|Index||3 reviews in total|
I wrote my review after having watched episode 3 of 5, so after having
watched the rest, there's the need for an update:
I have been into computer gaming since around 1980, and this mini series brought back long forgotten memories. Since there were (and are) one gazillion different games, gaming consoles and platforms, you'll be lucky if more than one of your personal all-time favorites and classics are shown or mentioned, but still, especially the first two episodes are like a trip to the past and I enjoyed that a lot. I think it's equally interesting for younger viewers, they'll marvel at the simplicity and pixelized/blocky appearance of games back then. It almost made me cry when I saw live game coverage of Doom. I still remember being shocked and awed when I saw FPS for the first time. Legendary stuff, although not exactly easy on the eyes a decade later.
After having watched all five parts of the series, I have to say that it starts quite nicely but loses it somewhere in the middle. Instead of concentrating on technical aspects (which is what I am most interested in) the creators of the series shift their focus toward sociological analysis. Now (all of a sudden?) video games are presented as having a huge positive impact on social life, and vice versa. Although this might be so, I did not like the presentation and reasoning, simply because the authors lacked scientific background information. "Second life" is hyped up as the new kind of social interaction, mods and machinima are presented as proof that gamers take over the creation of content in video games. Hmm...not one word about "killer games"? Video game induced violence? Kids playing inappropriate games? Game addicts? So, video games are really 100% beneficial to society? All these aspects are deliberately left untouched.
As for the military as a motor of the gaming industry, that's a well-known fact. I could not see any unfair comments regarding the involvement of the US army in the gaming culture with their game/military training simulation. I thought here the report was accurate and showed "America's Army" as what it is: an attempt to interest young gamers for the military, and I am glad that there were critical tones in the documentary about this topic, because I think that AA is a perfect example how video games are designed to influence the gamers. A game developed for one purpose only. No disguise, no pretending. I abhor this kind of game, and for me it does not even matter whether the military of whatever state in the world is behind it or a terrorist organization. These "training simulations" should be handled with care. They are not games anymore. You have to watch episode 3 and make up your mind for yourselves.
As another comment by the user T.J. Stevens points out, the military is not the only entity or institution that tries to take advantage of the video game as a way to influence gamers: advertising games, educational games issued by governments, franchise games as a way to increase sales across all the different media types.
All I know is this: whatever media you use, it will always have a certain influence on you. It does not matter whether it is a book, a film, music, pictures or video games: these can all be used to transport a message, slogan, a concept or an ideology. On the other hand, nobody who reads a book will immediately become indoctrinated, and nobody will become a killer by playing shooter ("killer") games, as long as they use their brain to detect, decode and process the openly presented or hidden "message". How all that works and how big the influence of various types of video games on different types of gamers is, that is a question which cannot be answered in such a documentary. In my opinion they tried but failed, because they did not even ask the right questions.
In conclusion, I would have been happier if the makers of this series had just been content with a presentation of the amazing technical advances in video games during the last 30 years, and leave the sociocultural aspects be.
All in all, still an interesting documentary, entertaining at times, nostalgic, educative and informative, especially the first two episodes. Later on, it attempts to analyze the role of video games as a new media and their influence on society and the changes they already brought. This does not work too well and results in rather one-sided (...biased?) coverage, although it is still quite watchable and might be the starting point for a heated discussion with your friends.
Thumbs up and a 6 out of 10.
I found this to be rather informational, well-done and entertaining. It definitely does have an agenda or two, here and there, and I don't know that they needed to spend as much time as they did on the military, but if you look past that, it's great. It's made up of five episodes, each the US standard of a 42 minute running time, and they all have a different and clear focus. Any one of them can be watched entirely separate from the others, with no necessary prior knowledge or later exposure. Among other things, it goes over the history(from the earliest, simplest, think Pong, across the addition of color and characters to the massive, immersive 3D worlds that one can now log on to), development and growth of the medium, with stories of both success and failure throughout the show. It goes over RPG, Sim, MMO, customization, etc. It's edited well, and brings its points, the many obvious and positive as well as the handful of sneaky and underhanded ones. The very ending of this, admittedly, is a sour note, and displays a somewhat narrow-minded perspective. Still, most of the material here is objectively put forth, for the viewer to decide. And just look at the interviewees(and I'd say the majority have something to say). Ever wanted to know the thoughts behind making Tetris? How about Doom? Super Mario Brothers? In this, you can. The pacing is solid. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about video-games, past, present, and even a smidgen about the future. Those who've never touched a joystick are welcome. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a biased piece of garbage this turned out to be. I watched the first 2 episodes and found myself enjoying the history of so many great games that I have enjoyed in my life. I found myself agreeing with commentators who scoffed at criticisms levied at the video game industry. Rightfully denying that video games were the source of violence, bad language, and unsavory behavior in society. But I found myself questioning why they continued to relate everything to the military topics of the time. The 80's games were a product of the cold war, etc. It all seemed out of place until I settled down to watch the 3rd episode. Over half the episode was dedicated to the history of military games. These same commentators, who earlier were stating that video games did not have any psychological or brainwashing effects, were now contradicting themselves. Apparently having a video game that allows you to be a U.S. Soldier is damaging to society, but Grand Theft Auto which allows you to rape women, kill anyone, blow up police choppers, and anything else you want to do (ie; terrorist activity) has no damaging effect whatsoever. What a piece of crap. You can't have it both ways, people! Instead of focusing it's attention on the history of video gaming, the makers of this mini-series decided they were going to have an agenda. An agenda, unfortunately, that has nothing to do with video games. They may as well have just named this show, "We Hate America and it's Service Men and Women."
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