A cool blend of contemporary & retro culture

‘High Score’ is a fun look at the birth of video games but perhaps too sweet for its own good

So far as documentaries go, High Score is not exactly too serious. And for a gaming doco, it’s not exactly intense either. In fact, the content of this series – which looks at the birth and early history of video games – is more analogue than complex, which is perhaps what some folks might expect given the analogue nature of its subject matter.

Each episode features game innovators – whiz kids who are all grown up and whose grey hairs lay in stark contrast to the colourful critters and characters they created for the little screen.

From the birth of simple games such as Pong and Tetris through to the advent of 3D graphics, with arcades, handheld games and the flux of home gaming boom sandwiched in between, there’s a lot here for ardent video gamers to soak in.

The only thing is, none of it is really news.

Since Silicon Valley is itself the main forebearer of digital news, we’ve pretty much read all of the stories about Space Invaders, Pacman, Zelda, Mario and so on.

We must admit, though, the way in which the series is partly told through pixelated art – as if the inventors and creators were themselves rough, early video creations – is a lot of fun to watch.

Things get more rounded (and tougher) once we reach the early-’90s console wars, the rise of role playing games, and the increase in ubiquity of gaming giants Nintendo and PlayStation.

What the makers of High Score could have done is delve into the dirtier aspects of game culture – such as the warring between game business investors, the drama of Gamergate, and the current trolling that is common in online gaming forums.

Then we would have given this series an even better score. For now, though: three-and-a-half stars, and a little credit to keep players hooked.

Antonino Tati & Lisa Andrews

 

‘High Score’ currently streams on Netflix.

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