I wonder how people are going to view this period of our history in the future. I mean, I’m assuming there will be a future and that all my years spent playing the Fallout franchise won’t come in handy. The reason why I want to start this way is because there’s a video game hysteria going on right now. And I’m sure there will be many more to come. It’s easy to blame something that doesn’t belong in your tribal system of values for everything. I take things very personally when it comes to video games. And I’m willing to defend them any time of day and night but more about that later.
Ben X is a thought-provoking psychological drama that doesn’t feel like a drama. The production values are excellent and the editing is even better. This movie about a lonely gamer feels like real life and opens that way. It opens with an interview with a grieving woman who says that someone has to die before attention is brought to a certain problem. This ominous start transforms into a poignant character study as Ben X is a movie following an awkward teenager who retreats to the world of video games after constantly being bullied in his school. Story of my life bro, story of my life.
As someone who was both bullied in school and retreated to the world of video games, I can tell you only one thing, it does get better. I don’t think you need any further proof than these lines you’re reading right now. When it comes to movies about high school bullying they’re all pretty archaic and even offensive at times. They simply don’t speak to the current, modern generation. Ben X approaches things from a different perspective, without any forced storytelling or “messages and lessons” shoved down your throat. It naturally unfolds offering a story about not just a gamer but also an outcast.
Meet Ben, a socially awkward teenager who’s constantly bullied at school. His only refuge is the video game ArchLord where he can finally be himself. Totally immersed in that virtual world, Ben sees the real world as just another imaginary realm and uses his video game tactics. However, they don’t help much with cruel teenagers looking for their next target. Everything escalates after one of the incidents is recorded and uploaded on the Internet. It pushes Ben to his lowest point ever but it appears that he’s not alone in all of this. Another player by the name of Scarlite is there to lend him her support. And she wants to meet in real life…
It’s truly astonishing what Nic Balthazar accomplishes with such a relatively short, 90-minute movie. Ben X is not just a movie about video games but a whole range of coming-of-age or teen issues. We’re talking about inappropriate videos uploaded online, social anxiety, relationships with members of the opposite sex, and many others. Ben constantly talks to the viewer about his perception of the situation. And he talks about it as a teenager would talk about it. I know this because I used to do this all the time.
One of the phrases that just came back to be from that time is “ticket to the show”. I kept repeating this over and over in my head to get through situations that I felt I needed to be in to reduce my sense of anxiety surrounding them. The narration really puts you in his shoes and helps you understand what’s going on. On this point, I should tell you that the movie is actually based on the novel Nothing Was All He Said written by Nic Balthazar. Since he’s also the writer and the director of this movie, what we have here is a perfect adaptation of that novel.
The game Ben plays in the movie Ben X is ArchLord, a real MMORPG video game. And an obvious copy of the much more popular World of Warcraft. On that note, I would like to recommend a documentary dealing with some of the same issues discussed here. Second Skin is an excellent documentary about gamers and their experiences with World of Warcraft.
Finally, I can’t help sharing my utter frustration at the injustices Ben had to go through. Teenagers are such cruel, ruthless, and despicable individuals. I have to admit that several times I had this urge to jump into the screen and just start beating them left and right. To submit them in their tribal world of “who’s strong and who’s weak”. This is coming from a perfectly calm, rational, and non-confrontational individual. However, I felt like this is one of those guys raping a woman on a street situations where you feel compelled to act.
And if you’re wondering why is this happening, you guessed it, it’s our ancient tribal system of values that’s still our main system of values. It’s passed down from generation to generation and no one wants to do anything about it. Before I start ranting I better focus on one important issue. If you’re currently in a similar situation to Ben’s, I would like to offer some advice. But before that, we must look at the situation objectively. You’re not going to be able to change your bullies or their minds. You won’t be able to control their actions or the reactions of the school. All of this will inevitably change you. Change the image you’re presenting to the world and how you think of yourself on the inside.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have control over the situation, it means you just do not have full control over the situation. Your range of actions is limited by outside forces you can’t control, something that’s pretty handy to learn early on in life. I don’t like to think of this as an advantage although it certainly is but as an unintended consequence of that situation. You can think of yourself as being in a prison. Your roll of the dice was shitty but it’s important to keep rolling those fucking dice.
Trust me when I say this, no one will think that what happened in school is important once you get older. Those who do are losers and probably bullies who were the shit in high school but are now just shit. In the tribal system of values, we define ourselves through our interactions with other people. This is why you’re being bullied in the first place, something is forcing those bullies to act that way, to show they’re the best-adapted animal in the tribe. However, that system of values is not the only one.
Something Ben discovers while playing the game where a different system of values is active. What I advise you do is develop your own system of values, independent of the tribal one but still aware of it. It will be a constant game of adjustment between the two. When it comes to the practical stuff, I suggest you go the official route, reporting what’s going on to the ones who are responsible for that at your school and in your life, the adults. If this doesn’t produce results and it rarely does, a good tactic is to literally narrate everything that’s going on.
So, let’s say bullies have taken your lunch, you say okay so there’s three of you, you’re stronger than me and you’ve just taken my lunch, I’m a weak individual and you’re stronger than me. Or they are verbally abusing you calling you names, let’s say they call you gay, you can reply with okay you’re calling me gay because you want to insult me and show that you’re a truly masculine man and I’m just a pussy. They can’t do anything about it and there’s no way for them to get out of this situation. So, you’re taking control out of their hands and placing it firmly into yours despite appearances.
What happens here is that you’re robbing them of the meaning behind their actions. And you’re doing this in a non-confrontational way. There’s a confrontational way which I don’t suggest where you dig into reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing. Mostly because this escalates the situation and can lead to even worse outcomes. So, non-confrontational narration of the situation is the best thing you can do. What it does for you is turn you from a passive object to an active individual. It also shows that there’s something the bullies cannot touch, the very core of your being. It shows that you’re a thinking, smart individual who’s going to do things in his or her life.
You might be that weird kid who narrates his bullying but weird is good. People like weirdness and even the tribal system of values recognizes it as an adaptation showing that there are creative, different ways to get out of certain situations. If you feel you can’t even narrate or do anything about your situation, think of the time perspective. Your interactions with these assholes are limited and you just need to get through them in one piece.
Sheesh, when I started writing about this movie, I had no idea this whole text was going to turn into this but there you go. I guess that different and creative individual grew up to do something different and creative. If you want to talk about this leave a comment below and keep playing video games. Who knows maybe we meet in some virtual world. PS Look for Hedonism Bot 🙂
Director: Nic Balthazar
Writers: Nic Balthazar, Rik D’Hiet, Carl Joos
Cast: Marijke Pinoy, Greg Timmermans, Cesar De Sutter, Gilles De Schrijver
Fun Stuff: The title of the movie, Ben X, if spoken in Flemish translates to Benniks, meaning: I am nothing.