The Austin Chronicle

GameStop: Rise of the Players

Not rated, 94 min. Directed by Jonah Tulis.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Feb. 4, 2022

We live in the terrifying darkest timeline, in which there are people who watch The Big Short and came out thinking, “Well, maybe I can use this to make money.” They’re the same people who think the problem with The Wolf of Wall Street is that Jordan Belfort got distracted by coke and women. They’re the people who – and this happens in financial fluke documentary GameStop: Rise of the Gamers – enthusiastically compare themselves to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.

If you can make it past someone referring to “the Chewyfication of GameStop” and not rage quit, Rise of the Gamers is an interesting analysis of the bubble in GameStop stock. Basically, in 2019 a handful of day traders saw that the gaming retailer was potentially undervalued by corporate investors that bet against it through shorts, and if you want those explained you should go rewatch the Michael Burry scenes in The Big Short. These wannabe Jim Cramers with 10 subscribers on a Twitch stream, through a confluence of events (not least Microsoft and Sony building disk players into their next-gen machines), were right this time, and GameStop stocks exploded. They became the first of the meme stocks, whereby people would throw cash at recognizable brands just to stick it to “the man.”

The obnoxious enthusiasm of Rise of the Gamers (which literally calls the day traders “heroes”) misses the point that those day traders are playing the same game as the big hedge fund managers. They’re speculators in an asset that’s only tangentially related to the actual business. It doesn’t matter how many cool Nineties-style graphics the filmmaker drops over the action, the reality is that it took a massive number of people throwing cash at one company’s shares to push them from $4 to $400, and ultimately left it as volatile as any other stock. Nothing changed. The idea that this was some kind of revolution is absurd (and when one of the speculators boasts about being at the original Occupy Wall Street protests, you have to wonder whether they missed the point and their stop at Chambers Street). All that happened is that the Eighties cliche of fancy suits and hard partying on Wall Street has been replaced by Reddit shitposting. Basically, if anyone uses the word “stonk” around you, just run for the hills.

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