For those lucky enough to be in the US (or indeed those who come by their television through mystical futuristic means), there’s a new Discovery documentary that should be on everyone’s TIVO/hard drive. Rise Of The Videogame.
Unlike so many programmes about videogames, Rise Of demonstrates a depth of research and work that lifts it above the usually banal, patronising rubbish that television normally produces on the subject. It interviews all the right people, knows to show clips of all the right games, and makes the assumption that you’ve already a basic knowledge of the subject.
The first episode (of five hour-long documentaries) explores the birth of videogaming, and takes the Cold War as its allegorical guide. After discussing oscilloscopes being hacked to play a tennis game, it moves on to the enigmatic Steve Russell talking about how he created Spacewar!, comparing the original nature of gaming (shooting things, missiles, explosions, etc) with the American culture of fear surrounding the tensions with the USSR; how it was, “Born out of Cold War anxiety and nurtured in the era of counterculture.”