Netflix series about computer games: the big bang of the 8-bit universe

The series "High Score" manages to take an entertaining and informative look back at the beginnings of modern gaming.

In 1983, Nintendo launched "Mario Bros." and dominated the console market for several years Photo: Netflix

One can debate for a long time which was now the "Golden Age" of video games. Perhaps we even live in the middle of it, in a complex universe between console and PC games of the highest graphic quality, with epic storytelling and the almost endless choice between the most diverse types of games, online and offline.

When this world experienced its big bang, from which the expansion of ideas and technologies that continues to this day originated, can be plausibly determined. Since the late 1970s, the market has been growing, starting with arcades, through the introduction of 8-bit home consoles, to the development of sophisticated PC games.

The documentary Netflix series "High Score" looks at precisely this feverish founding phase, in which every technical innovation also caused a creative explosion. In loose chronology, oriented on the one hand to the biggest players on the market, on the other hand to game genres, the history of games is presented in a compact and entertaining way. The best moments of the series are not so much in the big narrative arcs, but in the marginalia. The affectionate and detailed approach to lesser-known personalities from the history of gaming opens the view for the share of gaming in the very principle original promise of the digital world: the openness for every person, no matter what background, what dreams, what traumas. In front of the console, everyone is equal.

One focus of "High Score" is on players and developers who sought to emancipate themselves from experiences of discrimination through games. In the first episode, we meet Rebecca Heinemann, who won the first championship of the classic game "Space Invaders" in 1980 and has since made a name for herself both as a developer and as a trans activist. Ryan Best, programmer of what is believed to be the first LGBT game "GayBlade," was even able to recover a copy of his lost game through the series – at the Berlin Computer Games Museum.

The personal stories, some of them very surprising, are what make "High Score" accessible to an audience beyond total gaming freaks. They are also sufficient compensation for obvious narrative voids and the lack of analytical depth on the economics of the industry.