Oh my god look at how long that title is! That has to be our new record.
Anyway, for this second installment I wanted to go with this DVD as it was actually the first of all these I bought myself. Released in 2007, I picked it up not long after as it was something I had been waiting for and thought I would never see up until that point.
Let’s take a look at Classic Game Room: The Rise and Fall of the Internet’s Greatest Video Game Review Show. After that I vow to never type out the title in its entirety again for the remainder of this article.
Fun fact – I was amongst those who actually watched The Game Room back in 1999/2000 when they were making new episodes. Out of the 80 or so episodes produced, I have to say I watched damn near all of them. It was a fun show, and it’s strange to think back to a version of the Internet where nobody else was really doing this. Right now if I was craving a review of X-Men for the Sega Genesis, which I so often am, I would simply type it into YouTube and receive likely dozens of entries. Back then, YouTube wasn’t even a god damn thing. The Game Room was my one option.
In addition, I was also one of the people who spent the years following 2000 wondering where the show went and occasionally taking some time to try and track down some of the episodes I remembered fondly. Alas, I never had any luck and eventually the show left my mind. That is until I accidently stumbled upon this DVD on Amazon, no doubt while making my usual purchases of Unauthorized Limp Bizkit documentaries (doesn’t matter in what form) and lubricant. It was a pretty immediate purchase since after all these years I was eager to revisit the show I so fondly remember.
So…is it worth it?
The first thing to note, and it’s pretty clear from the actual title of the DVD, is that this is not simply a DVD that is loaded up with episodes of the Game Room. You do get a good selection of episodes in their entirety, but this is actually a documentary that focuses on the show’s rise in popularity, followed by its rather fast demise and the reasons why it happened. The whole thing is done by Mark Bussler, one of the two stars of the original series, the other being David Crosson, who is sadly not featured in any of the footage shot for the documentary.
The story of Game Room’s rise and fall is actually pretty interesting. Like many websites back in the earlier days of the Internet, the site USAlive.com where the Game Room was housed planned to lose some money up front only to make up for it later with advertising and sponsors. Needless to say things don’t go quite as planned and we hear the details of exactly how things go wrong. There are no shocking revelations or “holy shit” plot twists, the story plays out as you would expect. I mean it’s right there in the title. But seeing as I wasn’t particularly interested in the documentary aspect at the beginning (it does have a slow start I’ll admit), what is there is actually quite engaging. Ok with one exception that I almost feel bad complaining about.
Since the days of Classic Game Room Mark Bussler has shifted his focus over to shooting historical documentaries based on subjects such as World War I and Gettysburg. That’s great and he seems to genuinely enjoy what he does, which is fantastic. The problem is that these various documentaries are referenced and featured more than a handful of times throughout the documentary. Obviously it’s important to include what he is up to now, but it’s mentioned consistently throughout the film’s running time. It’s such a minor nitpick that I almost wasn’t going to bother even mentioning it, but I guess I should warn people that your documentary featuring classic video games will also every now and then include footage of people riding horses through creeks.
While this can definitely be classified as a documentary, I would say new footage only makes up about 30% of the film’s 100 minute running time. The rest is full of footage from Classic Game Room. There are 10 full length episodes spread across the course of the movie, and they are as follows:
Duck Hunt for NES
X-men for Sega Genesis
Joust for Playstation
Sega GT for Dreamcast
Frogger for Atari 2600
Seaman for Dreamcast
Missile Command for Playstation
Perfect Dark for Nintendo 64
Yars’ Revenge for Atari 2600
Alien for Atari 2600
As someone who watched the show back in its heyday, I can say that many of these are the episodes you would definitely want. X-men, Duck Hunt and Seaman were always the ones I remembered best so it was a nice surprise to see them included here in full. Some of them I think I would have swapped out, such as Missile Command and Yars’ Revenge, but for the most part you can easily see why these were selected as the episodes to highlight. The actual reviews themselves strike a good balance between comedy and actual information about the game. The humour is definitely more hit than miss, with the Seaman episode being a particular standout. Both Mark and Dave are clearly passionate and knowledgeable about video games and are clearly having a blast doing the show. Their enthusiasm is infectious, making the show a very fun watch
In addition to the full episodes, various clips, montages and outtakes from the show are scattered throughout the movie so you really do get a taste of what the show was all about.
This is a more of a side note but does anyone remember if the episodes were censored back when they originally aired? I can’t recall for sure, but they are definitely censored here. It doesn’t hinder the experience at all, if anything it might make the X-Men episode a little funnier. It’s just strange to see an angry video game review that tries to tone down the language.
As much as I did enjoy the documentary, I can’t help but view it as almost a tease. This is only 10 full episodes, there’s still dozens more out there. I remember highly enjoying reviews such as Ecco the Dolphin and there was some good material focused on the Atari Jaguar. Both of these are featured here in small doses however. Yes all of the original episodes are now easily available through YouTube as Classic Game Room has been revived there, but I would be willing to pay upwards of….some amount of dollars for a box set of all the episodes. Maybe throw some commentary tracks on there and I’ll totally get behind that. Seeing as this came out 4 years ago however, chances are slim by this point. For what we get, though pretty damn good.
Classic Game Room: Whole Lot More Words comes in a standard DVD case with an insert inside listing the chapter/featured reviews. The actual DVD is professionally pressed as well. All in all, I may regret committing myself to talking about the physical packaging for these DVDs because look at this.
The DVD menu is strange. It takes about 30 seconds of old black and white footage of deep sea divers before the actual menu options pop in and you keep waiting for the relevance of them to show up at some point during the film but it never really does. Just…odd.
As promised….yea it looks pretty good. The old footage definitely looks a little rougher than the new stuff but that is to be expected. Hey look that’s an actual comment! I feel so proud.
The main bonus feature is a commentary track by Mark Bussler that for the most part is a good listen. You do get some extra tidbits such as episodes they had planned or even half finished when the plug was suddenly pulled on the show. There’s also a lot of nostalgia talk around the video games Mark has fond memories of. You do get more talk about the historical documentaries, and there are some quiet patches here and there, but it’s definitely worth a listen if you’re a fan of the show.
Beyond the commentary track we get a handful of additional content. There’s some behind the scenes featurettes that were surprisingly technical but nonetheless interesting. There’s an additional review for Berzerk for the Atari 2600 which is merely ok. It’s not actually a classic episode but one that was newly done for the DVD, so it lacks that special something I feel. Finally we have trailers for, yes indeed, the historical documentaries. As much as they may not interest me personally, I really can’t fault their presence here, the man should be allowed to promote his work.
Is It Worth It?
Right now you can buy this DVD on Amazon for 13.99, which is a solid price for the content you are getting. I would say this is an easy recommendation for anyone like me who watched the show back in its heyday and is looking to revisit it. It’s a shame not to have more episodes in full but the documentary element is interesting (and not available online so there’s some extra purchasing motivation right there) and the episodes here are well selected and do a good job of representing the show. Plus you get a handful of solid bonus content, with the obvious standout being the commentary track by Mark Bussler. If you are not familiar with the show I would say hit up the Classic Game Room YouTube channel and check out a couple of the original episodes. If you like what you see then hey, you can’t go wrong with this DVD.
For each of these reviews I will be showing at least a part of it to my wife in order to get a quick perspective from someone who is not that familiar (if at all familiar) with the material.
What did my wife think? - "Entertaining parts, but a little boring."