Netflix has a new documentary series all about video games. High Score traces the development of the first arcade games, home consoles, PC games and multiplayer games in its six-part series. Netflix had a hit with The Toys That Made Us, which featured a single toy in each hour-long episode. High Score tells the larger story of video games as a whole, so each episode includes more than one game.
Filmmakers France Costrel and Melissa Wood spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet by phone about High Score. Here’s how their video game series is different from The Toys That Made Us, and why the story of video games necessitated a different approach. High Score is now streaming on Netflix.
‘High Score’ did consider ‘The Toys That Made Us’ approach to video games
Costrel produced the web series 8 Bit Legacy: The Curious History of Video Games. She knew there was more story to tell than those seven seven-minute episodes. The Toys That Made Us actually gave Costrel and Wood the idea to approach Netflix.
“When we saw that The Toys That Made Us was on Netflix, we were like wow, maybe we could really go and pitch that idea and it could work,” Costrel said. “We first looked at it as a potential anthology with one episode looking at one game. But I think once we met with Netflix, they were telling us it’d be great if we can just push it further and really weave story so that there is a narrative arc that goes from one episode to the next.”
The story of video games in ‘High Score’
High Score starts at the beginning and goes through Doom in the mid-’90s. In each era, Costrel and Wood highlight creators of landmark games like Pac-Man, Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy.
“[The industry] was motivated by creativity and people wanting to tinkner around with technology,” Wood said. “A lot of the early innovators really just liked playing games themselves. They also liked computers so they were figuring out how to combine the two. I think once it did become an industry, then there is a shift, obviously. That’s what we explore in episode 4 where there’s money to be made, so the business starts driving what the next steps are in the industry.”
Sometimes gamers were the story
High Score also profiles competitive gamers playing tournaments in Space Invaders, Super Mario and Tetris. It was important to Costrel and Wood that High Score include the players’ side of the story of video games too.
Video games only come to life when they’re being played. I feel like my favorite stories are often coming from the voice of the players because I just love their excitement and enthusiasm and all this competition back then. It’s so funny to look at them nowadays when video games are such a massive sport now. Back then, it was just like let’s meet in a room and we’re going to do a competition. You have this MC on stage and this amazing music blasting and very much like a nostalgic dream back then for this time period.France Costrel, interview with Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 8/12/2020