NES documentary looks to collect games, memories

Video games have come a long way since Nintendo first dominated the market in the 1980s. Three decades later, Rob McCallum has plans to go a long way to document the Nintendo saga, all the while hunting for its classic games.

This month, McCallum (BA’04, Film Studies) is setting out on a journey to film The NES Club, a documentary following his long-time friend across North America on a search for every video game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, an 8-bit video game console that popularized games such as Super Mario Bros.

A handful of rules will guide McCallum and his friend, Jay Bartlett, on their hunt for more than 700 NES games: Bartlett cannot make any online purchases; he must pay for games using his own money; and, finally, he must complete the collection in 30 days or less. The pair has raised funds for the production of the documentary using, a crowdfunding site, and none of the proceeds will go toward the purchase of games.


“We’re calling this the ultimate 8-bit road trip,” McCallum said, noting the love of gaming and the community it makes, paired with a sense of nostalgia is fueling the project. “Why we are picking Nintendo (NES) is because this is the landmark system. The game industry crashed in 1983 and Nintendo came back and revitalized the industry. Everyone loved it.”

A tendency for brand allegiance, one that still exists to some extent in the industry with rivaling systems from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, among others, also makes The NES Club both relevant and called-for, he added.

“Back then, it was just Nintendo. It was clear a documentary was needed,” the 31-year-old said.

McCallum and Bartlett have laid out a road map of stores across North America, having received tips and emails about stores with vast collections and good reputations for carrying the classics. They will start their journey in southwestern Ontario, travelling across the United States during the month of August and ending with a visit to Nintendo headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

And if you’re wondering, the rule forbidding online purchases was a deliberate sanction, McCallum said, noting store purchases will foster the spirit of a gaming community that emerged as the industry first started to grow.

“When we find each game, it leads to a good discussion of the game, and what was important back then, and how it still matters today, and how things have changed,” he explained. “With gaming and the online world, we’re sitting and operating in isolation, versus back then, when we’d have to go out to the stores with our buddies, and we’d play shoulder-to-shoulder, taking turns. It (gaming) is a global community and we’re still separated.

“The fact Jay will have a story with each purchase, you can’t get that from a click on eBay.”

The movie will appeal not only to Nintendo enthusiasts, McCallum said, adding fans of TV shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers will also enjoy it.

“I want to raise awareness. I’m nostalgically involved in this era and I want people to recognize the importance of this company and this industry and how it really changed the face of everything,” he noted.

“I want to point people to rediscover that sense of community; that’s what’s lost today in social interaction – the crafting of memories. It takes a bit of effort to put that forward.”

McCallum, who now lives with his wife in Las Vegas, said the pair hopes to complete production of The NES Club by next summer, putting on a limited theatrical run of the documentary, one that will feature a showing in London.

The duo credits the help of everyone involved, acknowledging the fact that the film does cater to a niche audience, and adding they couldn’t continue on their journey without the support of friends and fans.

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