Last night was one of those nights that really only happens in LA and actually makes me like living here. A few friends in the industry go together to check out this arcade game documentary called Chasing Ghosts at the LA Film Festival in Westwood! The movie was pretty good overall and in true film festival tradition the Director, Producer, and a few of the players from the movie were there for QA after the showing. The bummer was that most people asked them boring questions like what kind of camera they shot the movie with and how long things took but then Walter Day launched was asked a question that made up for all the boring ones. I do not even remember the actual question he was asked but Walter stepped up to the mic and launched into something that has been on my mind for quite some time, the importance of Video Game History preservation and that is exactly what the film is if nothing else no matter what.
The film just took me back to a time where I was asking for some quarters everywhere I went, it did not matter if it was Zayer’s, Gold Circle, or Dairy Mart because any establishment of any salt had some kind of video game. I mean those were the days and I was only like 6 or 7 during the bulk of the time explored in the film but I remembered it all. But while I was just teething in gaming years these guys were out destroying games, setting insane high scores, getting t-shirts made, and having groupies, YES GROUPIES as evident by the hickey on Billy Mitchell’s neck, which lead to him to become “Video Game Player of the Century”. They even had contracts that addressed groupies, true rock stars of the moment. However like all good things it came to an end which one player said began with the ability to continue games by simply putting another quarter in the machine, that just shows how HARDCORE these guys were… they did not blame home gaming consoles they blame the ability to continue your game.
As for the film as a whole, I think it was pretty good as a whole but at times it made me feel like the line of showing people lives and making fun of them was crossed, in the films defense these guys are all a bit eccentric so it was inevitable. I think one of the best parts in the movie was a small reflections montage of the players watching video tape of themselves back in the early 1980’s and seeing there reactions, this was pure genius! It was pretty amazing that the film idea stemmed from one picture taken of all the players that Life Magazine ran, which was a major thread throughout the entire film. Again it was this little bit of history that could have been forgotten but instead triggered an entire movie that in the words of Walter Day himself “Might be the first real historical film about the video games”… It was a nostalgic night filled with great conversations before and after the movie with my gaming friends that I have known, made games with, and played games with for the last decade or even longer… so if the film gets anymore dates check it out!!!
It’s a shame this little gem never had a full release since it speaks to more of my arcade generation and a bunch of my friends are in the film or made the film. Perhaps in the wake of Chasing Ghosts and the upcoming The King of Kong enough interest will merit the release of Bang the Machine. Until then here is a little slice of that film for you to get behind and maybe it can finally find a home so we can all enjoy it!