Written by: Adam Vaughn | February 28th, 2021
Playing with Power: The Nintendo Story (Jeremy Snead, 2021) 3½ out of 4 stars.
It was a mere matter of time before filmmakers and film researchers would have the information and knowledge to create such an informative work of documentary exploration. Playing with Power: The Nintendo Story is an immensely thorough and driven series (a five-parter, premiering on Crackle on March 1) that encompasses an incredible amount of history behind the video-game phenomenon that swept the nation in the 21st Century. Director Jeremy Snead (Video Games: The Movie) ups his game by blending the story of Nintendo, dating as far back as the 1800’s Japan card game company, with the technological revelations that would span an entire century into the world of videogames today.
The ingenuity of Playing with Power is that it contains an extreme attention to detail to not only the history and breakthroughs of video games (naturally, told from the point of view of “Nintendo”), but also the cultural impacts that video games had on the world and vice versa. For any viewer with a solid love and respect for the gaming industry, Playing with Power is a dream-come-true experience, with nostalgia at every turn. But what makes Playing with Power truly fantastic is that, in more ways than one, it appeals to the “non-gamer” culture. Any person with zero knowledge of video games will receive a well-rounded introduction to the humble beginnings of the gaming industry, and may very well be sucked into the lore in the best way possible.
While Playing with Power mostly has a consistent tone and pacing, some moments seem a bit frantic and over-edited, with a chaotic sound design and hurried transitions. This does not, however, distract from the film’s extensive use of interviews, which cover Nintendo’s rise, fall and flatline to power, as well as the dozens of entertainment systems from brands like PlayStation, Xbox, SEGA, Atari, etc., that either challenged or rose above the competition. Narratively, a five-episode series gives Snead plenty of time to focus on specific plot points, dissecting moments such as console creations, software, developers (many of the interviewees are CEOs and lead team members from various video-game firms), and the marketing strategies that allowed one company to outdo the other.
For our modern age, there will most likely not be another documentary piece that fully embodies the video-game experience, background and drama of the industry. Both ironically and appropriately, Playing with Power ends the documentary with a final in-the-air thought as to the future of Nintendo, while also tying together all the moments seen across the five episodes. I strongly recommended this series to all: someone who’s never picked up a controller, the layperson with a curiosity about the industry, or the avid gaming expert. They will all witness a well-rounded exploration into the video-game world.