"It's far from Netflix's best or most substantive doc — it's often rather superficial and full of gaping holes — but in terms of sheer bingeing ease, with six episodes, none running over 47 minutes, High Score is tough to top," says Daniel Fienberg. "It's light and fun and full of entertaining trivia, with a willingness to go just far enough off the beaten path that some of it will even be new for its core demo. My initial instinct was that High Score was looking to take a 30 for 30-style approach to the world of video games, going deep on some lesser known gaming stories. Seth Gordon's frivolous but engaging The King of Kong or Zac Penn's Atari: Game Over or ESPN's own 30 for 30 podcast Madden's Game might be a template there. Instead, it's more of a soup-to-nuts history from the golden age of arcade gaming to the console wars to the evolution of role-playing games to first-person shooters to wherever the medium is today. And if you say, 'Surely that's too big a story for under six hours,' you'd be correct. High Score seems almost intentionally be leaving doors open for another season or five."
Any hopes for a Ken Burns-style deep exploration of video games have been thoroughly dashed: "High Score is a light, insubstantial bit of fluff that cares less about the hows and whys of games history and more about weird side-stories that are often already over-exposed as is," says Garrett Martin, adding: "Instead of connecting the dots between the various stories it tells, and using them to craft a larger, fully fleshed out portrait of games history, it gets lost in the details of those smaller stories. Episodes will introduce a person or concept, lightly connect it to the larger games world, and then treat the minutiae of that person’s story as if it’s inherently more important and interesting than its relationship to the medium or what it says about the design and culture of videogames. Want to learn about the crash of the home videogame market in America in 1983? Get ready to hear rehashed facts about that E.T. game once again, instead of a broader view of why the Atari 2600 collapsed so drastically that year."
High Score is like The Last Dance for video games: "High Score, Netflix’s new documentary series about the early history of video games, is filled with fascinating characters, flickering arcade cabinets, gorgeous pixel animations, flashy graphics, loosely woven yarns, and an aw-shucks sense that video games are just the best," says Benjamin Frisch. "Like another recent hit docuseries, ESPN’s The Last Dance, it delivers hit after hit of 1980s and ’90s nostalgia, a powerful and, lately, especially welcome drug. But also like that documentary, it’s unlikely to transform the viewer’s perception of its central subject. It’s a show obsessed with loving games, not understanding them."
High Score celebrates the diverse trailblazers behind video games: "The six-part series documents the rise, fall, and unstoppable rise of video games from their origins in the arcades of Japan through to the arrival of the Nintendo 64 in living rooms across the world," says Brett White. "There’s documentation of the creation of the home gaming console, a detour into the world of RPGs, a spotlight on the most iconic plumber to ever hop dimensions, and an appearance by a super fast hedgehog. And, present at every step of the way, are groundbreaking, trailblazing icons of gaming whose stories haven’t been told on the massive stage of a Netflix docuseries."
High Score filmmakers spent weeks whiteboarding stories about the familiar and obscure: "Instead of turning each episode of the series into a deep-dive on one game or one gaming system, the team chose to create an overarching narrative spanning across different games and people," says Joe Berkowitz. "It was a storytelling challenge not only to find the stories they wanted—the unsung heroes of gaming, and fresh details on oft-told tales alike—but also to weave them together."