We take Internet video for granted these days, but it wasn't that long ago that "web TV" was a new, potentially revolutionary idea. In 1999, a fledgling Internet TV station premiered, mostly featuring public access cable production values and forgettable programming. One show, however, did pick up a dedicated following during its brief run, and now a documentary about The Game Room has been released on DVD.
The Game Room, hosted by Mark Bussler (who wrote, directed and hosts the documentary) and David Crosson, featured reviews of video games from the Atari 2600 era to the turn of the millennium. Fueled by copious amounts of draft beer, Bussler and Crosson never took their reviews seriously for a second, openly mocking and pointing out logical flaws in many of the games. (In Frogger, for example, why does your frog character die if he ends up in the water?)
The result was a kind of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or RiffTrax) for computer games, and while the humour never approaches MST3K standards (what does?) The Game Room had a charm of its own. The more familiar you are with video games, the more you'll likely appreciate the film. My own interest in gaming peaked around 1983, so I particularly enjoyed the reviews of classic (and not-so-classic) Atari games.
The Classic Game Room documentary, filmed on a budget not much larger than that of The Game Room itself, is also made with tongue firmly in cheek. But I never really got a sense of just how popular The Game Room really was, and while Bussler doesn't pretend his show was any kind of worldwide phenomenon, I can't help thinking he exaggerates its popularity somewhat.
Still, it's an entertaining look at the days just before the dot-com bubble burst, and the disc contains plenty of special features (a director's audio commentary, three making-of shorts, and a bonus review of the Atari 2600 Berzerk cartridge). I can't forgive Bussler's egregious failure to mention the ColecoVision, though.