At my core, I have always been a PlayStation gamer, purely because of how I was brought up. The first game console I ever interacted with was the original PlayStation; I must have only been three or four, and nothing brings me back to those early years of my childhood more than the sound of the PS1 booting up. It’s like a delightful warm hug that I never get tired of.
Watching From Bedrooms to Billions: The PlayStation Revolution gave me that same warm feeling I get when I hear the PS1 boot-up sounds, because it’s a nearly 3-hour love letter to PlayStation and its legacy.
The PlayStation Revolution began as a Kickstarter campaign by directors Anthony Caulfield and Nicola Caulfield. It is the third part in the From Bedrooms to Billions documentary anthology series, detailing the British Video Games industry from 1979 to the present day. With their latest venture, the directors aimed to create an in-depth documentary about the journey of PlayStation from its inception leading up to the PS4.
The main thing that struck me about this documentary was the sheer amount of detail and research that was put into it—especially during the first hour or so of the film, which discusses how Sony entered the video game world. It makes a point of explaining every important moment in detail, allowing for a greater understanding of how the games industry worked at the time and how Sony created something entirely different than anything that had come before it.
Perhaps the documentary’s biggest strength is the number of interviewees who were involved in the creation of the PS1 and the games that were made for it. It is also notable to mention that the documentary included interviews from people who were working for Sega and Nintendo at the time, giving a different perspective and allowing for a less biased approach. The interviewees were all engaging and had different perspectives, which allowed a topic that could have potentially felt dull feel engaging. Although I did feel my attention waning when there was a lot of technical or corporate jargon, this thankfully only happened in small intervals.
However, out of the plethora of people that were interviewed, only two of them were women. I thought this was worth mentioning because it stuck out like a sore thumb to me whilst watching this documentary. However, it is also worth noting that this isn’t necessarily a fault on the directors’ part; it is an insight into the largely male-dominated world of the video games industry, especially during its early years, with only an estimated 3% of game industry employees being female in 1989. Things have improved in thirty years, but the imbalance is still apparent, with 28% female and 2% identifying as non-binary.
Now, this wasn’t something I was expecting to discuss the review, but the lack of female voices was so apparent to me and, although it would not be fair to suggest the directors are at fault, this could have been addressed in other ways, which leads onto another minor issue I had with the documentary.
It was great to hear from industry insiders and a few gaming journalists; however, this being a celebration of PlayStation, why not focus on the importance of the player? It would have been nice to hear from fans of PlayStation in the talking head interviews. It also would have been a great opportunity for diversity within the documentary and give it a completely different perspective—that of outsiders to the development and corporate worlds.
Aside from this, the information conveyed was concise and interesting. There was a good amount of archive footage that broke up the talking heads nicely. The archive footage, in particular, transported me back to the 1990s and gave me a glimpse into the world of gaming and the hype surrounding the PS1 that I was too young to understand. I particularly loved seeing footage of the very first E3 and all of the advertisements for Playstation, including one for the PS2 directed by David Lynch.
There were some great moments of tension in this documentary as well, believe it or not. This tension was most noticeable between Sony and Nintendo in their very brief partnership, the build up to how the price was decided for the PS1, and how the PS3 was nearly the end for Playstation. These moments, whilst containing a lot of corporate dealings, actually managed to be extremely engaging and memorable, so huge credit to the directors for managing to achieve this.
I learned a lot during The PlayStation Revolution, but I also finished it with a great sense of excitement and, weirdly, pride for Playstation. They have (despite a few setbacks) managed to be revolutionary and consumer-friendly to this day. This documentary is great for fans of Playstation, but also for anyone learning about the games industry, from journalists to developers. With the archive footage paired with interviews from people who were involved so closely with the creation of the Playstation, this documentary acts as a wonderful and well-rounded history lesson about one of the powerhouses of the gaming world.