fistful of quarters

Joshua Bearman’s article The perfect game (2008) since years slumbers on my HDD—luckily it’s still available online for everybody. Testimony to the amazing zen-like perfect-flow achievable in high-end arcade gaming. Additionally there are two magnificent documentaries on the subject: ‘The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters’ (Gordon 2007) and ‘Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade’ (Ruchti 2007). Here are the trailers and what filmcritic‘s Anthony Burch has to say on the two documentaries:
the king of kong

Put this one at the top of your “Must Watch Now” list. Like, right now. Beyond functioning as an entertaining if somewhat shallow look into the world of professional retro gamers, The King of Kong tells a downright spectacular story about the rivalry between hot sauce baron Billy Mitchell and science teacher Steve Wiebe as they struggle for ownership of the highest Donkey Kong score ever.
    As Mitchell waxes poetic about World War I and Wiebe’s wife bemoans her status as the “Queen of Donkey Kong,” we’re presented with a straightforward but remarkably effective and well paced good-versus-evil tale. Not to denigrate the other movies on this list, but The King of Kong is enjoyable because it’s a documentary that doesn’t feel like one; it’s got the heroes and villains and character arcs and conflict of a “real” Hollywood movie, only all the players are much more funny-looking.

chasing ghosts

But when it comes to video game docs, King of Kong is a little too Hollywood. Enter Chasing Ghosts, which unpretentiously explores the history and personalities behind the Twin Galaxies organization that tracks video game world records of all varieties. Many of the same people to appear in King of Kong show up here as well, albeit in a much different context: Where King of Kong often asked us to laugh at the fact that a bunch of middle-aged guys would still be interested in playing perfect games of Pac Man, Chasing Ghosts is legitimately interested in the arcade game culture that exploded in the ’80s and died two decades later. Ultimately, the movie is equal parts love letter and eulogy to a time when quarters and 8-bit enemies and really, really awkward hairstyles were the pinnacle of pop culture.

BEARMAN, JOSHUA. 2008. The perfect game: Five years with the master of Pac-Man. Harper’s Magazine July 2008: 65-73.
GORDON, SETH. 2007. The king of kong: A fistful of quarters [documentary film]. Los Angeles: LargeLab.
RUCHTI, LINCOLN. 2007. Chasing ghosts: Beyond the arcade [documentary film]. Glenham: Men at Work Pictures.
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