Entertainment Magazine

Movie of the Day – Chasing Ghosts: Beyond The Arcade

Posted on the 24 February 2013 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

Now I don’t particularly remember the good old days of the local arcades.  The quarter pumping classics that lined the side walls of many roller rinks, mall outlets or even the lone system at the pizza parlor.  I grew up in the time of Nintendo and Sega, the home consoles being my general outlet for gaming, but there were places where you could go to be transported back to the time when the only noises were the bleeps from the machine and the constant pounding of buttons from players trying to beat the high score.  I always liked going to my arcade from time to time and playing Street Fighter or the latest, epileptic seizure inducing game, but something about old school arcade games are really the most trying of the games.  They tested your skills and were truly agonizing in terms of satisfaction.  Damn those are good games.

Chasing Ghosts 1a

In 1982, at the dawn of the video-game age, the world’s giants of gaming gathered together in a now-legendary meeting at Iowa’s Twin Galaxies arcade. This documentary from director Lincoln Ruchti looks at the players then and now, offering an insightful and nostalgic look at the history of gaming fanaticism. Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the coveted Grand Jury Prize. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

Chasing Ghosts is more of a trip down memory lane than a hard hitting documentary on video games.  Yeah, hard hitting video game documentaries are few and far between given the subject matter, but this is a nostalgia piece that looks back on the people who thrived on video games to the point that they became super stars in their own right.  It’s not bad though, actually far more loving in terms of the fondness and recollections that we have for video games.  The years of misspent youth in front of a glowing screen are captured during the footage of news clips that covered the craze of arcade gaming.  It was a phenomenon that spawned stars and a booming industry that we see today.

Chasing Ghosts 1b

It’s the complete use of nostalgia that fuels the meat of the documentary.  Showcasing the stars of that time like Billy Mitchell with his Pac-Man scores and Walter Day who is the unofficial gatekeeper of high scores at Twin Galaxies.  We see the early start of the craze, the arcade halls and the hoopla that surrounded the lines of kids wanting a chance to put their quarter in the machine to try their skills.  It’s a subculture that some would chide, but honestly there is a lot of fun and heart to be had when looking at how captivated everyone was with old school arcades.  Hell I recently had a birthday party at one of our local theaters that has a retro arcade hall and that shit was fucking awesome.

The chronicling of the decade that arcade games became the rage is done very well in this documentary.  More of a tapestry and patchwork of the time rather than a deeper look into the subculture or the people that made it what it was.  The King of Kong is a better look at the craze of high score competition, but this is a perfect little overview of the craze.  It certainly rings more nostalgic than anything else, but for those that grew up in that era, it’s a trip through their childhood that enraptures the viewer, a time capsule of growing up in the decade.  I wouldn’t say it defined that decade, but for those in the culture it certainly was a pillar of their life.

Now if you excuse me, I have to try and get to the kill screen on Donkey Kong.  Not really cause that game is hard as shit.


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