Ever wonder who designed your favourite childhood games? Ever ponder who gave the iconic designs to so much of pop-culture nostalgia — from Raster Blaster to Lucasfilm’s Loom? Well, it was not just the blank face of a corporation. Talented individuals produced multi-million dollar games but often went without recognition. The Artists: The Untold History of Video Games (Peter Mishara, 2018), adapted from the 10-part CBC documentary series, gives an eclectic look into the fascinating lives of these programmers and designers. This film tells the story, chapter by chapter, of the numerous obstacles they faced while fighting for their creative recognition and integrity.
Dusting off the ol’ vintage television set, the viewer is welcomed into the niche world of the 70’s aesthetic and game design subculture. However, The Artists’ contemporary lens allows one to see the tumultuous topics with the benefit of hindsight. Such hindsight is aided by major figures in the past (and current) field of video games — designers and executives alike. This documentary displays a domain that elevated the rogue underdog while holding conflicted views on inclusivity; this is exemplified by the career of revolutionary computer programmer, Danielle Bunten Berry. The Artists also highlights game designer Chris Crawford’s views on the struggle between corporate capital gains and creative exploration. Care and passion seamlessly bind together these wide-ranging topics into the heartstring-pulling, intriguing, and well-rounded film production it is.
Director Peter Mishara, who said at the Q&A following the screening that has been ”invested in stories” since his youth, displays his ability as an eloquent storyteller with The Artists. Therefore, whether you are an artist, a gamer, or just imbued with curiosity, this film will not disappoint. The Artists delves deeply into its subject matter and into the hearts of its viewers by caring deeply about the individual behind the institution. Looking forward, Mishara hopes that the independent game industry will focus on expanding “breadth over depth” in order to push for innovative audience experiences.
The Artists: The Untold History of Video Games will be available on The Documentary Channel (date TBA) and can be viewed as a series through the CBC website.