Gamer posits a world dominated by technology developed by one Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) that allows people to control other human beings. He uses this to create two games - first comes "Society", a Second Life-esque simulation where subscribers take full control of real-life avatars and guide them around the city, doing whatever they may please. On the smash success of "Society" comes "Slayers", where gamers take control of actual death-row inmates and pit them against each other in a deathmatch that the public at large can watch live on weekly Pay Per View.
The concept alone gives writer/directors Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor a chance to lay down some criticisms of a society drunk on sex and violence. Obviously, not all of it is new. No one will be surprised to find that millions have a "Society" account and most of them use it to get freaky, and that "Slayers" is an international phenomenon where people from Los Angeles to Bombay cheer on the violent deaths of dozens each week. Where it gets interesting is in its depiction of the games: Neveldine and Taylor have a vast understanding of how people play first person shooters. Beyond actual first person shooter techniques like crouch jumping being used, juvenile player behaviors such as "tea bagging" (repeatedly crouching over a player's corpse to emulate a lewd act) are also accurately depicted. What makes this more than good research is that real people are doing this. What we're seeing here is the perverse and immature members of our society controlling the desperate and aware. It's extremely imaginative, surprisingly creepy, and incredibly damning.
It's one of the few things that Gamer gets right.
"Slayers" is the focus of the movie; our protagonist is Kable, AKA John Tillman (Gerard Butler). Kable is the face of "Slayers"; we start the movie in the middle of his 27th match, a record nobody else has been able to lay claim to, and the public loves him for it. They're waiting with bated breath to see if Kable can survive his 30th match, at which point he'll be set free. All Kable wants to do is keep his head down and hope his player can get him through it so he can see his wife and daughter again.
However, it seems that Kable may know something that could bring down Ken Castle's empire; Castle will do everything in his power to make sure he goes down, while a faction who calls themselves "Humanz" want to set him free so he can return the favor for humanity.
It's a relatively simple plot backed up by some great action, but it's compromised by additional threads left unexplored (mostly represented by John Leguizamo's character), overdirection that left me confused (the climax seems to show the deaths of some characters, only for some of them to turn up alive and well), and some questionable character motivation. It's a tragic cut-down of the movie's potential; what could've been a classic action satire on the level of Robocop is instead a confounding failure. A noble failure, given the great ideas laid out, but a failure nonetheless.