Netflix’s video game history series High Score is at its absolute best when it lets video game creators talk about their creative process, offering a fascinating insight into how someone actually goes from having an idea to turning that idea into a tangible thing that other people can experience and play (even if that thing is the Atari 2600’s awful E.T. video game.) Sometimes these are developers who aren’t famous, like Ryan Best, who created an LGBTQ+ protest RPG called GayBlade about fighting homophobic cops and politician Pat Buchanan that was almost totally lost when Best misplaced his master copy during a move. Other times they’re very famous, provided you’re a fan of PC adventure games, as High Score also features interviews with Ultima creator Richard Garriott (a.k.a. Lord British) and Sierra On-Line founders Ken and Roberta Williams.
Garriott’s games were monumental in terms of choice and making the player feel like part of a larger world, while Ken and Roberta Williams are credited with coming up with the first graphic adventure games—as in, a computer adventure game with graphics instead of simply text. (Kids today have no idea how good they have it.) Roberta Williams actually had no experience with computers whatsoever when she set out to make her first game in the ’70s, but she did have all sorts of ideas about how to tell a story.
In this exclusive clip from High Score, which also features some preliminary scene-setting from narrator Charles Martinet (the voice of Super Mario), Roberta Williams explains that she decided the first step in creating a video game was getting “big pieces of paper” and looking at the board games she was familiar with so she could figure out how to take that concept and attach an actual narrative to it. From there, games like the King’s Quest series and Phantasmagoria were born.
High Score will be available on Netflix on August 19.