High Score (2020) s01e05 Episode Script


[man in Japanese]
I think immersion is key in a game.
If there's an element that doesn't fit,
it messes with the immersion.
I really love bathhouses.
Some older bathhouses
even had arcade games.
So we would visit
the bathhouse just to play,
then take a bath.
It's an interesting image
and very Japanese.
So there is a bathhouse stage
for Street Fighter II.
In Japan,
it's normal to fight in bathhouses.
I'm just kidding.
[narrator in English] Warning:
the episode you're about to watch
features violent video games.
[man in Japanese]
The first punch, like in a fighting game,
the strong impact of the punch
it's hard to explain,
but you just feel refreshed.
Without that primitive sensation,
you don't feel compelled to play again.
[narrator in English]
If you've ever played a fight game
you've been in the world
of designer Akira Nishitani.
[Nishitani in Japanese]
I get inspired by many things.
If you are walking the streets,
you might get a new idea
or find images for a new background.
You see lots of people
and many buildings.
It stimulates your brain.
If that happens, I use my camera
or take notes down.
[narrator in English] In 1991,
Nishitani led a team on a project
that would change everything.
It started as a follow-up
to a Japanese fight game
that had hit arcades in 1987.
Street Fighter had a simple set up:
two characters,
best two out of three rounds.
But it pioneered a twist:
instead of competing against a computer,
players could now duke it out
with each other.
[in Japanese] First of all, in Japan,
competing with video games was unheard of.
It was the first time
you were even prompted
to communicate
with other players in the arcade.
That was an interesting development.
The game was a minor hit in Japan,
but Nishitani saw the format's potential.
He wanted to take the one-on-one
competition model and supersize it.
The challenge would be to create a game
that would sell around the world.
And to do it,
he would bring the world into the game.
[in Japanese] For Ryu's stage, we would
go around the castle and take photos
and use it as a reference.
[narrator in English]
A Hong Kong market, Thai temples,
a Japanese pagoda.
Nishitani began collecting
reference images from around the globe.
[Nishitani in Japanese]
Putting these in the game world means
when someone is playing,
they catch the image
from the corner of their eye.
They think that it's cool or beautiful.
I think these details
are extremely important.
[narrator in English] Nishitani
transformed these real environments
into 12 detailed stages
set in eight different countries
from the US, to Brazil, India
and, of course, Japan.
Now he had to figure out
how to create a cast of fighters
that would appeal to gamers everywhere.
For that,
Nishitani turned to artist Akira Yasuda.
[Yasuda in Japanese] When I was young,
I liked illustrating.
At the time, the most celebrated artists
were the manga artists.
So I wanted to make manga.
The biggest thing was an anime called
Mobile Suit Gundam.
Manga, or anime,
which I didn't think was art
became so artistic.
That was very shocking.
Since then, I wanted to make something
that wasn't considered as art
into something artistic.
[narrator in English]
Yasuda was tasked with drawing up
the visual world of the new game.
[Yasuda in Japanese]
In general, my role was an art director.
Character design, background art,
the design for the enemies.
Street Fighter II has more character
options than Street Fighter I.
Before you only had two characters,
but now you have eight.
I was trying to figure out
how to make characters that,
using today's language,
had a strong "push."
What this means is
that a character stood out.
So we wanted to add accents
to the characters
and exaggerate everything.
We thought this would translate better
to the foreign market.
[narrator in English]
With each round of sketches,
the characters grew bigger, tougher,
and just plain weird.
[Nishitani in Japanese]
The character Honda, he was just
a normal sumo player at first.
But gradually, to make him stand out more,
we gave him a yukata
or added Kabuki makeup.
So gradually, each character changed
and became stranger.
We wanted designs
where anyone could see it and laugh
and be blown away.
[narrator in English]
An eccentric cast of fighters emerged,
each with their own backstory:
a US Air Force major,
a rubber-limbed, fire-breathing yogi,
and a female kung-fu-fighting
Interpol officer named Chun-Li.
[man speaking Japanese]
[Yasuda in Japanese]
So Chun-Li, she's a kung fu girl.
We thought the female players
would want to use female characters.
The reason why I thought to include
a female character
was to get more female players.
Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan
were already popular
and there were female martial artists
in those movies.
If we have a female character,
she does kung fu.
It was decided in my mind.
[narrator in English] Until then, women
in video games were mostly princesses,
damsels in distress
or Ms. Pac-Man.
Now, gamers could play as a woman
who could fight her own battles.
[in Japanese] Female characters weren't
nonexistent in games back then
but there weren't any
with such a strong personality.
Yasuda was very insistent on this.
[narrator in English]
With the settings and characters done,
they had to make sure the gameplay
was a visceral, bone-crunching
fighting experience.
[Nishitani in Japanese]
We were making a martial arts game,
so we had to study martial arts.
If you watch it live
[crowd cheers]
you really experience
the power and pain.
So I would watch matches with Yasuda
and I learned a lot.
[narrator in English] In February 1991,
the new game Street Fighter II
was ready to unleash on the world.
[Nishistani in Japanese] Street Fighter II
is a competitive fighting game.
There are eight characters
and you can select your favorite.
[announcer in English] Fight!
[in Japanese] They fight one-on-one.
Each character has a unique design
and signature move.
Their killer move.
You hit or throw the opponent
and try to decrease their life gauge.
The person who empties out
their life gauge gets a KO.
[announcer in English] You win!
[in Japanese] Whoever wins
the first two matches out of three
is the winner.
We knew the game was good.
We didn't think it would be this popular.
[narrator in English]
Street Fighter II high-kicked its way
into arcades around the world
and became an instant phenomenon.
It obliterated the original,
sparking an arcade renaissance.
It also became one of the best-selling
fighting games of all time
and paved the way
for a new violent video game
inspired by a classic cinematic genre.
[man] Enter the Dragon
was the first Bruce Lee film that I saw.
Bruce Lee on film was amazing.
At that early age,
he was almost, like, mythologized for me.
Bruce Lee knew how
to milk his screen presence.
His fight sequences would build up
and he would throw a few punches,
and then there was a pause.
Every time he threw a punch or a kick
he made it mean something.
And it was that way in all his films.
For me,
I would find myself watching a film
and then if I was excited enough
I would sit down and start drawing.
[narrator] As fighting games were
beginning to take over the world,
graphic artist John Tobias was working
for Chicago game developer Midway,
who wanted a game that could
pack the arcades like Street Fighter II.
They gave Tobias and programmer Ed Boon
the opportunity to create
the game of their gory dreams.
There was just one catch.
I remember them asking us
if we could get the game done
in six months,
or something ridiculous like that.
And Ed and I,
we were so young that we thought,
“Yeah, we can do that.”
[game voice] Fight.
[narrator] Tobias went to work on the game
that would become a legend:
Mortal Kombat
the game that brought blood and guts
from the movies into the arcade.
[Tobias] My role on Mortal Kombat
was the art, the graphics, the fiction,
and to work with the programmers in terms
of how the characters would function.
When we looked at Street Fighter,
it was more so
to figure out what not to do.
We weren't looking at
replicating Street Fighter.
It was more, "How do we do
our own style of fighting game?"
Their stuff was hand-drawn and cartoony.
Ours is gonna be digitized and realistic.
And of course, you know,
if it's gonna be a fighting game,
I was gonna draw on
my love of kung fu films.
Martial arts films,
I think in the late '80s, early '90s,
were making a bit of a resurgence
in America.
Van Damme and Steven Seagal
were sort of the up-and-comers,
you know, in the early '90s.
Ed and I had seen Bloodsport and
we thought that it would be interesting
to include Van Damme
as a character in our game,
him starring as himself.
We thought that he would lend
a little bit of validity
to the concept of a fighting game,
of certainly a martial arts theme.
[narrator] Van Damme declined.
But that didn't stop Tobias
from immortalizing the legend
in his new game.
His signature kicks,
his penchant for doing the splits,
and who could forget the infamous
from Bloodsport?
Tobias couldn’t.
He made it character Johnny Cage’s
signature move.
[announcer] Finish him!
Johnny Cage wins.
I remember thinking with Mortal Kombat
that this was an opportunity for me
to throw everything that had inspired me
growing up into this game
because no one was telling us
how to do games back then
and this is what we wanted to do.
[narrator] Mortal Kombat was brutal.
-Come here!
Totally, insanely, grotesquely brutal.
Vile, disgusting
and a total hit!
We wanted to draw a reaction out of
the player, and anything that we could do
to get the player to react positively,
we thought was a good thing.
One of the backgrounds,
there were body parts and stuff
of other characters sort
of impaled on the spikes
and the idea that if you lose this match,
you're gonna get knocked into this pit
and your character is going to suffer.
[Tobias] Not knowing what
the fatalities exactly were
built a scary quality for the player.
[announcer] Raiden wins.
[narrator] Fatalities were
the game’s pièce de résistance.
Players who discovered
the right button and joystick combo
could finish off their opponent
with a spectacular kill:
a decapitation,
the removal of a still-beating heart,
torching them alive,
and whatever you call this.
What also made Mortal Kombat
so in-your-face
was the fact that the characters
were real-life actors.
This beat-up, tattered-looking studio
is where we’ve
uh, shot all of the digitizing
for the Mortal Kombat games.
We had to sort of find the martial artists
that we were going to digitize.
Ha! I'm Sonya Blade.
If you hesitate, I'll take you down.
[Tobias] It was important
that we find real martial artists,
you know,
capable of throwing a kick or a punch.
My name is Liu Kang.
If you wanna get to the top,
you gotta get through me.
[Tobias] I had some friends that I knew
growing up who were martial artists.
One of the first things we did
was we brought them into the studio,
shot some footage of them.
When you see guys jump flipping
and doing somersaults on Mortal Kombat,
they do it off this trampoline.
And the reason why we use it is because
a lot of times you've got to
motion-capture guys jumping,
so we get 'em jumping
on these trampolines.
We actually have guys
banging their head on the ceiling.
That light's out there
because somebody whacked it real good.
Back then, it was like an amazing thing.
Everyone who saw it
was just sort of blown away
at the realistic nature of it.
The moment you see the digitized actors
onscreen, I think you understand,
"Oh, okay, I get what this is
and how cool it looks."
Well, not everyone thought it was cool.
This is the kind of violence
that critics are pretty worried about.
[reporter] Cold-blooded murder
is making Mortal Kombat
the most popular video game in history.
Kids relish their victory
and their bloody choice.
[reporter] How do you feel when
they're pulling the head off somebody
or they're ripping out their heart?
That's kind of the part
I like best about it.
[laughs] It's funny.
[Tobias] We didn't see
what ultimately would become
the controversy with Mortal Kombat coming.
Watch out, Mom and Dad.
Some of the new video games
depict extreme violence!
[Tobias] We always thought, okay, well,
our players were of a certain age group
so we didn't think twice about
what it was we were doing,
and it was all so fantastical
that we didn't anticipate
that it would bother parents
as much as it did.
And it was hard for people to accept
that games are not just for kids.
[woman] Their whole environment
is saturated with violence.
Now we're going to give them games
where they can participate in violence
and choose the way
they want to kill someone.
If you can play a game
and fight in the game
and not fight in real life,
obviously that's better.
[narrator] The uproar helped make
Mortal Kombat a top-selling game
and had kids ditching their home consoles
and heading back to the arcades
to do battle.
The arcade environment at the time,
especially with the fighting games,
it was very competitive.
You physically had to walk into an arcade
and face off against an opponent.
It was almost like you were a gunslinger
walking into this town.
You didn't know who
you were going to face off against.
[narrator] The new era of fight games
would not only resurrect the arcades,
for some kids,
it would change the course of their lives.
[man in Japanese]
Games are very black and white.
There's a clear winner and loser.
Even if it was merely a game
I didn't want to lose.
[narrator in English]
Takahiro Nakano was a teenager
just as fight games were beginning
to take over the arcades.
[in Japanese] I pretty much got my start
in Street Fighter II at arcades.
I would head to the arcade after school.
An older classmate worked there.
He would always let me play for free.
He taught me how to play.
But I became too good.
At one point, I surpassed him.
After that,
he wouldn't let me play anymore.
[narrator in English]
Nakano knew his destiny
was to battle it out with the best.
[in Japanese] After all, a marketing
catchphrase for Street Fighter II was
"Seek out a worthy opponent."
But I didn't have any worthy opponents
in my hometown.
If anywhere, I might find this worthy
opponent at the national tournament.
So I saved up money
as a newspaper delivery boy.
I took the overnight bus alone to Tokyo.
We filled the Kokugikan in Tokyo,
where they hold sumo events.
[announcer] Street Fighter II Turbo.
[Nakano] I tried to ready myself mentally
so I wouldn't get nervous.
[announcer in English] Round One! Fight!
[Nakano in Japanese]
I knew I had to keep my cool at all times.
If you lost even once, you were out.
Nakano advances to the next round.
If you wanted to win,
not a single movement could be wasted.
[announcer] Uppercut.
I played like my life depended on it.
[announcer speaking Japanese]
[Nakano] I won the entire tournament.
The opponent didn't land
a single blow on me.
I think it was a miracle.
It turns out
there were no worthy opponents after all.
[narrator in English]
But like young gamers everywhere,
Nakano's glory days
came to a soul-crushing end.
[Nakano in Japanese]
After graduating
I took the plunge
and started working in sales.
There wasn't as much time
to play games anymore.
I mostly spent my time replying to emails.
Making copies and drafting proposals.
Some people have passion for their job.
Some people are ready
to climb up the corporate ladder.
Honestly, I didn't really understand
that desire at all.
[narrator in English]
But then an opportunity arose for Nakano
to spin his way
out of the corporate grind
when his boss caught wind
of an emerging business venture.
Competitive video gaming has become
a multi-million dollar industry.
[dramatic music playing]
Gaming itself is bigger
than the music industry
and the movie industry combined.
[narrator] Esports have brought
competitive gaming
out of the basement and into the arena.
This is what kids are doing.
This is what people want to see.
[narrator] And kids once told
to "get a real job"
are laughing all the way to the bank.
By 2022, global esports revenue
has been projected to reach
1.79 billion US dollars.
Nakano's boss decided to get in
on the esports craze.
He remembered that Nakano
had won a national tournament
and came to him
with the proposal of a lifetime:
to create and coach an esports team
of professional gamers.
[in Japanese]
He said he would assign me to the project.
I can still remember it like yesterday.
Nakano, listen up. Starting tomorrow,
I want you playing games
all day, every day!
It all clicked for me in that moment.
I realized I would never
get another chance this good.
I decided then and there,
"I'm in."
[narrator in English]
Nakano would recruit and train players
to join him
on the international egaming stage.
[Nakano in Japanese] We created a team
called the Kyoto Susanoo.
I think natural talent
plays a part in gaming.
We identify players with inherent talent.
Standing, crouching,
guarding, attacking.
We want to cultivate such talent.
We serve as consultants,
ready to share our know-how.
I hope to cultivate a steady stream
of players going forward.
My name is KojiKOG.
My specialty is fighting games.
[Nakano] KojiKOG is a true multiplayer.
He's formidable in a variety
of fighting games.
He's an incredibly talented gamer.
I'm Sakagami.
I play Street Fighter.
[Nakano] Sakagami is another team member.
He's just 20 years old.
His specialty is Street Fighter V.
He's vowed to become the world champion.
He says that unless you aim for the top,
what's the point?
I'm Reaper. I play shooting games.
[Nakano] Reaper is one of our best.
The one with glasses.
I hope he does our team proud.
[upbeat music playing]
[Nakano] Just because you're a pro gamer
doesn't mean you should game all day.
Exercise is necessary.
Even the flights overseas are grueling.
You have to worry about stamina.
They need to lift weights
and build physical stamina.
It's a part of our program.
Our job is to grow
the esports industry itself.
I don't think this is just a fleeting fad.
[announcer] Tiger uppercut!
My life wouldn't be the same
without Street Fighter II.
I find it extremely exciting.
I mean, even now,
I never get tired of the game.
I think I could play it until I'm dead.
[narrator in English]
Esports now rivals so-called real sports
like baseball and basketball
with hundreds of millions
of fans worldwide.
It was a phenomenon
that was hard to foresee,
especially back in 1993
when the growing number
of violent video games
had parents ready to pull the plug.
[machines whir]
So Congress got involved.
We're all so repelled,
we're disgusted by this material.
[narrator] The congressional hearings
on video game violence
brought hit game Mortal Kombat
center stage,
along with another
much lesser known title.
It is a sick, disgusting video game.
Shame on the people
that produce that trash.
It's child abuse, in my judgment.
I find that so extremely offensive
and the only word you can say
to the manufacturers
and the shareholders of the company
is shame on you.
Have we lost all common sense?
Of course it affects our children,
and it affects our kids
in a very negative way.
[man] Somehow the devil had come down to
pervert the young minds of our children.
I mean [laughing]
You know, it was a complete thing,
you know.
Obviously many of them
hadn't played the game.
[narrator] The game was Night Trap,
a relatively obscure game
that suddenly found itself the subject
of debate on Capitol Hill.
And this assault
on American values and human decency
had sprung from the mind of Jim Riley.
I think, by nature, I'm a visualist
and I'm probably more a designer
than an artist.
So the visual problem-solving is always
something I've been interested in.
[narrator] These days,
Jim is a visual effects supervisor
for some of television's biggest shows.
Things like exploding helicopters,
people catching on fire,
Don Cheadle
getting nailed by a flying glass,
blood splatters,
and the requisite casual walk away
from an exploding car
Jim makes it all look real.
[Riley] You're making a TV show,
and when it works, for me, it's magic,
because I know the thousand things
that could go wrong, right?
But long before his career in Hollywood,
Jim was the man behind the game
considered so shocking,
it inadvertently jeopardized
the entire industry.
It all began
as a sort of visionary experiment,
a choose-your-own-adventure
live action video game.
I was interested in using
surveillance cameras
as a way to capture a world
that allowed the viewer/player
to switch cameras
seamlessly and unlimited.
But only four of the cameras
would be showing live action
at any one time.
But this was creating the impression
of unlimited choices
in a story-driven dramatic event
that, depending
on which actor you followed
or what camera you saw,
you would be able at the end
to determine what happened.
You now can control your world.
You're in control of time and space.
The concept was funded by Hasbro
as part of a new console
called Control Vision
that would use VHS tapes
to create interactive games.
Players would watch a film
and use their controller
to trap the bad guys.
[Riley] The beginning of Night Trap was
kind of like a party at some guy's house.
Hey! Did you guys see something
moving over there?
[Riley] And you have these villains
attacking the house
and you were trying
to prevent them from doing that.
[man] You're in danger!
You've seen those things too?
What are they?
[narrator] But, like the kids in the game,
Jim's big idea
was in for a really bad night.
The original notion of Night Trap
was all about fear.
You need really devious,
dangerous villains.
I was fascinated with the ninjas.
I loved the idea, the way they moved
in and out of the shadows.
I thought that would be really fun.
You'd look at a scene,
switching around rooms,
but if you waited a little bit you'd see,
"Oh, my God, there's somebody there."
And then they've got
all of these throwing stars.
And the traps could be wonderful,
dangerous, kind of exciting things.
So I pitched the idea.
Everybody loves it.
[horn blows]
And then we go to the Hasbro executives
and they go, "Wait a minute."
[narrator] Hasbro was a toy company
and they didn’t think Jim’s
star-throwing ninjas were family friendly.
They came up with the term
"unreproducible violence."
You can't show anything that somebody
could, at home, see and then go do,
which means you can't pick up scissors
and stab somebody to death
or a kitchen knife.
But it even extends
to ninjas throwing stars.
And I'm thinking,
"When was the last time you met a ninja?"
But they said, "No, no, no."
So I said, "How about vampires?
They're fast, they're scary
and they're not real."
And they go, "Well, maybe vampires,
if they can't bite.
And they're too weak to move fast."
So now we have vampires
that can't bite and are really slow.
And then it gets worse.
The producers and makeup say,
"We're not going to do prosthetics,
'cause you got hundreds of them.
What we're going to do
is kind of put trash bags on ‘em."
[narrator] Essentially, Jim's villains
went from star-throwing ninjas to this
weak, hobbling, trash bag-wearing augurs.
What is an augur?
A vampire victim who's been
half-bled and left there to die.
Poor creatures
have just enough blood to survive,
but not enough to become vampires.
You gotta be jiving me!
And then I'm thinking,
"Well, what-- You know--
This is just--" I don't know what to say,
but, you know, they've got
to be able to have some threat.
I pitched this thing called a trocar,
which was an extended arm
that would grab the neck
and have an automated drill
that would go into the neck
[woman screams]
and suck the blood out.
For some reason they said,
"That's great,
'cause that’s unreproducible
and that's going to be fine."
And at the end, I think in some ways,
it was so much worse
than a vampire going and biting.
One note can ruin a story.
And this was a series of bad notes.
We didn't quite understand
what the impact would be.
[woman] Mark.
-Right on back here?
-This over here at this point?
Yep. That's right there.
-Ready? Here we go.
-[woman] Mark.
Even with a budget of 1.5 million dollars,
production was riddled with problems.
Moody lighting had to be brightened
for digitizing footage,
fast movements were pixelated
and the security cams made for static,
boring gameplay.
-What's the matter with you anyway?
-I don't know. Bored, I guess.
It started out to be, you know,
film noir thriller
that turned into
kind of this campy B-movie.
-Please use the traps!
[narrator] And just as Control Vision
was nearly ready to hit the shelves
-The wall trap!
Hasbro unexpectedly pulled out.
They said, "We’re out."
You know, "Thank you very much,
but we can't do this.
It's way too expensive,
and much more involved
than what we thought."
Then we all go our separate ways.
[narrator] A few years after
putting it all behind him,
Jim got a surprising call.
Sega had just launched their newest
tech breakthrough, the Sega CD.
And one of the games released with it
would be Night Trap.
Sega's marketing targeted teenage boys
with provocative ads
highlighting the young victims
in the game.
The sexual overtones and graphic violence
pushed politicians to shut the party down.
I think that by manufacturing games
like Night Trap
what in point of fact
these manufacturers are doing
are endorsing that violence.
[narrator] Senator Joe Lieberman called
for a congressional hearing
on violence in video games,
and Night Trap, along with Mortal Kombat,
took center stage.
It has been quite a leap
from Pac-Man to Night Trap.
Mortal Kombat and Night Trap
are not the kind of gifts
that responsible parents give.
[Riley] And of course they showed
the famous scene, Lisa in the bathroom,
which, you know,
today would not play well with Me Too.
We're talking about video games
that too often glorify violence
and teach children to enjoy inflicting
the most gruesome forms
of cruelty imaginable.
And it wasn't until I saw
the actual hearing
and saw they had extracted certain scenes
and done it in such a way
to make it look far worse than it was.
It is easier for a mom to understand
the ingredients in a Hostess cupcake
than it is to understand what's inside
that video game box.
This is a copy of the packaging.
There was no rating on this game at all.
[Jim] If Night Trap was good for anything,
it was one of the ones that got the Senate
to set up the ratings systems for games.
[narrator] The hearing led to
the creation of the ESRB,
Entertainment Software Rating Board,
which labels games just like movies:
all ages, T for teens,
and definitely not for kids.
But while Night Trap and Mortal Kombat
took a beating in Washington,
the games flew off the shelves,
because if you tell kids
they can't have something,
well, you know what happens.
The truth is, it was the best sales pitch
that Night Trap could have asked for
because we got international recognition
and sales went through the roof.
We got a little tape of one of your games
that's called Night Trap.
[reporter] This game is called Night Trap.
[narrator] Night Trap
has now achieved full cult status.
In 2018, Nintendo even released
a remastered anniversary edition.
As for Mortal Kombat, kids,
time to cover your eyes.
Twenty-five years
and countless versions later,
the grisly arcade hit is still
terrorizing parents everywhere.
And its infamous fatalities
have gotten a bit of an upgrade.
And the day after
the December Senate hearing,
a new game blasted into
computer labs everywhere.
It fired off the opening salvo
of a whole new genre
of hyper-violent,
online multiplayer games.
And the future of gaming
would become more experiential,
more realistic,
and would make Night Trap,
well, kind of like child's play.
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