Old School Gamer Magazine chats with “Pixelated Heroes” director Mikey McBryan to find out everything about the upcoming NHL 94 documentary. Discussing the origin of the film, the research process and the rapidly approaching and massive NHL 94 tournament in Las Vegas, as well as the film’s first screening, McBryan lets us know everything he’s up to.
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Review Fix: How did the idea of this documentary come to you?
Mikey McBryan: It all started in 2005. I was in college in Red Deer Alberta. My friends and I at the time got talking about how much fun it was to play Golden Eye on Nintendo 64. So just like any home sick kid we got bit by the nostalgia bug. One Sunday we headed down to the local used music and game store to buy a 64 and GoldenEye 007. It wasn’t cheap, $80 for the system, $50 for the game and $25 each for extra controllers. While I we were paying for the system I noticed they had Sega Genesis games. Thinking back I remembered how much fun it was to play NHL ’94. So I asked the guy behind the counter if he had any copies for sale. He laughed at me and pointed. There was a stack of at least eight. I walked over and to my surprise, they had a price tag of $1.99 each. I thought to myself wow that’s pretty cheap, that game was my favorite. I walked back to the counter and grabbed the 64 and GoldenEye and we left. That night we played GoldenEye and we had a blast! But after a while I noticed something. GoldenEye 007 has aged horribly, the controls suck and the graphics are not as good as I remembered them. The game is pretty bland by 2005 standards (not to mention 2017 standards). I kept on thinking about NHL ’94. Is it as good as I remembered it? I haven’t played it for about 6 years (which is a lifetime when you are that age). So I went back to the game store and I bought a copy of NHL ’94 for $1.99 and a Sega for $25 bucks. Plugged it into a CRT TV and I was blown away. NHL ’94 was still amazing. I got my friends over and we started playing. I went back to the game store again and I bought every copy they had of NHL ’94. That game didn’t deserve to be in the bargain bin. From that moment on I bought every copy of NHL ’94 I can find (on all systems). I have over 130 copies now. Call me crazy and I still don’t know why I do it.
Now flash forward to 2014. I just finished filming 6 seasons of my TV Show Ice Pilots NWT (Now on NETFLIX). I was sitting at a pub with my buddy and Ice Pilots Director Jereme Watt. He asked me what I wanted to now that the show was done. I said that I really loved the movie King of Kong. I wish I could make a movie about NHL ’94 the same way they did about Donkey Kong. Jereme laughed at me told me NHL ’94 was one of his favorite games as a kid and I should do it! I started researching that night on NHL94.com and the rest is history.
Review Fix: Let’s talk about the research. Who did you speak to from the dev team? How much time did you spend with them?
McBryan: I knew I was good at the game. In fact, I was on a ten-year unbeaten streak at the time. But I knew nothing about how the game was made. That’s where NHL94.com came in. I spent dozens of hours reading forum posts trying to learn the history of NHL ’94. I came up with a game plan. I need to find Mark Lesser. He was the head designer of the NHL ’94 and he will have the answers to why this game lasted so long. I also made a wish list to talk to Michel Brook who produced the NHL series up to that point. I also wanted to talk to the God Father of all 16-bit sports games, Jim Simmons. I was very lucky to spend a day filming with both Brook and Simmons on my quest to find Lesser. I don’t want to say too much more as I have to save something for the movie.
Review Fix: What did you learn that you weren’t expecting?
McBryan: To tell you the truth I thought was alone in my crazy love of NHL ’94. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The NHL ’94 community today is amazing and its full with the most awesome video game fans around. If you haven’t yet you have to check out NHL94.com to see for yourself. You can even download a hacked version of the game and play with today’s rosters and even with the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Review Fix: What was the best story that didn’t make it into the film?
McBryan: That’s a hard question. One story that comes to mind is one from a guy named John Glass from NHL94.com. His buddy had NHL ’94 on SNES and they loved playing it back in the day. One day his buddies house burnt down and they were worried about the game. They broke through the yellow caution tape and got into the house they found a half melted SNES and the NHL ’94 game. They took it to Johns house and plugged it in. It worked! But it only played the game in black and white. So that’s how they played it from that point on. The image of a melted SNES and a black and white video game would have made an awesome animation sequence. Who knows maybe it will make it into the director’s cut :).
Review Fix: How does it feel to have the support of the NHL94.com community on this one?
McBryan: There is no way I could have made the film without them. It is their film just as much as it’s mine. I can’t speak more highly of the whole gang. I have to give a special shout out to kingraph, evan, halifax, angryjay93 and clockwise for going above and beyond to help me with the film.
Review Fix: Why must someone watch this film?
McBryan: If you like hockey, video games or nostalgia this is the film for you. I spent a lot of time to make the film funny and enjoyable for people who have never seen or played NHL ’94. I knew nothing about Donkey Kong or arcades when I watched King of Kong and that film made me a fan. I just hope that this movie can expand the love of NHL ’94 and for god sakes get it out of the bargain bin and under some protective glass where it belongs!
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the upcoming book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.