would skip class and just play that all day."

About a year ago, though, Imbs made the decision to give up gaming. He realized that between shooting, editing, and producing his films, he needed all the time he could spare.

But that's not to say he doesn't miss it.

"I remember I played StarCraft II to the point where I couldn't stop," Imbs said. "It was a hard thing for me to do, my girlfriend said 'you should delete it' and I remember dragging that StarCraft II icon to the trash, right-clicking and hitting empty. It was a horrifying and invigorating process."

Imbs is also an avid fan of MLG. He follows the teams and tournaments closely, and has for several years. He has yet to attend a live event though, much to his dismay.

Still, he watches every tournament with rapt attention and cheers on his favorite team.

"Once I say it I'll have to hold to it," Imbs said hesitantly. "Status Quo just took it and they're awesome but I'll have to say Instinct [is my favorite team] because Ogre 2, to me, is just the champion. He was there when Walshy made those huge runs with Final Boss, and now to be on a team that's dominating again?"

If everything goes according to plan for Imbs, Game Changers will be released in summer 2013 with a premiere taking place in either New York or LA.




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