When GoldenEye 007 was released back in August 1997 for the Nintendo 64, critics were over the moon with Rare and Nintendo's James Bond tie-in.
It didn't matter that the original film had come out two years prior, or that shooting on the sequel Tomorrow Never Dies was already well underway, with publications busy praising the game for its technical innovation, incredible depth, and fantastic multiplayer mode.
Today, the game has taken on an almost legendary status and because of that, there's been an abundance of articles, videos, documentaries, and even books written about the subject. Which begs the question, why can't we shut up about GoldenEye all these years later? And what is there still to learn about the game all these years later? To find out, we spoke to Boss Fight Books author Alyse Knorr, GoldenEra filmmaker Drew Roller, and the GoldenEye YouTuber Graslu00.
As someone who has spent the last three years researching GoldenEye 007 for a book, Alyse Knorr seemed like the perfect person to put these questions to. She is an associate professor of English at Regis University in Colorado and also wrote another video game book in the past about Super Mario Bros. 3.
Growing up, Knorr tells us that she never had the latest gaming consoles or a super fancy gaming computer to play on but shared a Nintendo 64 with her younger brother. It was on this console that she first experienced GoldenEye, kickstarting a love affair that has continued all the way through college up to the modern day. According to her, it was this affection for the source material that made her want to go to the effort of documenting the complete history of GoldenEye through extensive interviews with the developers. But what could she bring to this story that others hadn't before?
"There has already been a lot written about GoldenEye," she admits. "And the developers, over the last 25 years, they’ve given endless interviews, but I’m kind of a completionist. Like I’m really obsessed with organization and order, and it drove me crazy that there were these little tidbits and cool things about the game that you could find in random listicles or random YouTube videos, but that it wasn’t all together.
"I just wanted to put it all in one place: the impact, the story of how it was made, and the story about the sequels. I just wanted it to be in one easy-to-read place where you could get it all as one story."
To accomplish this, she read through existing interviews and compiled hundreds of notes. She also reached out to all of the developers to then interview them again. While you might expect the developers to be jaded, answering the same questions all these years later, they ended up going above and beyond to help the author.
"A few of them actually read the entire book in draft form and pointed out typos because they’re that meticulous," she tells us. "They’re programmers and they’re geniuses so they just find everything. They had suggestions, they had ideas, and they caught so many things. I’m just very, very grateful that they were able to share their story and it was important to me when I reached out to them to really be really clear about exactly what I was doing."
Though she informs us that her ultimate goal with the book was to tell the story of the inexperienced GoldenEye team and the creation of this genre-defining title, it's clear that, for her, it was also a bit of a reflection on her own relationship to the game. And because of this, she was constantly wrestling with whether she could approach the subject without bias. It was a concern that she had previously experienced while writing her 2016 book on Super Mario Bros. 3, and one that she ultimately had to ignore.
"What I found was like, yes, there is nostalgia but also there is just objective quality," says Knorr. "This is a beautiful game. I think more so with GoldenEye than with Super Mario Bros. 3, it is nostalgic because it is such a communal experience playing the game. We had these moments with our best friends growing up and our siblings and our cousins, loving each other, playing this game, and throwing Doritos at each other. Or you know, making up drinking games around GoldenEye in college."
While Knorr's book is currently available to purchase from Boss Fight Books, it's not scheduled to start shipping until September 2022. Unsurprisingly, considering the 25th anniversary happening this year, there are plenty of other GoldenEye-themed celebrations to occupy you until then. Not least is the feature film documentary GoldenEra, directed by the Australian filmmaker Drew Roller.
Similar to Knorr, we wanted to know how Roller had approached the GoldenEye story and what he saw in retelling it all these years later. For Roller, what it came down to was the idea of positioning GoldenEye as this origin point for the explosive popularity of console shooters. An explosion that eventually led to games like Halo and Call of Duty.
As mentioned throughout the documentary, for years prior to GoldenEye 007's release, it had seemed like the first-person shooter was primarily the domain of PC gamers, with titles like Doom and Wolfenstein 3D being associated first and foremost with home computers. GoldenEye 007, and to a lesser extent Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, helped to change this perception, giving console players an accessible and affordable way to experience what had long been considered a more "hardcore", "grown-up" genre on a family-oriented console. As Roller mentions, it also helped to sell the promise of Nintendo 64's four-person multiplayer.
"GoldenEye was my first shooter and I think it was my first multiplayer experience, which is a huge part of that game’s appeal," says Roller. "Console gaming had become a party overnight; it had become a social experience. I don’t think you can compare online multiplayer today to being on the couch with your buddies, some junk food, and just partying through the night."
Like Knorr, Roller interviewed many of the original developers again, in order to gather more information. And, over the course of filming, he actually befriended some members of the development team too. Dr. David Doak, for instance, the figure he had killed in the Facility endlessly as a young man, provided him with a contact for a VR job in Melbourne - his first ever video game role.
Roller tells us that GoldenEra was very much an attempt at pinpointing what the industry was like both before and after GoldenEye 007 and examining how this ragtag group impacted the wider gaming landscape. As mentioned in the film, many of the GoldenEye crew had never actually worked on a video game prior to GoldenEye, but against the odds managed to ship a game that pushed the first-person shooter forward and ended up innovating, almost by mistake. This is something Roller says likely couldn't happen today.
As Roller tells us, "I think the popularity of GoldenEye is really all about that time and that place in the industry. We definitely talk about this in the movie, but there’s kind of a peak of innovation in the 90s when we’re shifting from 2D to 3D and there are new game consoles and more powerful chips that can power polygons and 3D immersive environments. Your ability to awe people was a lot greater then and I think now we’re kind of jaded and we’ve seen everything. There’s definitely a little bit of entitlement too."
The implausibility of GoldenEye's success and impact is arguably one of the biggest reasons why so many people are still drawn to this story today. But there's also another reason too: its community. As Knorr and Roller revealed, something exciting and challenging about talking about the game today is that the story of GoldenEye 007 is still being told.
In January 2021, for example, the Spanish YouTuber Graslu00 premiered a video of Rare's GoldenEye 007 Xbox Live Arcade remaster, which was developed around 2007-2008 before being put on ice. Up to this point, this video was the most extensive look at the game yet. Then, only one month later, the ROM was made freely available to players. These developments came at a point when both the author and filmmaker were close to finishing their respective projects.
Even beyond high-profile leaks, there is a lot happening in the community on a regular basis, from modding to speedrunning and in-person tournaments. No one knows this as much as Graslu00, who is constantly uploading videos looking at the latest news and events within the GoldenEye community. Interestingly, out of all the people we spoke to, he's the youngest, being born a year after the game's original release. Nevertheless, he tells us that he can't remember a time when he didn't know about GoldenEye's existence.
When he was a child, his dad would often play the game sitting by his side and give him a second unplugged controller to hold and pretend that he was playing. Then, by the age of 3 or 4, he was finally able to give it a go for real. For him, there are plenty of reasons why GoldenEye sticks out compared to other FPS games of the era. Chief among them is the content itself.
"There's a lot to love about the game," he tells us. "You have the great replayability, gameplay, and gun feel. Even today it feels great to pick up and play, not many games have that polished type of gunplay, especially at that time. All the enemy reactions, sound effects, and graphics merge together perfectly."
It's because of this lifelong appreciation of the game that Graslu00 started messing around with GoldenEye 007 mods as a teenager back in 2007-2008. And in 2010, this eventually led him to discover GoldenEye: Source, the multiplayer fan remake that was the subject of his very first YouTube video posted three years later.
Despite the lack of an official remaster or rerelease of the game from Rare or Microsoft, Graslu00 feels that it's still an extremely exciting time to be a fan of the game and a member of its community. Much of this is down to the accessibility of its development team as well as the creative endeavors of other like-minded players who are constantly updating the game and developing new mods. Only recently, for instance, a team got together to produce a full campaign mod for GoldenEye based on the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me.
"Everyone is very open including the game developers - which is a great experience to be able to talk to them as fans of their work! The game is still enjoyable, people love watching others play, speedrun, and mod the game. The community is very much alive 25 years later. Even if we didn't have any official news regarding a remaster or anything, I'm happy to just know there's a dedicated community working on ways to make it an even more enjoyable experience for newer generations..."
Speaking to this collection of authors, filmmakers, and YouTubers, it's clear that nostalgia is definitely part of the reason why people are still drawn to this game, but its significance and impact are also difficult to ignore.
That, combined with the fact the community is constantly giving players new reasons to dust off their old cartridges, means we're probably still going to be talking about GoldenEye in another five, ten, or fifteen years. And in that space of time, we're clearly going to see more deep dives from those who are trying to make sense of its legacy.
Earlier this year, rumors started circling again over its canceled remaster receiving an official release. We can only hope that this is the next chapter of the story to be written.
What is your favorite memory of playing GoldenEye 007? Comment below!