Overview: Talking heads illustrate the earliest stages of video games and the rise and fall of Atari. Unrated; 132 Minutes.
For Non-Video Game Fans: The difficulty in assessing the film value in documentaries about a finely specific topic lies in the awareness that, typically, the audience’s pre-existing relationship with the focal subject matter will influence their ability to enjoy the film. It can be tricky. With World 1-1, the new Kickstarted documentary from Directors Jeannette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez, there is certainly a direct appeal to the modern and traditional fan of video games, but there is plenty to take away, even for those who are video game ignorant or apathetic. Namely, the film’s interview subjects, most of whom were virtual celebrities within the vacuum of their own counter-culture, create a distinct genesis chapter of their now-powerhouse industry. Product aside, the commendable business sense and invention, the hard effort, and the good fortune of the pioneers that laid the foundation for the video game industry, the colorful tech-rebel characters that elevated Atari into its heyday, and the institutional hubris that brought Atari to ruin all makes for quite intriguing, narratively shaped business perspective. This enjoyment comes at a slight cost, though, at least for those who enter the film wholly disinterested in video games, as World 1-1 makes a habit of chasing highly technical digressions that appeal to the more pre-interested segments of its audiences.
For Casual Video Game Fans: I think those with the most to gain from World 1-1, both in terms of knowledge and entertainment, will be individuals with a casual interest in gaming. The documentary runs a bit long, but it is segmented into seamless chapters that are stuffed with information. The testimonials of insiders and historians and Garcia and Rodriguez’s arrangement of them serve the story well. World 1-1 doesn’t just investigate the blueprint of the video game industry, but creates colorful illustrations of the architects who laid the foundation.
For the Hardcore Gamers: My earlier assertion that the film runs a little long might not be true for those who have an intensive and knowledgeable relationship with video games and their history (I warned you this would be tricky). For those individuals, there may be a desire to see this narrative stretched to a longer form. The film’s IMDb page states that this is the first chapter in a series, but for those already invested, this might have been well served as three chapters. I could see where those individuals might prefer this same subject matter be extended into multiple productions, rather than this packed rehashing of information. Such a format would allow for the film’s already precise character work to be fleshed out into a steady narrative and eliminate the occasionally uneven pacing that occurs when the film’s attention seeks and settles into its points of interest.
Overall: Watching World 1-1 will be a different experience for different audiences, but there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy, and enough to make the film a can’t miss for those with a casual interest in video games.