Review: 'High Score' A Docuseries that Takes Gaming Seriously

by Noe Kamelamela

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 18, 2020

'High Score'
'High Score'  

Instead of being a hyper-focused effort like "The King of Kong" or "The Lost Arcade," "High Score" is a peppy and fast-paced docuseries that attempts to cram the rise of video games around the world into less than six hours of work.

While there are nods to Japan and well-known Japanese video game creators and companies, the American market and the American video game scene is very prominent. Strobing effects and noises may not be appropriate for some viewers, and there are occasional clips of video game violence that may be disturbing to younger children. With archival footage, new interview footage, and cheerfully pixelated animations that bring the tongue-in-cheek narration to life, the production team has spliced together episodes that interconnect ten-minute pockets of joy.

One advantage of doing a docuseries set in the near past is that many of the original creators, programmers, and even marketing executives are still alive. Thankfully, the near past is just far enough away that any Non Disclosure Agreements or Statutes of Limitation are moot, which loosened the lips of video game insiders of those times.

"High Score" is not all-encompassing or even interested in presenting exact dates and times in any sense: rather, the production for each episode is driven by individual stories and an obsession with innovation. While the episodes do not necessarily follow chronological or any strictly logical programming, the inclusion of Black innovators, as well as both a gay man and a trans woman as their authentic selves and not just avatars, should be commended.

There is probably a lot of content that they had to cut. Yet, it was very impressive that they presented viewpoints all around the industry, not just within the video game companies themselves, in the form of designers, visual artists, and advertisers, but gamers as well as game creators and arcade game enhancers.

While they could have spent more time talking about money or overall impact of initial steps on today's video game landscape, by allowing actual people to tell their stories the producers invite the audience to imagine themselves as perhaps part of video gaming's next evolution.

"High Score," a Netflix original documentary series, premieres August 19, 2020. TV-14 for simulated video game violence. Six episodes, ~60 mins each.

Noe Kamelamela is a reader who reads everything and a writer who writes very little.