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High Score - (Netflix) Video Game Documentary


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Here’s the official synopsis of the series:

High Score is a documentary series about the golden age of video games, when legends – from Pac-Man to Doom – were brought to life. Through ingenuity and sheer force of will, computer pioneers and visionary artists from around the globe spawned the iconic worlds of Space Invaders, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Sonic the Hedgehog, Madden NFL, and beyond. Without rules or roadmaps, players and innovators alike pushed the limits of money to be made, rivals to be crushed, and hearts to be won. This is the story of the brains behind the pixels and how their unmatched innovation built a multi-billion dollar industry – almost by accident.
 

Love the intro.

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I hope it's not all the stories we've heard before - Space Invaders coin crisis, Communist Tetris, etc. - or at least done in an entertaining way like The Toys That Made Us. Doesn't say who the consultants are, does it?

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51 minutes ago, James Lyon said:

I hope it's not all the stories we've heard before - Space Invaders coin crisis, Communist Tetris, etc. - or at least done in an entertaining way like The Toys That Made Us. Doesn't say who the consultants are, does it?

 

Nope google brings back nothing, I'll still watch it though because video games :)

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2 hours ago, James Lyon said:

I hope it's not all the stories we've heard before - Space Invaders coin crisis, Communist Tetris, etc. - or at least done in an entertaining way like The Toys That Made Us. Doesn't say who the consultants are, does it?

 

I really don't want to be a massive cynic about these things but I fear it'll be yet another US-centric history of video games deal. You never get A History Of Cinema every time a film documentary comes out, so why do we have to have a bluffer's guide to games every few years? More often than not they're too general or worn-out to appeal to gamers, yet too geeky to appeal to non-gamers. 

 

Will definitely check it out, maybe it'll be more about finding people who were involved and getting a more personal angle, telling some different stories. 

 

It can be done. Diggin' In The Carts was a fantastic set of short docs about Japanese game music that was genuinely novel and didn't go near the well-beaten path. 

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From the page: 

 

Quote

This docuseries traces the history of classic video games, featuring insights from the innovators who brought these worlds and characters to life.

 

Leaving aside the unforgivable use of the word "docuseries", it's definitely going to be the same old shit. Hey, Netflix, save yourself a packet and just put Thumb Candy up. It tells all those old stories about coin-shortages, Puck-Man vandalism, and you get Matthew Smith into the bargain. 

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Thing is , with these historical documentaries the time period already happened.  The stories have already been told so any of these docs are just Thumb Candy with a different host.  I'm not sure there are other stories , unless you start to go specifically into one area (like a documentary about Amiga music, or the donkey Kong high scores one).  If you set out to make a general documentary about the history of video games it's been done already. 

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Until they do get it on YT someone did a cam of it for those who don't want to go to the site:

 

 

Yes, same old faces, Nolan bloody Bushnell, Howard Scott bloody Warshaw, Mario, Sonic, Space Invaders, everyone owning a Nintendo - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

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To play devils advocate, though, I don't think America's ever had a 'history of video games' type of show made for mainstream TV over there, has it? At least none that come to mind. There's Thumb Bandits and Charlie Brooker's thing over here. Most of the American stuff has been online on websites like 1Up, playing to the usual crowd. Nothing for your more casual US / international Netflix viewer.

 

Then again, how interested is the casual Netflix viewer in hearing about old games?

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I suspect this will be exactly as Vimster predicts, a history of how America (with some help from the Japanese!) experienced, created and developed video games. Nichts about the euro powerhouses during the 80s and onwards.

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Just seen this review for the series by Arstechnica, some snippets:

 

'The good outweighs the bad, though weird interview choices add unfortunate bloat.'

 

'In isolation, High Score has some of the best interviews with game-industry luminaries I've ever seen. The absolute highlight is an interview with Roberta and Ken Williams, the co-founders and architects behind Sierra Entertainment. Together, they tell the most detailed story I've ever seen on camera about their work on 1980's Apple II game Mystery House.'

 

' ... if you want to enjoy the series uncritically and deal with a mix of storytelling delights and slower, "Guess I'll check my phone for a few minutes" segments, High Score has enough good content to sit through'

 

'Just be warned that some uneven interview choices and leaps past significant game-history developments will leave anybody knowledgeable about gaming history yelling at their TV. Your favorite console, arcade, portable, or PC game from the era in question is, in all likelihood, not given enough time or coverage by Netflix's filming crew.'

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16 hours ago, James Lyon said:

To play devils advocate, though, I don't think America's ever had a 'history of video games' type of show made for mainstream TV over there, has it? At least none that come to mind. There's Thumb Bandits and Charlie Brooker's thing over here. Most of the American stuff has been online on websites like 1Up, playing to the usual crowd. Nothing for your more casual US / international Netflix viewer.

 

Then again, how interested is the casual Netflix viewer in hearing about old games?

I don't think it's so much there has been something directly similar to this series, more an accumulation of these stories covered in books, websites, TV spots, PR (Nolan Bushnell wheeled out every time he has some new business venture, even if ti's not related to gaming). There's a rich web of information that has hardened to create an agreed History Of Games, and anyone even faintly interested in gaming over the last 20 or so years will be very familiar with it. 

 

Granted, we're not the target audience for this, but who is? As the above says, gamers will find it very familiar, young gamers may be interested in the history but not from the nostalgic point of view the trailer and title sequence are going for. So it's really for the sort of people who were probably playing some games when they were younger but have grown up, can watch this with their kids and talk about it. 

 

The Ken and Roberta Williams bit sounds interesting though. That's not been covered as much as, say, Atari. Do they feature in Get Lamp? 

 

I know there's From Bedrooms To Billions, but I would love to see more properly-made documentaries about UK and European computing and gaming, although I suspect they'd be a lot more niche. 

 

I'm also curious to know if they'll touch upon Elite at all, a landmark game that has had a profound impact on gaming, but because it's a very UK thing it never quite fits in with the US-centric narrative. 

 

 

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Couldn’t agree more!:) It’s the American (and to a lesser extent Japanese in all honesty) narrative that has been built up over the years which concerns me the most. Unchecked, this stuff just becomes the truth in many peoples eyes.

 

Imo, Europe, especially during the 80s and 90s was pound for pound battling with Japan for game innovation, creativity and output supremacy.

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1 hour ago, gizmo1990 said:

Couldn’t agree more!:) It’s the American (and to a lesser extent Japanese in all honesty) narrative that has been built up over the years which concerns me the most. Unchecked, this stuff just becomes the truth in many peoples eyes.

 

Imo, Europe, especially during the 80s and 90s was pound for pound battling with Japan for game innovation, creativity and output supremacy.

Generally-speaking American and especially Japanese game development was a lot more corporate and regulated than it was in Europe. You think of something like SEGA vs Nintendo, yes there's games involved but it's just as much a story about business, Atari similarly although that was the corporate side vs the development side. Nolan Bushnell was first and foremost a businessman. You never really had that big a corporate/business culture in European computing and games dev, not early on anyway. 

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Passable imo.

 

I find it a bit jumpy. The narrative of each episode is all over the place, flitting between different stories of the same era/genre for some reason. Trying to cut to different parts of the story to set up things but feels complicated.

 

Like telling the story of Space Invaders in the first episode they mention Atari and a deal with them only to say if you don’t know who they are the don’t worry we’ll come back to it. And they do about 10 minutes later. So why not structure the story such that you’ve given some background there?

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First episode was alright.

 

I liked when during the interview with the Space Invaders creator he pulled out his original design doc that was literally falling apart.

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First episode feels like a missed opportunity. They jump around from topic to topic every 30 seconds without going into any depth. 
 

In the first 10 minutes alone they jump between breakout, space invaders, war of the worlds, Star Wars, how space invaders was made, pictures from a sketch pad which shows how it was created (which they could’ve made an entire 30 minutes episode about imo), the Atari 2600, world championships in space invaders, an interview with a champion at the game, flow, being in the zone like a sports star, how gaming captured the imagination of the Japanese, stories of trucks which were loaded with cash. It’s exhausting. 

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1 hour ago, the_debaser said:

First episode feels like a missed opportunity. They jump around from topic to topic every 30 seconds without going into any depth. 
 

In the first 10 minutes alone they jump between breakout, space invaders, war of the worlds, Star Wars, how space invaders was made, pictures from a sketch pad which shows how it was created (which they could’ve made an entire 30 minutes episode about imo), the Atari 2600, world championships in space invaders, an interview with a champion at the game, flow, being in the zone like a sports star, how gaming captured the imagination of the Japanese, stories of trucks which were loaded with cash. It’s exhausting. 

It's like the producers are shit-scared people will tune away if they stick to something for more than about 45 seconds. 

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Watched the first episode. The section on the Fairchild Channel F was certainly a pleasant surprise amidst all the usual Pac-Man/Space Invaders gumpf that's been trotted out a million times before. But then it cuts straight into yet another deep dive into Atari's ET.  Hmm. Overall: it's ok.

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It was very lightweight. Basically the stories that have reached the mainstream TV industry consciousness: ET, Pac Man, Space Invaders, ESRB moral panic, early tournaments (because of The Wizard and King of Kong). But it was nice to get some of these people (many of whom are getting on a bit) interviewed at decent quality.

 

The captured game footage looked like absolute shit.

 

Imagine what Digital Foundry/DF Retro could have done with this level of budget and access.

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It makes me wonder if someone like Netflix could benefit from trying to recruit some talent from YouTube for a relative pittance to produce something like weekly videos on a topic. This could work really well for documentary/hobby subjects. Think Game Makers Toolkit style. Already pretty well produced on quite a small budget. It wouldn't cost much and produce a wealth of ongoing content for a range of topics to keep people tuned in.

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I'd love to see a French version.

 

Or a UK version - in fact, a UK version that focused on the players' (and magazines') perspective rather than the same half dozen fat old company bosses every book and documentary gravitates to.

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There's so little overlap between the US experience of early videogames (Atari > NES > SNES) and most UK kids' experience (Spectrum/C64 > Amiga/ST > Megadrive) that I can't really summon up much enthusiasm for shows like this.

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2 hours ago, freezycold said:

It’s very USA centric. Huge swathes of relevant information just ignored because it isn’t part of the standard USA video games story. The episode about the Genesis was particularly irritating.

 

I have friends insisting that it's good but I just knew it was going to be like this. Netflix is only interested in pandering to American nostalgia.

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2 hours ago, MK-1601 said:

I'd love to see a French version.

 

Or a UK version - in fact, a UK version that focused on the players' (and magazines') perspective rather than the same half dozen fat old company bosses every book and documentary gravitates to.

 

I think most people here are well aware of it, but if you haven't seen From Bedrooms To Billions then give it a go. It's the UK-centric look at 80s/early-90s gaming we really needed. It's not perfect but it's better than nothing.

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