Chasing Ghosts

Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade is a love letter to arcade gaming, an era past and stained forever into popular geek culture. If you were part of the scene, a kid of the 80’s, or just a pop culture fanatic, Ghosts offers an entertaining look at the days of Pac Man.

In 1981 the arcade scene was huge. It was a time of big pixels and vector graphics, where you could play a game for only a quarter. A small arcade called Twin Galaxies in Ottumwa, Iowa somehow became the self proclaimed “Video Game Capital of the World”. Kinda like how Howard Stern started calling himself “The King of All Media,” and everyone followed.

Filled to the brim with 1980’s pop music, Ghosts takes a look at the many eccentric characters that populated the world of competitive arcade gaming. The characters are most times weirder than you could ever imagine. Some of them even play for over 50 hours strait in search for the elusive high score. This is a day before continues, where every life counts because you only get one quarter.

The filmmakers mix talking head interviews with vintage photos, video footage from television shows and the news reports, computer animated renderings of the arcade classics and real life footage from the arcade champions. One of the story-lines follows a best friend team who meet for the first time in 20 years after a nasty break-up over a high score.

As part of the console game era, I came in as the arcade began to die down. So it’s hard to imagine a time when the arcade was the cool place to frequent, but it sounds very appealing. The film ends on the dark note of the arcade’s ultimate demise. Was it the addition of continue credits or the revolution of home consoles that killed arcade gaming? Today the games at home look and play better than the ones found in the arcades, and that’s sad.

Chasing Ghosts does for the old school video games what Trekies did for Star Trek.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Peter Sciretta is a film geek and popcultured fanboy living in Los Angeles. He created /Film in 2005.