Different from your average video game, pinball, which has been around for a lot longer, has been and always will be one of the greatest challenges in the arcades. You never know where the ball is going to go or what will happen next. The same holds true in the latest documentary Wizard Mode.
Wizard Mode, available for viewing from Netflix, follows the tournament path of 26 year old, Canadian Robert Gagno and his travels from tournament to tournament to try to be the best at what he has always known in life…pinball. At the same time, he is also working to improve himself socially and independently while also going through life with autism.
After he played his very first pinball machine at a local burger joint, Gagno seemed to have more center focus, especially when playing. What turned out to be unexplainable, pinball became more of a Zen for Gagno.
Through all of the stress and drama of the traveling and the tournaments, we also learn about how this makes Gagno calm and serene. As an autistic person, he has not only understood certain concepts in life, but he even does all of the research to learn about effects of something as simple as the friendly hug. But in the end, he personally doesn’t consider autism as a disadvantage but an advantage. He wants to be treated just like other people, as a normal individual.
At the same time within this movie, we learn about what he does to try to become independent by starting to look for a job as well as learning to drive, shop for food, cook and even travel. At the midpoint of the movie, we follow Gagno to Pittsburgh, PA for the PAPA 18 World Championships.
Emotions start to build as he is traveling by himself and also being alone without local support at the tournaments. We see Gagno try to talk to others who are more focused on other people playing, and he starts to struggle to get through the tournaments and into qualifying rounds.
The thing about that makes this a great movie is that there are no spells, fireballs, guns and most importantly, egos. It is a very heartwarming story about one person who has a love of pinball, has the full love and support from his family, and his passion to escape diversity. This is another great movie to watch.