Retro Gaming Documentaries Worth Watching

I’m not the biggest documentary fan. But some are entertaining. I recently watched a lot of gaming and sci-fi related documentaries. Some were funny, some just kind of depressing but two really stood out as entertaining works even if documentaries aren’t your thing.

 

King of Kong

No, this isn't some deleted scene from Napoleon Dynamite. These are just two of the interesting characters you'll meet in King of Kong (I didn't even mention "Mr. Awesome")
No, this isn’t some deleted scene from Napoleon Dynamite. These are just two of the interesting characters you’ll meet in King of Kong (I didn’t even mention “Mr. Awesome”)

One of the things I love about The Office and other similar mockumentaries is that is pretty much like real life, just slightly more crazy. King of Kong has that feel, but it’s for real. It’s hard to believe these aren’t fabricated characters for our entertainment. The film chronicles the life and times of two very different contenders for the title of highest score in Donkey Kong. The drama is so engaging perhaps because the stakes are so low.

Billy Mitchell is one of the most “interesting” people I’ve ever seen, yet the film treats him with respect, just recording his outrageousness with a nuetral viewpoint. While you have to respect his game skills, he’s certainly not likable at many moments in this film. According to the directors, they had to lighten the plot up by cutting some parts, since he was like an ‘evil mastermind’ directing the events relating to keeping his score on top. You actually feel bad for Steve Weib, the down-and-out teacher who beats his record but has to contend with a scene that worships Billy Mitchell. It’s really something to watch. All in all though it made me nostalgic and want to go back to a mid-80s arcade.

Atari: Game Over

ET traveled to time just to see if any of the infamous cartridges really were buried in the desert.
ET traveled through time just to see if any of the infamous cartridges really were buried in the desert.

We all know the urban legend about millions of ET cartridges buried in a New Mexico landfill after the game was a commercial failure. This documentary engages in what they call ‘punk archaeology’ to determine the site and then get the rights to dig it up. I won’t spoil what they find, but what really is interesting about this one the first hand account of the programmer of the game himself. The legend of this mass burial has become so popular that there at least two different prime-time detective shows with episodes based on it.

It’s odd that ET was not a ‘terrible’  game, just a confusing one. People didn’t get it. And now it’s remembered more by popular opinion than fact for being bad. It’s cool to hear from the actual mind behind the game and people who actually played it and remember the Atari. It’s also interesting to see the the computer world’s slant toward meritocracy kind of had its start back in Ataris 70’s insane party/work environment.

There are plenty of other documentaries out there. Post in the comments any that  you recommend.

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