Filmmakers BJ Verot (left) and Brad Crawford (Timothy Buerger)
We stayed at a hotel in downtown Tokyo, there were five arcades outside the hotel and all were six stories tall. You walk a few blocks and there are more.
—Brad Crawford, filmmaker
They're several stories tall, are all over Japan and a place where
students playing fighting games like Street Fighter II stand side by side men in business suits
playing Dance Dance Revolution.
When Winnipeg filmmaker Brad Crawford first saw the popularity of arcades in Japan, he was shocked. "If you're a fan of videogames, arcades are everywhere. It's kind of mind- boggling because they've disappeared from North America," he says.
So Crawford and his Strata Studios business partner BJ Verot started working on 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience, a documentary exploring the subject.
"We stayed at a hotel in downtown Tokyo, there were five arcades outside the hotel and all were six stories tall. You walk a few blocks and there are more," he says.
They shot a trailer for the movie and posted it on Indiegogo, a fundraising site. Then they waited to see what would happen.
Aside from raising $15,000 to begin production, arcade owners and game designers like Taito who created Space Invaders also got in touch to help. "They all came out of the woodwork after seeing the trailer and we were able to do a million times more than we otherwise would have," Crawford says.
They got access to Sega's headquarters in Tokyo, interviewed professional gamers and got a peek into the hierarchy of how the arcades are built - with the elite players playing on the highest floors.
Verot and Crawford spent two and a half years on the project, and ended up raising another $32,000 to finish the film so the quality would match the style of the games. "It's so visually stimulating, with motion graphics, 3D graphics, it can't be cheap looking," Crawford explains.
The film premiered in Seattle in late August at the Penny Arcade Expo, the biggest video game convention in North America - as Crawford affectionately says, "filled with 70,000 screaming nerds."
Tickets sold out in three hours.
100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience premieres in Winnipeg at Cinematheque December 1-2.