Lights... Camera... Atari!
There's a phrase a lot of retrogaming folk use, so much so in fact that it's almost beginning to have no real meaning anymore... It goes like this...'Back in the day!'
Now usually that's somebody talking about a console/computer they grew up with or a individual game but in this Portal trip RGG's co-owner get's to sit down with two very nice people who really are showing the true example of the phrase. You see the subject matter here is that of the actual day itself, the box that connected to the TV that really did start it all. The Atari VCS
So grab some popcorn, maybe a drink, hell make it a meal deal combo and get comfy cause it's time for some genuine history talk!
Have you watched Atari today? Come see history move!
Now it maybe obvious here by name alone, but the team here at RetroGameGeeks are a bit geeky when it comes to retro video games. Part of that geekdom for me also revolves around film, too - to the point where I studied it for a big chunk o' my life.
Filmmaking is also a hobby and obvious aspiration. So what's the best way to meld these interests in to one sassy package? How about a kick ass documentary series that focuses on the history of gaming from day one! Welcome Daryl and Jeanette, creators of World 1-1, as we discuss personal gaming histories and the journey through the creation of one of the coolest retro docs the scene has, well, seen...
Retro Videogames + Camera x Pioneers = Memories!
RGG: Howdy folks, fancy introducing yourselves in short for the RGG readers?
Jeanette: I'm Jeanette. I’m a writer and filmmaker and enjoy movies, books, music and video games.
Daryl: And I’m Daryl, a filmmaker and video gamer from Miami, FL.
RGG: Let’s jump straight into it; what is the story behind World 1-1, how did this all start?
Daryl: A few years ago we read Replay by Tristan Donovan on the history of video games. We immediately fell in love and decided that these stories should be told in film format. We picked the Atari story and years later decided that Kickstarter was the way to go.
RGG: The initial and successful Kickstarter campaign started in 2013, how far along was pre-production at that point and how integral was the crowd-funding platform?
Daryl: We were in the development phase of the project, drafting the script for narration, doing research, and getting a list of interviewees. We started to schedule, even though we didn't know if we would get funded or not. We had everything set, but we needed the funding to be able to purchase better equipment and travel out there.
RGG: Before getting any further into World 1-1, let’s hear more about you both – what’s YOUR gaming history? How did you get into gaming originally, what was your first console(s), etc?
Jeanette: I grew up in a household that didn't entire accept gaming, so I had to resort to going over to my neighbour’s or cousins' and play what little I could on their NES, SNES and Sega systems. My parents finally caved once the N64 came out. I guess they realized they couldn't really keep from playing games, so why hold back. As a result, I missed out on playing a lot of games and have always been trying to make up for lost time.
Daryl: When I was about two years old I got my hands on an NES. The game was Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt combination cartridge. I’ve been playing video games since then. I have only taken a couple of several month long breaks from gaming, one of them being to finish this film. I discovered the games that came before the NES later on in life as an adult.
RGG: Similarly to the previous, what’s your personal top five retro games, would you say? Any ol’ reason will do!
Jeanette: So many choices let me see...
1. Super Mario Bros.- My first vivid memory of a video game. Being in control of that little guy’s jumps and running after the mushrooms to gain life and powerups was incredible to me.
2. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - The first game I played on my N64. My parents got me the system without a game and my aunt chose Banjo Kazooie. I insisted that I had to play Legend of Zelda first. Loved the world, the characters, the music, and the story. Out of every game I ever played, it had a real lasting effect on me.
3. Tomb Raider on PC - It was one of the few games I had for PC and thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved the Indiana Jonesque traps, treasures and puzzles all experienced by its female lead. Still enjoy those types of games now.
4. Pokemon Yellow for Gameboy Color - The first Pokemon game I got to own without having to borrow someone’s gameboy. I got to catch them all myself and make the choice of who to start with. I’ve always enjoyed that series.
5. Donkey Kong 64 - Loved the gameplay, the ability to play with different characters and the different levels. I had played Donkey Kong on the NES and other systems before, but never like this.
Daryl: I’m not sure what qualifies as “retro”, so I’ll stick to everything before what is considered the sixth generation of consoles.
1. Adventure - One of the first games that let you explore a world instead of getting a high-score. You can get lost in this world, even though it forces you to use your imagination more than most retro games we can think of.
2. Super Mario Bros. - It might have had the most refined gameplay and level design of its time. Even the platformers that came after it paled in comparison to the polish which Nintendo is known for even to this day.
3. Metal Gear Solid - Not sure if this is considered retro, but it is the first time that the video game medium showed me that it can not only be like film, but surpass it in different ways.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - My personal introduction to the Zelda franchise. It might have been a 3D version of LTTP, but it’s world is beautifully realized and the experience stays with me to this day.
5. Earthworm Jim 2 - Not a popular choice, but I have to throw it in there. It overflows with creativity, so much so it seems to turn some people off.
Without these people we would all be playing boardgames!
A picture is worth a thousand words... These one's move!
RGG: Back to the film; what can the RGG readers expect to see with the documentary? In what style/format was it produced?
Daryl: We let the creators of the games and hardware speak for themselves. The movie is mostly them telling their stories, with video of gameplay and photos of the past.
RGG: Me being me (Olly023), I’ve got to fuse in my interest in film here by asking, is there any documentary filmmakers you admire most or are inspired by?
Jeanette: In terms of documentary filmmakers, I really enjoyed Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady's work, Detropia, Kirby Dick's Invisible War. Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line, which was so impacting that it actually released an innocent man from prison, Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing, but I'm sure I'm missing a lot of others.
Daryl: I was inspired by The Thin Blue Line, Hoop Dreams and Burden of Dreams.
RGG: What helped form the decision to start the series off strong with Atari? The title is surely a reference to Super Mario Bros, but Nintendo wasn’t the immediate go-to, clearly, how come? Let us know!
Daryl: Simply because Atari came before Nintendo chronologically. We wanted to start from the beginning, so we start before Atari and move forward.
RGG: Was there any particular interviews you were most proud to procure? A personal hero maybe, or a particular big name from video games history?
Daryl: It was great meeting everyone in the film. We even got hooked up with people that we didn’t know how to get in touch with, and now we are glad to have met them. If you look at film history, it’s impossible to talk to the pioneers of that medium. But with video games it’s still possible to interact with these individuals. One day we won’t be able to do that anymore. With the recent passing of Ralph Baer, we should be thinking about documenting the history of his medium while we still can. This was the idea behind World 1-1.
RGG: Any cool stories from the production you’d like to share with us?
Daryl: We spent a lot of hours filming. Sometimes we filmed the whole day, driving from one location to the next and only having a break when we were setting up. But after we wrapped up, most of our interviewees offered us pizza. Not only did we get to sit and interview them for hours, but we also got to hang out with them for a while afterwards, once the camera was stored away. We got to see Owen's collection and play Major Havoc with him, got to eat some slices with Al and check out his mineral collection. We loved every slice and every chance we got.
RGG: How long was the total work period from pre to post-production? Any mishaps by the time you were in the editing booth (which from experience, is never fun!)? Anything to divulge in that area?
Daryl: It’s been about 1.33 years since we sat down to write the treatment/outline for the documentary. I would say our mishaps happened during filming and not editing. Being a crew of two people isn’t easy. The funniest one has to be the mysterious microphone humming sound that not even some of our interviewees could figure out. (We had to tighten the screw…)
RGG: The film is available via VHX digital release (rent or buy, folks!), but is there any plans for a physical release on DVD/Blu-Ray (or maybe VHS/Betamax, even)?
Daryl: Yes, definitely going to release physical copies in the next few months on both DVD and Bluray.
More of the folk who gave an industry life... And pixels!
Memories to keep forever, just add popcorn!
RGG: What has the reception been like following the film’s release from the retro gaming community? Positive, negative or mixed?
Daryl: Thankfully it's all been positive and incredibly supportive. We're really thankful to those that have purchased our film and then tweeted or messaged us about what they loved about. The 15 or so reviews that have been written so far have all been positive. We haven't really received any negative responses. We did receive a lot of questions about who we chose to be in, how we made those decisions, and why some of the history wasn't covered.
RGG: There have been attempts to chronicle video game history before, some on-going; Retroware’s Video Game Years for example – but what really sets World 1-1 apart, in your opinion(s)?
Daryl: We really love how there is a growing interest in video game history. In our film, we were able to get some of the pioneers themselves to tell their stories directly and focus on a few key games during that time. Some of them have never appeared in a film before. We're glad we got to work with them and document their stories. We worked with the cast to get as much of an insider's view as possible while allowing them to be themselves and share with us what they felt comfortable with.
RGG: World 1-1, as the website and Kickstarter both state; so where to next? Where will your journey through the annals of time take us next? Will it be a specific company or era?
Daryl: We would like to move into the rise of PC Gaming, Nintendo's prominence and their rivalry with Sega.
RGG: Toward the beginning of this interview you were asked your first console(s) and favourite games – but do you have a favourite era, in relation to that? A certain period that speaks to you (both) most?
Jeanette: For me, I would say it was the era of N64 because it was the one I was able to finally have on my own and explore on my own time, not someone else's. I also loved what the PlayStation had to offer. To be honest, seeing the changes that video games have gone through has been spectacular. So many things can be done with this medium that it's almost limitless compared to other forms of entertainment and art out there.
Daryl: I would say it’s the first 3D era. Doom, Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario 64, etc. I played a lot of games during this time and it showed me a glimpse of the inevitable future.
RGG: Thank you very much for taking time out to speak with us at RetroGameGeeks, is there anything you’d like to add? Also, just to sneak this in there somewhere – if you ever want some international flavour to add to a future production, we here at RGG are always open (nudge nudge, wink wink)!
Daryl: Thanks for having us. Be sure to stay in touch with us. Supporting us on this film will help better ensure that we can keep making films like these. We'll definitely keep RetroGameGeeks in mind! [*winks*]
RGG: Thanks again and the final question that needs answering is an old favourite coming out of retirement like an old prize fighter…Sonic or Mario?
Jeanette: Mario will always have a special place in my heart. Not only did he look like and have the same name as my grandfather, but he was the first character I met in video games.
Daryl: Mario all the way. No offence to Sonic, who had amazing games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Adventure. But the gameplay in Super Mario World is king compared to the Genesis games.
National 'Hug a games industry legend day' begins...
RetroGameGeeks Final Thoughts...
I'm gonna start this final part with a bit of a song quote... 'In the beginning was a world, man said let there be more light!' I always loved that song (Eighth Day by Hazel O'Connor in case you ain't down with music - Psh) but I always thought it would be better if somehow she would have got into the lyric sheet something like 'Man said let there be more Atari!'
I may be slightly bias here based on my own humble up-bringing but there is a reason the VCS or 2600 is always the poster child for the videogame industry. It may not have been the first way of playing games and it may not now be the best looking but it's impact is very much like the stars that make up the universe itself, it shines bright way past it's greatest flare. It's a subject matter that will always be relevant no matter how we do or indeed do not play videogames. Put in plain terms the VCS is to the games industry what the introduction of speech was to the movie industry.
In a retro scene obsessed with the 8-Bit and 16-bit Nintendo formats, especially in the US where if you ask most gamers they will tell you the NES saved everything (...sigh) It's an absolute treat to kick back and get back in touch with all the memories this incredible machine gave to not just me but my Mum & Dad who is responsible in so many ways for bringing me into this hobby. For now let's put to the side the simply blasphemous lines on how Mario is better than Sonic (you're gonna get yours soon on that Jeanette and Daryl lol) and just revel in some down to earth vintage retrogaming appreciation.
Rather than just another Youtube video with some 20 year old banging on about the same old stuff we already know that most days feels like it's cut & pasted from Wikipedia, this is a tale of two young fans wanting to speak not to some annoying talentless internet celebrity but the people who got us all here. From the creators of the hardware, the business people behind it's push and best of all the men and Women who took chips and buttons and made vibrant incredible worlds to play around in this is a celebration of appreciation of scene elevation. In so many way's this is like coming home, to find someone has put the kettle on and your favourite cake is on a plate.
A film to educate, without doubt this does have a business face on but the way it's presented and the message behind it all is that one should never forget to keep talking about those who carried everything forward. Where would we all be without Atari and the pioneers behind it? Do yourself a favour and make sure you see this feature, it's rare for something with such a high production value to remain so down to earth, honest and humble. Hard work and good intentions seldom come together especially in the retrogaming scene right now. It's also a real treat to get to see the people who built the walls around your childhood, keeping you not just safe but keeping you entertained enough to last a lifetime.