An Interview with Documentarian Jeanette Garcia on Video Games, Storytelling, and Her Upcoming Film, “World 1-1”

Photo by Daryl Rodriguez from collection by Rick Medina. Used by permission of author.

Photo by Daryl Rodriguez from a collection by Rick Medina. Used by permission of author.

This interview comes out of Little Utopia’s effort to support and promote art and artists that we care about. We would like to thank our friends Jeanette Garcia (and Daryl Rodriguez) for granting us this interview and look into their current project, “World 1-1,” a documentary examining the cultural and physical history of early video games. For those of you interested, and even for those of you who are not, we strongly urge you to check out their Kickstarter page and to support in any way you can (see below for specific ways to contribute to this project).

Little Utopia: For those who don’t know anything about your campaign or your project, can you summarize the work you are doing and what you hope to accomplish with it? 

Jeanette Garcia: We’re making the first film in a planned series on the history of video games. We want to cover major events before Atari including the creation of the Magnavox Odyssey. We want to capture whom the pioneers were, some key events, and who they are today. The video game industry continues to expand at a phenomenal rate, but not many people stop to think about the key individuals who started it all.

How many installments do you hope to include in this series and what issues and topics will they cover?  

Well, our Kickstarter funds the first film, but we would like to do four or five depending on how much time we might need to do so. The film is going to look at the early years of video games from the perspectives of the founders and game developers of that time. We want to look at the fusion of the business aspect and the creativity and technology that went behind all of it, without burdening the audience too much with overly factual information. It’ll be more of a narrative-based documentary focused around the individuals we have on board who were there at the time and the events surrounding their contributions to the industry.

Why video games? With the world dealing with debt ceilings and government shutdowns and Syria, why did you choose to focus on video games? 

It’s not to say that we aren’t aware of these issues and their huge impacts, but we aren’t driven to make films about them. Also, our budget would probably have to be a lot bigger if we wanted to cover foreign political issues closely. Although video games may not be political, they are a huge aspect of our world. It’s not just an art that people have taken up in this country, but it’s international, and it continues to redefine and expand the limitations of other conventional storytelling methods. As a huge admirer of stories, I truly think it’s a medium like none out there. [This medium] enables the player to engage in a very palpable experience that has the incredible power of drawing people in from all over the world and having them connect with a story via a character or characters that they seamlessly find themselves embodying as they play.

How does your background in English influence the way you see video games and film and how you join the two together? 

Well, I guess I spoke about it without realizing it in the previous question, but it’s really the framework of narrative that fascinates me — a story is told in a very different manner than via a film or a book. It’s immersive on a different level, in a much more interactive way since the player is often times presented with choices or different routes in approaching a conflict or obstacle. As a player, you are responsible for those choices or how you decide to take on that journey. In a film, you are a passive observer for the most part, taking in what you are seeing on screen. Don’t get me wrong, I love film, but it’s a very different experience than playing a game.

It’s also how immersive literary devices such as setting or mood can become via these games. The more the technology continues to improve, the more complex and captivating games are becoming. The imagination evoked in literature, those scenes we develop in our minds and walk characters through, that’s what video games are, only it’s the imagination of a team of game developers and you’re walking through that imagination as a character in a story, most of the time (since not all games are story driven).

What made you finally decide to take this step? You are a lettered young woman working in higher education — was there a moment when you decided to just take the plunge and pursue this interest in the history of early video games? 

I’ve been teaching for several years now and I’ve had the desire for a while to create something for myself. I’ve worked on some fiction that I plan to publish down the line, but right now I felt that I wanted to pick up my interest in film and video games and do something constructive with the two that will reveal to audiences another degree or element of video games that they may not be aware of. I get to tell a very interesting story that I’m quite excited about.

Where do you hope this project will lead? In your wildest dreams, what would you love to see happen with this particular documentary and with the series as a whole? 

We plan on taking it to film festivals and promoting it everywhere including video game industry events. We also plan on having screenings locally and possibly nationally. It would be great to just see audiences enjoying the final product, wanting to share it with their friends and family, and having them take something away from the film that they were not aware of before. Once the first is complete, we are excited to keep going. It’ll take some time to complete the series, since both Daryl and I have other projects in mind, but we do plan on completing it if all goes well with “World 1-1.”

What can the average reader of Little Utopia do to help you meet your financial  goals and the overall goal of making this movie?

The biggest help is donating to the film via our Kickstarter [Editor’s note: click here to visit the Kickstarter page], especially since we have just a little under a week left, with the deadline of November 6 fast approaching. If you are pressed for cash, you can also just share about us, write about us, tweet, reblog, basically spread the word as much as you can to anyone who you think might be interested!


lc-e1358128566135Laura Creel (@Little_Utopia) is the managing editor of Little Utopia.

Previously from Laura Creel:
Little Utopia’s Epic NBA Season Preview Extravaganza: Part 2
Viral Video of the Week: Kanye West’s Bizarre Jimmy Kimmel Interview
The Complete Coverage on My Weight Loss “Success”
Never the Bride
Learning From Failure

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