Archive for January 20th, 2004

Tetris – From Russia with Love, BBC Four

Just watched a great doc on vid from BBC Four (think it’s getting screened in mid Feb). There’s loads written about it around on the net here and it’s well covered in ‘Game Over, Nintendo’s Battle to Dominate Videogames’ by David Sheff (which they gave away free with the now defunct ‘Acarde’ magazine) and other places. But basically he electrifiedthis

The frantic negotiations between Belikov from the Russian ‘Elorg’; and Robert Stein, Kevin Maxwell, and Henk Rogers, all in different rooms on the same day, are great. Belikov had to learn Capitalism very quickly. Back then there were no IP rights in Russia, the state owned everything the people made.

The best pieces in the whole show however are Rogers’ actual VHS footage of 80’s Moscow. God it’s grey, dull and depressing. But gives a great first hand view of what actually went on. You can see how scared he is, how alien it seems, he really has very little understanding of how to do things in Russia.

The prog rolls along, and Maxwell’s plum of a son looses the rights to the game. Big Daddy Maxwell then rings his mates in the Kremlin and complains, Kevin then threaten Belikov. He says his Dad’ll raise it with Gorbachov when he visited London later that month, and helpfully suggests he fly to London and kneel before Maxwell, or he will ‘no longer exist’. It’s like a plot in an airport novel! What a bunch of dodgy sods the Maxwell’s were.

There’s then another great bit of footage taken by Henk Roberts, after the US Court agrees they and Nintendo have the rights and not the Maxwells and Atari. Henks crusin’ round San Fransico with Belikov, who’s in total culture shock, with ‘Holiday’ by Madonna on the stero. It’s like a level of Outrun.

The mad thing is, is that I remember all this. It’s not that long ago. Yet it’s amazing when you look at what’s gone: The massive Maxwell Empire, gone; The massive Soviet Empire, gone. And what’s still around? . . . The Game Boy.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
January 2004
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