Over the past few years there have been several documentaries that managed to get past my radar that discuss some awesome subjects and Insert Coin was definitely one of them. Having recently watched it with Apollo it really took us back to another time. The independent production tells the stories of the developers and key players who would launch Midway into the stratosphere of arcade and console gaming at a time when Capcom and mostly Japanese manufacturers were the dominant force in the market. Insert Coin takes you back to a time where players had to pay tokens or quarters to play and progress their game and skills in dark rooms with glowing CRTs but the hunt for the high score would remain.
The documentary talks with big names in entertainment and pop-culture such as Ernest Cline (Ready Player One, Armada) and director Paul WS Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil) as well as designers and developers who helped mold some of our fondest memories. I still recall the first Mortal Kombat film as a classic in gaming cinema and hearing more about the story behind it from the man behind the camera was entertaining.
Insert Coin maps the journey for a small group of talented and ambitious creators from Chicago consisting of Ed Boone, John Tobias and Nikko De Lozada (Blade II) who would change the face of the beat em up genre. Ed and John wanted to separate their title from the pack and wanted to make something more intense after noticing the planetary success and sales figures for the Street Fighter series. They also noticed the growing appetite of gamers for faster and more violent games and that their age demographic was expanding. They would collect a group of martial artist buddies to come on to do live motion recordings which they would put in the game which at the time made for a more realistic game on screen. This experimental approach would later become the bestselling Mortal Kombat series which would inspire and attract legions of fans until present day. A testament to what they created is that Mortal Kombat & Mortal Kombat II are in the top 4 bestselling fighting games of all with Street Fighter II at the number one spot.
Apart from altering the course of beat’em ups Midway would create the classic NBA Jam and this was truly fun to see and learnt he behind the scenes for many the 90s were arguably the best era of NBA basketball. The effort and collaboration with the league and its players provided insight into the modelling of the players in game as well as introduces viewers to the hurdles and obstacles that came with the technology back then. The documentary also touches on Eugene Jarvis and his work on the Cruis’n game which continues to have a sizable fan base, Smash TV and all of the classics that the publisher released.
More importantly the producers and director made sure to get as much footage of the people directly involved so that you can see the individuals who were championing these titles and putting in the work behind the scenes. I feel this is a must watch for anybody who is a fan of Midway games from back in the day and if you are just a casual gamer or younger this is a fun documentary which has teachable moments. Not to be corny but when you see how everything played out it almost serves as a warning of what they could expect. I warmly recommend this documentary and give it a 8 out of 10. The exclusion and lack of coverage for Stranglehold and Shadowhearts Covenant did disappoint me so that resulted in a point deduction but over all it is a must watch for the nerd herd at Kings Hill.
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