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Once Upon Atari - thoughts?

Old 06-10-04, 01:48 PM
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Once Upon Atari - thoughts?

Being a child of the 80's, I loved Atari as a kid. So this documentary has all kinds of apeal to me. I was wondering if anyone had picked it up? How is it? How long is it? Any jucy extras? Did you get it for 30 through the onceuponatari.com page, or did you find it cheaper somewhere else.

Tell me peanut gallery - what say you!
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Old 06-10-04, 02:07 PM
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This site actually has a pretty detailed review:

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=7756


I've been hoping to find this on eBay or somewhere for a good deal, but no luck yet.

I may just fork over the $30 at some point. Hard to do right now when there is so much sitting unwatched on my shelf...
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Old 06-10-04, 02:15 PM
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I know - silly me, look for a review AFTER posting this thread. Still, it only serves to confirm that the video is for me.

Pity about the hard to find nature. If it was 20 bucks, I'd snap it up in a shot. But that 30 buck price point is reserved for stuff I *REALLY* want and cant get elsewhere.

I'll let you know if I find it anywhere cheaper. (After I get my copy, that is )
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Old 06-10-04, 02:45 PM
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I'm renting it from NicheFlix.com ... It shows as Available Shortly, so sooner or later I'll get to see it.
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Old 06-11-04, 06:00 AM
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Thanks...I may have to ask for this for my birthday!
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Old 06-11-04, 01:55 PM
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I picked it up for 30.00 at ThinkGeek. Being a child of the 80's, and a big video game lover, I enjoyed it. It's mostly video of interviews taped ~1999(?) not nearly enough pictures of actual 'back in the day'. Atari sounds like it was a hell of a place to work for a period of time, no way you could run a place like that today - 'tho I'd love to. 4 30 minute episodes.
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Old 06-11-04, 11:11 PM
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once upon me?

this looks awesome!
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Old 06-12-04, 12:35 AM
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I didn't even know this existed - thanks for pointing it out op! I'll definitely be picking it up.
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Old 06-12-04, 01:01 AM
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Well, after extensive searching (really some quick googling and the usual suspects), it seems that the best price is indeed 30. The market seems limited to getting direct from HSW's page: http://www.onceuponatari.com/

Oh well, I just got paid today. What the hell.
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Old 12-08-04, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by GatorDeb
I'm renting it from NicheFlix.com ... It shows as Available Shortly, so sooner or later I'll get to see it.
So did you ever rent it? How is it?

And no - I never got around to picking it up. Soon, I says, soon.
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Old 12-08-04, 08:10 PM
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I have every 2600 game on my PC. No need for a documentary on them.
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Old 12-08-04, 09:36 PM
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I'm embarrased to admit (but will do it anyway) that I found it for $25 about 5 months ago... so I bought it. And I have yet to watch the fucking thing.

Anyway, it seems really cool. I'm sure I'll love it. Someday.
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Old 12-08-04, 10:08 PM
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I'm more interested in the coin-op part of the games business. Does this documentary mainly just focus on the home systems?
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Old 12-09-04, 12:07 AM
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Spike TV ran a good documentary called "Video Game Invasion" earlier this year, which included coin-ops and home systems.
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Old 12-09-04, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Disc-Flipper
Spike TV ran a good documentary called "Video Game Invasion" earlier this year, which included coin-ops and home systems.
And to further compound my embarrassment, I own *this* one on DVD too. And have yet to watch it.
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Old 12-09-04, 11:38 AM
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Sweet - I had no idea that Video Game Invasion even existed. But finding it for 10 bucks at Overstock, what the hell, huh? If I get around to watching it before you 'vert, I'll post and tell you guys how it is.

As for the Atari doc - well, I might see if Santa would be willing to leave something in my stocking for me. . . .
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Old 12-09-04, 11:54 AM
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There's also a nice show you can catch on PBS sometimes that tracks the history of the video game, from coin-op to households.

The Video Game Revolution
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Old 12-29-04, 03:00 AM
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Since Once Upon Atari was covered for the review section (a great disc, BTW - highly recommended), I thought I'd post a review of Video Game Invasion that I did for another site.

A lot has happened over the last Twenty five years. We've had five presidents, three major music styles have come and gone (Disco, New Wave and Grunge), and two shuttles blow up. We've had wars, Rubick's Cubes, TV's that are bigger and computers that are smaller. And video games have gone from two lines and a dot to full blown graphical immersion experiences.

I remember my first video game experience. It must have been sometime around 1976 or so, and my mother took me on a trip to Sears. They had a small arcade - not more than three machines. The other two I don’t remember, but the one that caught my eye was a gunfighter game. Two men fought with guns (hence the name) in the old west. The graphics were primitive - the "men" were two stick figures with vaguely cowboy hat shaped heads. The terrain was a covered wagon that moved up and down in the center, and a cigaro cactus. It was primitive, but it was fascinating. Of course I've been addicted ever since (the culmination of which is a job working at Electronic Arts playtesting video games). Which is why the disc "Video Game Invasion: The History of a Global Obsession" was so damn interesting. I've grown up with the things.

On the other hand, for most adults an in-depth examination of the history of video games might seem as relevant as a documentary about the Etch-a-Sketch or a roundtable discussion on the merits of plastic slinkys vs metal slinkys. I mean isn't video games the hobby of the unwashed nerd who live in their parents basement?

Well, to pass over the disc because of the subject matter would be a shame. "Video Game Invasion" provides fascinating insights into the earliest days of video games, including interviews with some of the key players including Odyssey investor Ralph Baer and Atari founder Nolan Bushnell.

It begins in 1958 with Willy Higginbotham, the invention of the Atomic Bomb and Tennis. You see, Willy invented the very first video game. It was a played on the five inch screen of an oscilloscope, and was barely a game at all. It was clumsy, it was inelegant, it was barely playable, and it was light-years away from the X-Box - but indeed it was a video game. Now to be fair, some sources cite Ralph Baer as inventing the video game some years earlier in 1951. But the documentary glosses over any controversy - leaving us with Willy as the grandfather of Video Games. This is one of the many unfortunate omissions that get overlooked in the next two hours. But we'll get to that in a little bit.

From there on Videogame Invasion gets a lot better. In addition to interviews with Nolan Bushnell and Ralph Baer, we get screen time with developers like John Romero (of Doom fame) Peter Molyneaux (Populace, amongst some) and industry moguls like Trip Hawkins (the founder of Electronic Arts many years ago). Rounding out the mix are folks like gaming journalists like Dan “Shoe” Hsu from Electronic Gaming Monthly and GameGirlAdvance’s Jane Pinckard.

The history lesson is pretty extensive. The program goes all the way back to the Willie and the first game, or the Odyssey system - the very first home video game system. The system was black-and-white with color overlays that stuck to the television with static electricity. And of course history lesson would be complete without the rise and fall of the 800 pound gorilla: Atari. From the company creation by Nolan Bushnell, to the exodus of then-under-appreciated game designers and the formation of Activision - the first-ever third party video game company - it's all laid out in rather in-depth detail.

Brief aside - the perfect companion piece to Video Game Invasion is a disc called Once Upon Atari - a 2 hour documentary produced by Howard Scott Warshaw (who produced Yars Revenge AND was responsible for the game that is often blamed for single handedly bringing down a multi-billion dollar industry: ET, the Extra Terrestrial). This documentary features discussions with all kinds of Atari programmers, managers and founder Bushnell. While a much lower budget (and less slick feeling) production, It's much more detailed that Video Game Invasion. The glimpses into the madness that surrounded the creative minds at Atari - the pot, the drinking, the antics, the sex - is straight from the insiders is also extremely fascinating. Sadly, it's a niche market disc, and hard to find. HWS sells it directly from his website, and you can find it on thinkgeek.com - but that’s it. Still, it's worth seeking out - if not for getting the other half of the story. But I digress. . .

Video Game Invasion is strongest during its first half, as it described the industries first steps. Indeed young viewers will probably get a kick out of just how much excitement America could get from an electronic ball bouncing back and forth between two paddles, or the early years of Nintendo, the genesis of Stubborn Gorilla (AKA Donkey Kong). As the program moves beyond the 1980's and into the 1990's, it begins to lose its focus. Some of the controversies - such as attacks on video game violence by Senator Lieberman are breezed past without too much detail or analysis. Or how the Sega's Genesis is covered, but their flawed entry into the video game system market --The Sega Master System-- and the ripple effect it had on the company (the under performance of the Dreamcast and the company's exit from the hardware market) is barely discussed at all. Oh - and one final gripe? With all the games, systems and companies mentioned, how could they overlook Dragon's Lair? Love it or hate it, it was indeed a paradigm shift in video gaming. To skip over it completely is a serious disservice. Ah well. . . .

Still all said, the program is impressive how much is covered here. While this is a lot of ground to cover and the show should be considered the abridged Reader's Digest version of the history of gaming, it's pretty complete, not to mention Informative as well as entertaining.

THE VIDEO -
In that the documentary was shown on Game Show Network was broadcast in early 2004 and released in late 2004, one would expect that it looks slick and clean. That would indeed be the case - the video and sound look great.

THE EXTRAS -
The DVD includes a fair amount of extras, considering the made-for-TV source. The Tony Hawk interview, while pretty short, does show that he enjoys games (beyond the paycheck that Activision cuts for him every year). He's a pretty thoughtful dude. The clips compiled from the interviewees in the show about their first and/or favorite video game is a pretty good glimpse into what the industry insiders consider good. There is an interview with Peter Molyneaux about how games can sometimes take a life of their own. Included also is clip from Trip Hawkins about Bird vs Doctor J - One on One and the birth of EA sports (I wonder what Trip of 1980 would have thought of the monster that EA has grown into and their exclusive NFL contract). And finally rounding out the package are two commercials from when the special first ran.

THE LAST WORD -
While video games are not for everyone, one could hardly deny their importance in our lives. As a historical overview, Video Game Invasion: The History of a Global Obsession is a pretty good snapshot of that evolutionary process. When coupled with the Once Upon Atari documentary, the viewer will walk away with a pretty complete picture of how we got here.
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Old 12-29-04, 03:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Disc-Flipper
Spike TV ran a good documentary called "Video Game Invasion" earlier this year, which included coin-ops and home systems.
Looks like this one is available as a rental at Netflix
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