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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that High Score is a docuseries that explores the history of classic video games. While it touches on some of the scandals and speed bumps the medium has overcome, the show is generally a celebration of the popular pastime. Violence is restricted to in-game depictions but can be graphic, especially in episodes focused on fighting and shooting games. Profanity is infrequent, limited to the words "s--t" and "crappy." Some mature subjects, such as drugs (weed) and sex ("hooking up") are referenced, but not detailed. Featured interview subjects represent diversity in both race and gender, including a transgender person who benefited mentally from their love of games.
What's the story?
HIGH SCORE is a six-part docuseries tracing the history of classic video games, from the creation of classic arcade cabinets in the late '70s to the popularity of the first-person shooter genre in the early '90s. On top of featuring a number of in-depth interviews with industry professionals, the series profiles several adult fans who competed in sponsored game tournaments when they were kids. Archival footage and classic commercials are used extensively, as are reenactments, which have been adorably crafted to look like old-school video games.
Is it any good?
This series attempts to chronicle the history of classic video games in a way that's as informative as it is entertaining. And it mostly succeeds, offering an absorbing mix of in-depth interviews with industry luminaries and profiles of lesser-known pro gamers who were competing long before the esports industry existed. Whether you're curious about the genesis of Sonic the Hedgehog, the history of Nintendo's famed game counselors, or how role-playing games transformed from text-based adventures to sprawling, open-world epics, you'll find High Score is as addictive as Tetris. That said, the explored history -- beginning with the creation of quarter-munching classic Space Invaders -- will appeal most to fans who spent their formative years in mall arcades or at home, tethered to a Nintendo Entertainment System. Younger gamers expecting Fortnite tips or interviews with their favorite streamers will probably want to stick with YouTube.
The greatest compliment we can heap on High Score also points to its biggest flaw: We wish it was longer. Rather than concluding with the rise of the first-person shooter, why not take us into the 2010s and beyond? And while a second season would address our longing for more episodes, it likely won't fill the current one's gaps. As entertaining as the series is, it's far from comprehensive. The segment on Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, for example, is fantastic, but without mention of his post-EA ventures -- including the creation of his own game console -- it feels a bit too cherry-picked. High Score doesn't deliver a complete, comprehensive history of video games, but it's still a nostalgia-packed blast that gamers "of a certain age" will eat up like Pac-Man pellets.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how video games have changed. How has the medium's technology advanced to produce more realistic experiences? What age and audience are video games aimed at today compared to who they were made for in the '70s and '80s? What different types of games are available today that weren't back then?
What are the various roles of the industry professionals who are featured? What career paths are available in video games today? What are the pros and cons of pursuing a career based on a favorite hobby?
How has professional gaming evolved over the years? Is playing video games professionally a viable career? What sort of education and training is required to pursue a career in esports?
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