High Score covers all the classic video games in its story of the early days of the industry. That includes Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, all the way through Doom. The Netflix docuseries is also a chance to show some love to some of the unsung video games in history. These games may not have taken off, but they still deserve some love.
Filmmakers Melissa Wood and France Costrel spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet by phone about High Score. They told us a little bit more about some of the more obscure games they featured in their docuseries, now streaming on Netflix.
‘High Score’ found the video game console that predated the Atari 2600
For years, the only place to play video games was an arcade. Home consoles like the Atari 2600 and Colecovision changed everything. They were not the first home game consoles though. Jerry Lawson designed Channel F, which was the first to use cartridges to play multiple games on a single unit.
“We felt it was an interesting story about a pioneer from video game history that very few people knew about,” Costrel said. “By adding it in the first episode, we were also showing that we’re willing to do an exhaustive history of video games. We felt that Jerry Lawson’s story was really fascinating and ahead of its time.”
Lawson passed away in 2011, but Costrel and Wood interviewed his son.
“We figured that he might not be alive anymore but why don’t we talk to his family and see if we can do a short stinger there so that people can also learn something while watching the series, whether they’re gamers or not,” Costrel said.
Channel F video games were very primitive
Even Atari games look primitive to modern gamers. Channel F was even more basic than the 2600, Wood says.
“It’s old, so they’re very basic two player games like tennis,” Wood said. “There’s a maze game. I don’t remember all of them but they were pretty basic. It was still very early on. I think Tic Tac Toe was another one. For us, it wasn’t so much about the games themselves, it was this idea of expanding your library exponentially into what we see now that was so revolutionary.”
‘High Score’ commemorated the first LGBTQ video game
Ryan Best designed Gay Blade in 1992, but unfortunately lost the original files during a move. Internet archivists recently uncovered the game so that it could be included in High Score.
“After we filmed, someone reached out and had a copy of the game,” Wood said. “It was a relief because we were like great, now we can show the game. I don’t know what we were thinking even filming this before.”
Gay Blade is a third person role-playing game with LGBTQ heroes and conservative politician Pat Buchanan as the big boss villain. Wood and Costrel had their post-production supervisor play the game to capture footage. She could not make it to the end.
“She spent hours doing it,” Wood said. “It’s a really hard game according to Leanne. She tried her best. She could not get to Pat Buchanan at the end. It’s an incredibly challenging game. That’s why you see he’s animated but she was able to get through a few levels, so that really helped with our storytelling.”