In the late 1990s, dial-up modems stepped aside to make way for the new breed of high speed DSL and cable modems. As broadband access spread like wildfire into homes across the world, static web pages began being replaced by websites streaming audio and video programs to web surfers. The creators of this new wave of multimedia content found an immediate audience of millions of bored web surfers looking for ways to max out their newfound (and seemingly unlimited) bandwidth.
Classic Game Room, launched in late 1999, was one such show. Hosted by Mark Bussler and David Crosson of FromUSALive.com, Classic Game Room was an original online program that mixed classic videogame reviews with general wackiness. The show ran for about a year, only to fold when FromUSALive.com succumbed to the infamous busting of the Internet bubble.
Seven years after the last episode aired comes The Classic Game Room DVD, which contains ten classic episodes of the original show. The featured reviews span games from the classic Atari 2600 all the way up to the (then modern) Sega Dreamcast. These ten episodes have been encapsulated within a documentary that details the rise and subsequent fall of the show although if youre simply interested in just watching the episodes, you can do that through the DVDs menu.
Mark and Davids acting is goofy, the writing is occasionally awkward and many of the jokes run too long. That being said, Classic Game Room perfectly captures the birth of online steaming video programs. At this time, amateur filmmakers with small budgets and big dreams could create anything they could imagine and make those creations available to the viewing public think of it as local cable access programs going worldwide. Not every idea here works, but after each stumble the guys regain their footing and continue to produce increasingly better episodes. It should be noted that for an Internet-based program, The Game Room has superb video editing and production. It is no surprise that Mark Bussler has remained in the film production world. It is readily apparent that much more work went into the production of this program than its content probably warranted.
The episodes themselves vary greatly in content and quality. The duos review of SeaMan consists almost exclusively of footage of the hosts playing the game; conversely, the review of Alien for the Atari 2600 contains less than a minute of game footage and instead spends over ten minutes parodying the television show The Real World. The shows review of Sega GT for the Dreamcast features a Hollywood-style car chase that ends with crashes and explosions (if Hollywood used Hot Wheels).
The documentary itself is fairly cheesy and is presented more as a mockumentary than a true documentary. Where the DVD absolutely shines, however, is on Marks commentary track. Anyone interested in the true story behind the show or the logistics involved in putting together an Internet program MUST listen to this commentary track. It is by far the most entertaining and interesting portion of the disc. The tone is a 180 degree flip from the rest of the film, chock full of facts and background information about the show. The only fault is that the feature is buried at the very bottom of the special features menu. I fear many viewers may not even discover what I feel to be the best feature of the entire disc, which would definitely be a shame.
If youre not sure whether or not the pairs sense of humor is for you, search YouTube for Classic Game Room and check out several of the older episodes of the program. Even though some of the shows contained on the DVD are also available online, the documentary, and especially Busslers commentary track, is absolutely worth the price of admission. Game on, fellas!