“Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler” is riveting documentary about a man on a quest for redemption. The title seems like it should refer to an adventurer like The Crocodile Hunter or Indiana Jones who must face off against a slithery foe; however, this is actually a film that chronicles a video gamer’s journey to reclaim his high score on Nibbler. Nibbler is not your average video game. It was notable as being the first game to include a score that went up to 999,999,999, meaning that it provided the ultimate challenge of scoring 1 billion points. In order to ascertain this score, one would have to potentially play the game for 40 hours. Through a series of interviews and clever animations (which are much more entertaining than the often lifeless reenactments that we see in documentaries), we learn the story of teenager Tim McVey’s 1984 Nibbler marathon in which he broke the billion point barrier. Once McVey (not the terrorist) discovers that an Italian gamer claims to have beaten his record but cannot officially verify it, McVey sets off on a quest to settle the debate by achieving a higher score. Throughout his journey, we learn about the marathon strategy of building up enough extra lives so that he can walk away for several minutes to eat, use the bathroom, or dunk his hands in ice while the game continues to play itself. The story is full of interesting characters, unexpected twists, and an epic scandal. You might not expect that a documentary about a simplistic arcade game could hold your attention for an hour and a half but “Man vs. Snake” creates so much suspense that you won’t be able to look away!
[Pictured: The animated segments are a great way to recreate scenes from McVey's climb to the top!]