Boom & Bust
This Is War
Video games are the world’s largest entertainment medium. From Grand Theft Auto V’s incredible financial success to the accessibility of titles like Wii Sports and Candy Crush, the video game industry is an unstoppable beast.
With a new generation of consoles soon to descend upon us, now seems like a good a time as any to look back and reflect on the journey this industry has taken. Beginning with the late 70’s and ending with the birth of 3D juggernauts like Doom and Wolfenstein, High Score serves up a comprehensive snapshot of a critical time in history.
The episodes themselves are broken up into six different chapters and begin with Space Invaders and work their way through a variety of different games including Sonic, Mortal Kombat and Donkey Kong. Each episode is tonally consistent, with fighting games given the spotlight in episode 5 and role-playing titles in episode 3.
Along the way, the documentary series captures the various different pioneers, players and engineers that helped craft this industry into what it’s become today. As expected, Nintendo and Atari take up a good chunk of time early on, with the former doing an incredible job of maintaining dominance and relevance after all this time.
Stylistically, the documentary uses some neat visual cues, including numerous pixelated animations to accompany stories. Seeing these animations really helps brighten up the series and early on there’s plenty of neon-lit colours and clever animations to accompany the different interviews. There’s plenty to like about this series though and seeing Tomohiro Nishikado’s sketch book or id Software’s desire to “hack” into Nintendo’s hardware really puts into perspective how far this industry has come.
It’s easy to become cynical with the way video games have gone nowadays. In a time where egregious micro-transactions, loot boxes and live service disasters are the norm, this time period really serves as a celebratory snapshot of a simpler time where the true aim was just to create a good game.
Despite all the criticism and issues, video games as a market and industry is here to stay. There’s some incredible games and people explored here and understanding how each of them slot together to form the bigger picture is quite the inspiring feat. This really helps make this an appealing and incredibly accessible documentary series.
Unlike documentaries like “How Videogames Changed The World” or “Indie Game: The Movie”, this one is all about tracing the roots of games through a very specific time period. There’s lots of scope for a second season too with plenty of ground to cover in the future. I really hope Netflix green-light and give the nod to this because there’s definitely some serious potential here.
Whether you’re a fan of video-games or not, High Score is a comprehensive, interesting and educational glimpse into the lives of those who turned a simple idea into a billion dollar enterprise.