First, there are no slow pans over old photos while Peter Coyote narrates. And each episode only clocks in around 40 minutes — not 40 hours, so High Score is easy to binge.
But more importantly, unlike The Civil War, or Jazz or Baseball, I was alive and vividly remember just about all of the moments High Score covers. You, 40 Bit reader, probably do too.
For the TL;DR set, High Score well-produced, fun trip down (random access) memory lane. Highly recommend.
In addition to well-trod tales of Pong, Atari, Nintendo and Sega, you also get some great anecdotes about the making of historic games. For instance (slight-but-won’t ruin-it spoiler ahead), I learned that the infamous and much-maligned E.T. Atari game was conceived, designed, coded and produced in just five weeks. Sure the game sucked, damn! Name another software product successfully shipped on that timeline. (Also, Spielberg signed off on it!)
Along the way, High Score also shines the spotlight on some people and games you may not be aware of, like Gay Blade, which was hugely important for the vastly underrepresented LGBTQ community.
As The Verge noted, High Score is not a comprehensive history of videogames, and glosses over a lot of the bad side of industry. I can’t argue with that, but High Score seems to be telling the story it wants to tell in a highly-entertaining and still informative package. You can even watch most of it with your kids (your conservative mileage may vary with the last two episodes).
Most of the fun in watching High Score, however, is in the nostalgia it evokes because I was there! The pocketful of quarters in the arcade. Late nights playing Super Mario 3 on the NES. The kinetic “SEGA!” commercials. The mullets. The serial killer-sized glasses… and all that standard definition TV.
One of the reasons for starting 40 Bit is that us olds are really the first generation to grow up with videogames. We’ve seen firsthand what the videogame industry has become, so its fun to take a few hours and fondly look back at where it started.
So watch High Score. At the very least it’ll tide you over until the next Ken Burns documentary.
And now, some perspective
Microsofty and the Infinite Business
Better graphics (ray tracing!), booming sound, deeper storytelling and, well just about everything is better about videogames today than the games of our youth.
In addition to the games, the business model around them is changing too. There was a time when you would plunk down your $30 (or more recently, $60) and that was it. You got yourself a game.
But as Bloomberg reports, subscriptions are the new cartridge (bonus: no need to blow on them to get them to work). Microsoft has GamePass and Sony has PlayStation Now which charge a monthly fee for access to a library of games. Microsoft is even taking things one step beyond, with a subscription that includes the game console itself (think: cellphone contract).
On the one hand, this takes us further down the path of handing control over to big corporations that can dictate just about everything about our gaming experience, and we just hand over money month after month.
But on the other hand, videogames more than any other medium, are all about planned obsolescence. They continually get better, and we want that. You’re not playing PlayStation 2 games for a reason.
Just as Netflix did to movies and Spotify did to music, Microsoft and Sony are going to make our games a monthly affair. And we probably won’t care.
Star Chores: Elite Dangerous VR Review
Contributor Mike Romo isn’t going to sugarcoat it, there is plenty of work that goes into the VR space adventure that is Elite Dangerous. But get through all the setup, and oxygen level checking and scouring sub-Reddits and there is actually a really fun, immersive game that Mike thinks is “transcendent.”
So strap on the headset, fire up the Thrustmaster and get ready to pilot your own starship across the galaxy and read why this game is a “must-buy.”
EA showed off some Star Wars: Squadrons single player action at the virtual Gamescom yesterday. There isn’t much in that video above, but what is there actually looks pretty good. And oh yeah, The Last Jedi was awesome. Fight me.
Microsoft Flight Simulator players are chasing Hurricane Laura. The simulator features real time weather and at no-time: danger. (Also: Synthetic data FTW!)
The next Xbox One and Xbox Series X dashboard finally gets it right. Surprisingly, it features Microsoft Bob.
Fortnite now has a bunch of Marvel characters. Thor, She-Hulk, Wolverine and Storm are just a few of the character skins you can unlock. If they could only figure out a way to teach elementary school remotely on Fortnite, getting my son to learn everything this year would be no problem.
Full-Sized Commodore 64 Remake ‘The C64’ Now Available for Preorder. $130 is pretty good for a time machine.
That’s it for this week.
Stay cool. Have a great Summer. Class of ’90 rulez.
-Chris at 40 Bit