Movie Review: High Score (Netflix)


First episode date: August 19, 2020
Narrated by: Charles Martinet
Network: Netflix
Genre: Documentary
Executive producer: France Costrel

Samuru

Video games have a deep history to them. From the first consoles like Atari or the NES, to the music composition or sound effects that are still recognizable decades later. There are lots of books and documentaries on the topic of video game history, and I personally enjoy diving into them. When I saw that a new one was being released on Netflix, High Score, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

High Score is a documentary with several episodes, 1-6. Each one is about 45 minutes long, and discusses various topics of video game past and present that most wouldn’t be aware of. There’s lots fo behind the scenes discussions with the creators of games, companies, employees, musicians, and other roles that have made the gaming industry into what it is today (a global, multi-billion dollar genre with hundreds of millions of players).

The narration, interviews and production is top notch. I really couldn’t think of another gaming documentary that was done with such high quality, even though there are others that are interesting as well. I could tell that the people behind it’s creation didn’t want this to be cheesy or low quality. They travel to Japan to find some of the founders of the earliest games to get their story on how they made games like Space Invaders, Pac-Man and others. The USA was included as well, going into detail about Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat, and others.

Aside from interviews, you get to see the beginnings of gaming tournaments, which became the eSports industry, text-based games, Game Counselors for Nintendo, RPGs, and even some fringe games like Night Trap. This was my biggest issue with the documentary though, I felt that it was all over the place. There was no consistency, as they would go from interviewing a champion gamer to how a game was made, then back to the middle of the story of how this gamer won the tournament. I would have preferred each episode to focus on one topic, give the history and interviews that went with it, and wrap it up by the end of the episode.

Another gripe I had was that several of the topics felt biased. For example, focusing on Night Trap or a game created by a homosexual developer that nobody has heard of didn’t seem as important as other milestones in gaming history. I would have liked to see highlights of the new generation of consoles, the jump from 2D to 3D with their stellar graphics or the creation behind the larger than life movie experiences with games like Uncharted, Metal Gear, Tomb Raider, The Last Of Us, Horizon Zero Dawn and so many more.

I hope there is a part 2 to this documentary, as I felt there was more to these stories that could have been told. There can be documentaries made on just one aspect of gaming culture or a series, like Final Fantasy or the arcade scene (like The Lost Arcade). Since I have been in this scene for so many years, as a gamer I wanted more but I am happy with the outcome that was given. I enjoyed it, and can see the respect that was taken while making this production. I highly recommend it, especially for those that aren’t aware of the history behind videogames. Give it a watch, and let us know what you thought in the comments! God bless.


Andrea

If you’ve ever picked up any video game in your life, you may have wondered at some point how someone was able to create a series of moving images accompanied by images that you could actually control what happened? I’ve been passionate about video game history and its evolution ever since I began noticing over the years how more advanced the technology for gaming had become. That led me to look back further than what I was already familiar with to the genesis of gaming…and even before that. High Score looks at gaming in its infancy, its impact, and its legacy as we continue to enjoy the medium almost fifty years later.

I enjoyed that High Score was able to pull interviews and insights from some of the key players and developers of early gaming, such as Toru Iwatani, the creator of Pac-Man, Ken and Roberta Williams, the creators of Sierra Entertainment, and so on. Each episode caters to a different aspect of early gaming, such as arcades, and the rise of beloved video game companies like Nintendo and Sega. I appreciated the fact of seeing some of these games in action, especially the old PC games such as Ultima and Mystery House.

There were two main complaints I had by the time I concluded watching, however. One was that the way the episodes were presented were a bit disjointed; there were great ideas that had the potential of being discussed in what I hoped would be a deeper manner, but would be pushed aside to introduce a different game or move on to a different point. Another issue was more of a personal gripe, but I was honestly hoping for more episodes to watch! This series fascinated me and I wanted to learn more about the games and systems that weren’t discussed long enough or even brought to the front that have made such a difference in the video game industry. 

I am hoping that in the future there may be a second series ordered. But if not, and if you have Netflix, I highly encourage you to check out this series and see what it has to offer for yourself. You may not enjoy all the content and games the series has to offer, but every view point is critical, because gaming has made such a difference to the lives of so many different people in generations past, and hopefully for many more to come.


You can watch High Score on Netflix.

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