Thank goodness for High Score episode 3. After episode 2, I was worried that it was a one hit fluke. Even early in this episode, I started to wonder if it was going to be worth my time. Even though it took a bit to warm, up, eventually I was sold again. Plus, it looks like episode 4 is about SEGA!
This one centered around role playing games and their impact on video gaming history. I have been a role playing game enthusiast since I discovered Dungeons and Dragons through The Elven Nations trilogy. I then read the Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends and I was hooked.
Ken and Roberta Williams – “Nerds in Love”
This is the part of the episode that I thought was going to continue the slide into mediocrity. It was a story of a man and a woman who bonded over their mutual love for both role playing games and programming. Actually, I think only one of them was a programmer. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised.
I don’t know if I just had a hangover from the Nintendo episode or what. But, initially, I reacted quite viscerally to this love story. However, as they both told their story and the episode incorporated more stories into the tapestry and I walked out with a warm and fuzzy feeling for these two people. Good story and great story telling.
Dungeons and Dragons – “Cult Following”
As soon as they mentioned Dungeons and Dragons in the episode, I knew they’d drag up the old Satanist fears. Granted, they telegraphed their move a bit by calling it a “game with a cult following”. Plus, the mention was minor and barely even registered. I was much more bothered by their coverage of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. I don’t mean how they covered it. Simply, it brought up bad memories and made me realize, yet again, that we simply don’t learn from our pasts.
Random Fact: It’s been a while since I’ve had one of these. But, it’s one of the few “fun” facts that I have from the wild and crazy D&D games of my youth that people will actually care to hear. The “Satanic cult” rumors about the game traveled so far and wide that the company (TSR at the time) chose to change the name of their Wicca to Wokani out of respect to the witches. So, those of you who say that WotC are being to PC. They might be, but D&D has a long history of being inclusive.
Final Fantasy – “Born of Art”
Final Fantasy has been with me almost as long as Dungeons and Dragons. I played the original Final Fantasy Legend I and II on the original Game Boy. Yes, that green screened monolith of portable gaming entertainment. The Final Fantasy Legend I, along with Final Fantasy 3 (V in Japan, I think…nope, VI), are two of the best games that I’ve ever played. I don’t know if I’d put them both in my top 5, but they’re definitely top 10.
The most interesting part of this story was the way that they introduced the game. They showed and talked to an artist. Even though I didn’t remember his name, I knew as soon as I saw his art exactly what game they were talking about. It’s just so iconic. Even though back in the 8-bit days, it barely did him any justice, you could still see the seeds of that art in those tiny sprites. Also, he was a good sport about it and said the conversion process made them “cute”.
Gay Blade – “The Game is the Quest”
I alluded to this section earlier when I talked about their coverage of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It is told through the context of a gay and lesbian RPG created by a programmer named Ryan Best. I’d never heard of the game before, so the entire story behind the creation, loss, and subsequent discovery of the game again was truly inspiring. I’ve found a link to the game, so I’m probably going to download and play through.
Well, during the story, they went through the 1980s and the reaction to the AIDS crisis. There was the whole gamut of the “AIDS is God’s retribution for homosexuality” from the right wing nutters of the day. Note: Many of those nutters or their proteges are still alive today. So, I’m not sure why I expected things to have changed. But, this story affected me deeply and I found myself crying during the telling.
The Verdict (High Score episode 3 is a redemption)
After the let down of episode 2, I was questioning my undying support of the series. Even early in High Score episode 3, I wondered if the first episode was just a fluke. I’m glad that I didn’t overreact and turn it off. This episode was amazing. And, I can say with utmost confidence that episode 4 is fun as hell, too. Join me next time when I review probably my favorite time in history, the Sega/Nintendo rivalry.