Ok, so this was supposed to be a review of Jeb Kinnison's Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars. That will still happen, only it will be on Tuesday. The thing here is that I woke up late and decided to watch a movie before I wrote my blog today. What I watched isn't technically SF/F but it is related and I was so blown away that I had to write about it. I found this accidentally and I loved it. Given the fact that I didn't even know it existed yesterday I thought I might help some of you find it.
Now you're all wondering what I watched that has me so excited. It's a documentary called Video Games: The Movie. I was impressed to say the least. At one point in my life I actually took enough time away from reading/writing/watching SF/F to earn a history degree. I have loved documentaries for decades. This is one of the best I've ever seen. What's more, it's a terrific story about something I have lived and loved for about the same amount of time. Video Games: The Movie is well thought out, well structured and incredibly broad based without being preachy or needlessly repetitive. In short, writer/director Jeremy Snead either knew both the video game industry and the art of making an entertaining documentary going in or he learned both in hurry. The voice over was done by Sean Astin and he is up to usual high standards (I loved him in both Rudy and The Lord of the Rings). He imparts his information quickly enough to keep it interesting and efficiently enough to give us all of the information we need.
When I first turned this on I was expecting a brief history of gaming, a little bit about the individual consoles, maybe a mention of PC gaming and a lot about technical issues. I mean, let's face it: I LOVED Pitfall when it was new but by 1990 it was a joke. There has been a ton of innovation and invention over the last few decades. There was a discussion of the technology. There had to be. There was also discussion of history going back to the 70s (silly me thought that Pong was the first video game. I stand corrected.) a bit about the perceived link between video games and violence, a discussion of what makes a video game (which included an entertaining but somewhat odd claim that Facebook is a videogame) and a really fun part about gaming culture. I want to take a minute and talk about that because it's something they covered really well and it's something I find to be important.
Gaming culture, and nerd culture in general is way beyond what it was when I was a kid. When they called me "Encyclopedia McCoy" in reference to the Encyclopedia Brown books I was pretty much on my own. It got a little better when I got a little older and there were a few of us in junior high and a few more in high school but things have exploded. The connections made through Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games like Everquest or World of Warcraft et al. are real. I have spoken to many of the people I played WoW with on the phone and I would LOVE a chance to reconnect with my old EQ crew. (Seriously. Aaniamen, Resta, Fyrelyght, Utamr, Iinien, Denniker, Beoheart, Lemleyka, Midnite or any of the rest of my crew, if you see this, hit me up. I can get hold of Ayetappa for you if you want as well.). Many people would poo-poo the thought but it happens and it's not just limited to gaming. I've spent only God knows how many hours talking to a woman I met on Facebook via Baen's Bar and enjoying it immensely. I hope to meet her IRL soon as well. This type of thing is going to become more - not less- common among us Odds out there in the future and I'm glad they mentioned it.
The nostalgia I felt watching this movie cannot be overstated. There were shots from Asteroids, Galaga , Pac Man, Super Mario Brothers (the original), Centipede, Command and Conquer, Sonic the Hedgehog, the list goes on and on. The hair on my arms stood up in spots. It was a trip that started with my childhood (my first system was an Intellivision. I had an Atari, too.) and ended like last year some time. I'm sure Snead would've included something from this year as well, but the movie came out in January so it's not like he had a chance.
Is the movie perfect? Well, no nothing is. It's not far from it though. I would've been happier with a bit more discussion of MMORPGs as I see them as being a separate genre of video game, but that's just me being a whiner. I've got over sixty days played on one character in Everquest (for those that don't know that doesn't mean that I played the game for two months. It means I spent over one thousand four hundred and forty hours playing seated in front of my PC playing just that character. It doesn't count any of the other characters I played on that account or in that game. Or any other game I've played.) and about thirty days on one character in WoW. The title sequence was a bit of a bummer too. It was video from several different classic games. I thought for a second that the whole movie would be like that. I was almost relieved when I heard a human voice cut in. Oh, and they left out Shinobi and the Sega Master System. If we're being honest both were decisions that made sense, but that was MY system that I got because I wanted THAT game and well.... I'm bitter. I'll survive but be warned that if your favorite isn't one of the icons it might not be there. Other than that though, it doesn't get much better in terms of entertainment, information and nostalgia.
Bottom Line: 4.9 out of 5 stars.
Video Games: The Movie
Anchor Bay, 2014