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High Score

I’ve been a gamer my entire life, so I know quite a bit of trivia. Here are some basic facts that pretty much every gamer knows: The American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was really a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic. In Japan’s version of Street Fighter II, M. Bison is Vega, Vega is Balrog, and Balrog is M. Bison. And Nintendo essentially helped create the Playstation when they commissioned Sony to make a new disc-based system for them, but then backed out at the last minute, causing Sony to create their own system. But in the recent Netflix documentary High Score, even this ancient gamer learned something new.

This is really exciting for me since I thought I knew pretty much everything about gaming history. But in the Netflix docuseries, which is 6 episodes long and covers the span of early arcade games to about the N64 era (though almost entirely neglects Playstation’s contribution to gaming), I’ve learned a few things here and there. Now, granted, I think some episodes are better than others—the fighting game episode is kind of weak—but overall, I think it’s a pretty good documentary for those who don’t know much about gaming. So, here are 5 video game facts that I learned from watching the documentary. Heaven or Hell. Duel 1. Let’s rock! (Bonus points if you can tell me what game that’s from).

Space Invaders

The Aliens In Space Invaders Were Really Modeled After Sea Creatures

In the very first episode, “Boom and Bust,” we learn that Space Invaders creator, Tomohiro Nishikado, actually got the inspiration for the aliens in the game from sea creatures. The small aliens are modeled after squids, the medium ones after crabs, and the big ones after octopi. He got the idea for these kinds of aliens from H.G. Wells’s aliens in The War of the Worlds, as their Martian fighting machines resembled giant squids. Pretty cool!

I’ve played Space Invaders many times and have those aliens ingrained in my brain. But never once did I question what the inspiration for their design actually came from. In fact, do you remember that Adam Sandler movie, Pixels? The one where Josh Gad has sex with Q*Bert (Yes). Yeah, well, I really couldn’t stand that movie. But if they included video game trivia like this, then maybe I would have liked it a little bit more. Or rather, maybe I wouldn’t have felt like I had wasted my time watching it.

Jerry Lawson

The First Video Game Cartridge Ever Was Created By A Black Man

Wow, now this one really blew me away since I always associate the first cartridges with Atari. But in the same episode, “Boom and Bust,” I learned that the very first video game cartridge system, The Channel F, was created by a black man named Jerry Lawson.

My only question is this: Why don’t they teach you that during Black History Month? I mean, yes, of course we should be learning about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglas, etc. But if I knew that the very first cartridge-based system ever created was by a black man, then it would have blown my mind back when I was a kid. I’m really glad this documentary decided to highlight Mr. Lawson, since I likely would have gone my whole life not knowing about him.

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-Man Was Created Because Of A Lawsuit

In Episode 1 again, we learn that the popular arcade game, Ms. Pac-Man, was actually created by 3 MIT drop-outs who had modded the original Pac-Man, and were being sued because of it. Actually, they were being sued before this for modding Missile Command, but modding Pac-Man was the final straw, and Namco sued them for it. But instead of going all the way in court, the suits at Namco said they were impressed and had the 3 drop-outs proceed with creating this new Pac-Man game. Far out.

I knew there was something different about Ms. Pac-Man’s creation, but I didn’t know it was birthed from a lawsuit. I also didn’t know that the modding “community” really started with only 3 dudes from MIT. If you don’t know, modding is when you go into a game’s code and alter it in ways to change it in some way, like by making it more difficult or adding in characters to an already existing game. Modding is huge today, and I didn’t know it all began with Missile Command and Ms. Pac-Man. That’s awesome.

Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar

Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar Is The Game That Changed RPGs Forever

In Episode 3, “Role Players,” we learn that Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar (No, not that Avatar) is the Role Playing game that really changed everything forever by making the quest and story more about making choices than trying to save the world. Its creator, Richard Garriott, said he didn’t like that he was seeing gamers making bad decisions in other RPGs, like breaking into houses and killing NPCs. So he wanted to make a game where you had to make positive choices in order to beat the game, thus creating story-based gaming that would be implemented in pretty much every RPG down the line.

I wasn’t really playing RPGs in the early 80s since I was born in ’83, but since RPGs are one of my favorite genres, and I love that making choices is huge a big part of them, I had no idea that Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar was the game that I had to thank for that. Thanks, Richard Garriott!

Madden 93

Sega Made Sports Games A Priority To Beat Nintendo In The Console Wars

Lastly, in Episode 4, “This is War,” we learn that the first Sega of America CEO, Tom Kalinske, had a killer plan to outsell Nintendo of America. I knew that Sonic the Hedgehog was a part of that plan, but I didn’t know that having lots of sports titles was also a part of that plan. I always knew Sega as “the sports system” when I was growing up, but I didn’t know that it was intentional.

I had both a Genesis and a SNES growing up (Sorry!). But since I’m an RPG guy, I preferred the SNES. But all my Genesis friends would brag that the SNES didn’t have as many sports titles as the Genesis, which was fine by me. Who needs NHL 95 when you have Chrono Trigger, instead?

And those are just 5 things I learned from the documentary. Here’s hoping that there’s a season 2 of High Score, and that we finally get some Playstation love!

Which company do you think is the most important when it comes to video games as a whole?
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