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High Score review – history of video games fails to top the leaderboard

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August 27, 2020 at 12:00PM

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The Netflix doc focuses on artists, designers and star players, with enough lively pixel animations and amusing anecdotes to show what an exciting time the 1970s to 90s was for gamers

Netflix’s latest nostalgia-driven docuseries tackles the history of video games, with a focus on the 1970s, 80s and early 90s that made this 32-year-old gamer feel positively sprightly. It is pacy and wide-ranging, charting a course from early arcade culture through to modern esports, text adventures to role-playing games (RPGs), Space Invaders to Doom, enlivened by enthusiastic anecdotes from the people who were there. It hardly turns a new lens on this period, leaning heavily on the most recognisable games and stories of the era, but it does a better job than most TV at talking about video games without being either too superficial or too boring.

Most of the interviewees are the familiar, male faces of early(ish) video game history: the venerable Nolan Bushnell of Atari, the endearing metalhead Doom co-creator John Romero, the eccentric RPG pioneer Richard Garriott and Space Invaders inventor Tomohiro Nishikado. But the series also makes an effort to throw the spotlight on lesser-known figures: Gail Tilden, who led Nintendo of America to multimillion-selling success; Ryan Best, the creator of a long-lost satirical LGBT RPG called GayBlade; Gordon Bellamy, the developer who pushed for the inclusion of African American players in early Madden football games. Many of these stories were new to me, and I wish a little more time had been devoted to them instead of Pac-Man, Street Fighter and Mario.

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