From Bedrooms to Billions tells the now scarcely believable story of the rise and fall of Britain's games industry. It's almost impossible now to imagine the world without home computers and the games that go with them; even for those of us who were actually there.
The fact that the first home computers were sold as kits for home assembly stretches credulity even further. And once you'd gone to the huge effort of making thousands of solder joints what could you do with it? Not much. Thus a vacuum was created for software and the stage was set for a uniquely British kind of creativity. This is where 'From Bedrooms' takes up the story.
The narrative of this ambitious documentary is driven entirely by the interviewees as they reminisce on those heady days. The movie is host to an impressive line-up of movers and shakers from the cottage industry's hey-day. The roster includes many of the major players which is a fine achievement in itself and it feels like a real treat to have them all in the same place speaking so candidly.
Their passion for gaming is clear and contagious even through the fourth wall of the screen. The footage of talking heads from all manner of people such as Matthew Smith (Manic Miner / Jet Set Willy), Jeff Minter (Attack of the Mutant Camels) through to Ian Livingston CBE (founder of Games Workshop). Other contributers include David Perry (Earthworm Jim), The Oliver Twins (Dizzy) Archer Maclean (IK+) and many many more great names in gaming. Gary Penn and Jaz Rignall recount their days at ZZap!64 to bring the nostalgia all flooding back too. This is all mixed with generous amounts of gameplay and other memory-jogging footage from the golden age of gaming.
The insight offered by these heroes of programming is fascinating and it's a delight to hear them speak of their motivations. Those with a love of gaming this retro will surely be warmed to find that their motives and memories chime so closely.
The movie's focus is the story of how and why bedroom coding was able to grow and flourish so rapidly, only to be effectively hijacked by the corporate suits in later years. While this is interesting enough in itself, ample time is also devoted to the culture which developed around gaming, computer game magazines, as well as a few anecdotes along the way.
With so much to cover in the documentary - the 'blink and you miss it' coverage of the 16-bit era was smaller than it actually appears for real, but that's just the way the story takes things. It's a documentary about the pioneers and mavericks in the early years of the 80s mainly, and by this time their days were sadly numbered.
The filmmakers have done extremely well to find a positive angle on which to end the film, giving us something to look forward to and thereby elevating to more than a rose-tinted nostalgia piece. Not that there's anything wrong with nostalgia of course, this movie has it in spades. So if you're looking to relive the kid-ish excitement of those excitingly groundbreaking times in the company of those trailblazers who made it happen, then I'm certain there's no better way to do it than this.
To find out more and watch the movie go to www.frombedroomstobillions.com
Review by – Andy Pryer - follow him on Twitter at @clammylizard