From Bedrooms to Billions
From Bedrooms to Billions Review
Feature-length films about the history of video games are sort of like buses. You wait around for one for ages, and then suddenly three good ones all turn up at once. Okay, well not exactly at once, but hey you get the idea - the point is that we've recently had a bunch of really great documentaries on the history of gaming released in close proximity to each other. After Zak Penn's Atari: Game Over and Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez's World 1-1, From Bedrooms To Billions is the third feature film documentary that I've watched in recent months about the history of video games and the awesome people who make them.
In contrast to the two other American-based documentaries, Nicola and Anthony Caulfield's film plants its focus on the other side of the pond on the nascent UK gaming scene, chronicling what the Brits were getting up to with their computers during the '80s. It's essentially a celebration of Britain's technological tenacity in the '80s - how diligent bedroom coders transformed a fun, small-time hobby into a core part of the hulking global entertainment behemoth that the games industry is today. It's detailed, entertaining, and pretty much essential viewing for those interested in learning more about video games (duh), the games development process, and how Britain's talented coders played a key part in gaming's history.
At just over two and a half hours in length, Bedrooms is a seriously comprehensive retro retrospective. While the level and depth of detail in the documentary is easily its greatest strength, I personally felt that the pacing towards the second half felt inconsistent and slightly rushed, at which point the film seems to stumble and lose its focus somewhat. By the time Bedrooms reaches the '90s, a lot of the details about this era are skimmed over at quite a fast pace, which really jars with the carefully detailed slower speed the rest of the film had been moving at up to this point, and it feels a rather abrupt and jarring transition as a result. Thankfully though, the discussion of the similarities between the currently booming indie game scene in relation to the British '80s heyday manages to nicely tie things up on an elegant and contemporary note.
So, if you're interested in the history of the videogame industry, particularly about what exactly was going on in the gaming world in the swirling neon-coloured amniotic waters of '80s Britain, then you've got to press pause right now, put down your controllers and keyboards and check Bedrooms to Billions out. Simultaneously entertaining and informative, the film is an impressively comprehensive document of the era which is essential viewing for pretty much anybody who loves games, their history, and where the industry might be heading in the future.
Reviewed by Tom Bennett.