World 1-1 Review

Screen capture from World 1-1 documentary of Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari
Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of (the original) Atari

  • Review by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Lighthouse
  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Release Date: 15 January 2015
  • Duration: 131 minutes

After enjoying the documentary Double Fine Adventure on the Steam Link, I was wondering what other videos I could watch on Steam. While there are now over 500 videos on Steam, not many of them have actually caught my attention as many are indie slasher flicks, B-grade films, etc. Even the documentaries aren't that appealing to me since most seem to involve e-sports, however there are a few exceptions such as World 1-1.

I have quite an interest in gaming history so it was no surprise that World 1-1 ended up on my wishlist after I decided watching more videos on my Steam Link was something I wanted to continue doing. Recently there was a Devolver Digital publisher sale on which meant that World 1-1 was a whopping 80% off; it was an offer too good to pass up so I got it.

What I like:


Insight into a gaming era I knew little about

My gaming prime time were the early 90s so I know a lot about the games back then and a little bit about the developers that set up franchises I played in the 90s too such as Ultima, King's Quest, Quest for Glory, Police Quest and Space Quest (a lot of Sierra adventures there as you can see). However, the 1970s and early 1980s were a bit before my time and I know hardly anything about this era of gaming; so if you're like me and know nothing or only very little of video gaming in the 1970s and early 1980s, this show will enlighten you – well, at least through the eyes of mainly Atari alumni anyway. You'll find out how video game consoles became commonplace in everybody's home, how far-reaching and successful Atari became; you'll also learn random facts like how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak actually had jobs at Atari (and developed the game Breakout) prior to starting up Apple Inc.

Interviews with a lot of pioneers

A lot of the people interviewed for this documentary were pioneers such as Nolan Bushnell (one of the founders of Atari), Dona Bailey (one of the earliest female video game designers and designer of the game Centipede), Howard Scott Warshaw (who developed some of the first movie tie-ins and worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T.), Al Alcorn (developer of Pong, probably the first ridiculously successful coin-op arcade game) and heaps more. It's fascinating to learn how they worked during the dawn of video gaming.

Are those subtitles?

Subtitles are very handy when you have noisy distractions or when it's difficult to decipher what a particular person in the film is saying. So I'm very glad that the documentary has subtitles.

Accessible

Unlike Double Fine Adventure, this documentary is more accessible to the mainstream gaming audience, probably because it has a balance between hardware and software development, and because a wide range of people are interviewed (i.e. not only Atari alumni but retro gaming enthusiasts and collectors too).

What I dislike:


Ripe for a sequel

The documentary basically spans the early 1970s right up to the 1983 video game crash. While I'm surprised at how so much happened in the gaming industry during that time, I'd really like to see Daryl Rodriguez and Jeanette Garcia work on a “World 1-2" covering the formation of companies like Sierra, Lucasarts, Electronic Arts, etc.

Not episodic

I kind of prefer having 15-30 minute episodes since that would make it easier to slot in watching the video into my regular routine. I had to stop watching a couple of times and resume later (although at least you're able to do that with Steam's streaming video player).

A bit all over the place

While the documentary does follow a rough chronological order, it doesn't follow it strictly and as a result it's sometimes confusing to know when certain games were released or what periods of time the interviewees were discussing.

Score – 8/10 (Recommended)

World 1-1 is an accessible and fascinating look at what was effectively the dawn of video gaming as we know it, mainly through the eyes of Atari alumni and gaming enthusiasts old enough to remember those days. I couldn't find much to fault with it, except that the documentary was feature length and not episodic; the documentary also tends to be unclear about what period in gaming history it's talking about despite it following a roughly chronological path. Besides those minor nit-picks though, the only thing that bothers me is that there isn't a World 1-2 yet! We've covered the 1970s and early 1980s, so now let's cover the 8-bit era (1980s to early 1990s)!

Is the documentary worth $7.99 USD?: No. Maybe if it were $5 USD? At current exchange rates, $8 USD is a bit over $10 AUD for an under 2 hour video; a very good video, but not a very long one. I managed to get this when it was 80% off though and it was an absolute bargain.


If you like this documentary, you might like…

[ LINK: Official World 1-1 Website ]


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