A Kickstarter fundraiser launches today for a new documentary mini-series examining the history of arcades and coin-op games.
Arcade Dreams is being produced by Rock Steady Media with Director, Zach Weddington at the helm and is planned to be a three-part series covering the past one hundred years of arcade and game development, from the earliest electromechanical amusements to the latest virtual-reality simulations.
Although the team have already shot hundreds of hours of 4K source material they still plan to shoot much more, both for the mini-series itself and for bonus material available to backers of the Kickstarter project.
As you can imagine, a century of coin-op gaming and arcade development is an expansive subject, so the documentary interviews many industry luminaries and gaming historians including Eugene Jarvis, Roger Sharpe, Gary Stern and George Gomez along with many more tracing the development of game design, technology, manufacturing and marketing.
The Kickstarter campaign is currently underway with a target of $95,000 before the closing deadline of 5th December, 2020.
To find out more about the documentary mini-series and the motivation behind the creation of Arcade Dreams, Pinball News spoke to Director, Zach Weddington and began by asking him about his history in both film-making and arcade gaming.
He told us, “I grew up in arcades. I was so obsessed, I used to sneak out of my bedroom window to ride my bike to the arcade at night when I was supposed to be in bed. Consoles are great, I had them all: NES, Sega Master System, ColecoVision, but they couldn’t compare to the arcade experience. I’ve never stopped going to arcades and always check out the local scene when I visit a new town.“
“I first started making videos when I was about 9 years old, beginning with claymation. The California Raisins were HUGE at the time! I began doing my own computer animation at age 12 using an Amiga computer. Through the years, I made thousands of commercials and videos of all kinds. Eventually I wound up working for Comcast in their Headquarters in Philly. After that, I struck out on my own…making my own films like Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine, which was very successful. The film broke records on iTunes around the world and had an exclusive premiere on Hulu. I took all that knowledge and experience and decided to keep going. Now it’s time for Arcade Dreams.“
There have been several features made about the growth and decline of various aspects of the coin-op gaming industry. What made you want to create the Arcade Dreams mini-series?
“Our series is really different. The films made so far about arcades and coin-op have told bits and pieces of the story, but not the whole thing. We’re going to put you inside the arcades of many different generations. And tell stories that just haven’t been told before. There’s a rich history of games which has been largely ignored, in our view. Plus, it’s just going to be really fun to watch. I’m amazed at some of the stuff we’ve created so far, and we’ll be sharing it during the Kickstarter campaign.“
Arcades are a mix of many different gaming genres – mechanical, video, pinball, skeeball, novelty, skill games, redemption, etc. – as well as game-operating, catering and bar businesses in their own rights. What is the scope of Arcade Dreams in covering everything arcade-related?
“We’ve got everything. From Speakeasies to Family Fun Centers. People’s home arcades. We’ve got the people who actually made arcades and coin-op happen from the business side. Historians on our team who are encyclopedic in their knowledge. And we’re gonna show the pinball fans some serious love. We love the pinball community and they’ve been some of our biggest supporters so far. Please let all the pinball people know we are going to hook them up. I’ve actually fallen in love with pinball all over again in the process of making this film.“
Arcade Dreams is going to appeal to fans of all those genres. How do you balance the content to comprehensively cover as many coin-op elements as possible without turning-off those not interested in competing genres?
“We’ll solve that problem by providing context and relevance to the arcade topic at hand. Our goal is to illuminate this history and show the evolution of games and arcades through time. Like arcades in general, many of the most influential video game creators and companies got their start in pinball, so their ideas on how to design great games actually evolved from there. If you look closely, you’ll see that arcade and game designers keep making the same games over and over again, but with different technology and enhancements. We will connect the dots for people.“
Is Arcade Dreams purely focused on arcades and game development in the United States or does it look internationally too?
“Arcade history is as rich internationally as it is in the United States and we definitely want to tell those stories. The international scope will depend on just how much support and backing we get during the Kickstarter campaign. The more support we get, the more we can branch out to other countries’ arcade history. On the low end, we’ll cover the US and Japan. As we get more backers, we’ll branch out to the rest of the world. Europe and UK for sure. Then let’s go to Korea and China. Some amazing stories there.“
What are your ambitions for the completed documentary mini-series? Will it be available through streaming, broadcast, sell-through physical media, or a cinematic release for example?
“My debut film Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine secured a distribution deal that included an exclusive deal with Hulu, #1 spots on iTunes worldwide and a DVD release. So at the very minimum, it will be something along those lines. Arcade Dreams will most likely be a Netflix Original Series or maybe we’ll do a deal with Amazon or Hulu. We’ know it’s an in-demand topic, so we’re extremely optimistic. It will just depend on who makes the best offer. Our fans around the world will be able to watch it easily no matter what happens – and the Kickstarter backers will be first in line to watch.“
It looks as though you’ve already shot much of the source material for Arcade Dreams. What do you need the $95,000 Kickstarter fundraiser for, or is it more about community involvement?
“This is a big story, right? We’ve shot about half of the source material, and we’ve got some major shoots lined up for next year. But Arcade Dreams is more than that. It’s not just a bunch of people explaining history. It’s photorealistic animations that take you under the glass of a pinball machine and follow the ball as it travels around inside the cabinet. Beautifully shot montages that take you right back to the 80s and 90s arcades.“
“Aside from developing the series, about half of our Kickstarter funds will go straight into producing our amazing backer rewards, including a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray set, custom illustrated posters, t-shirts, and a variety of other collectibles. But the bottom line really is community involvement. This series is for the fans and we can’t wait to bring them on board.“
What’s your timescale for releasing the completed mini-series?
“Summer of 2022. The better we do on Kickstarter, the sooner it will be. It may happen sooner. We found some plutonium in the back of an abandoned arcade, so the DeLorean is ready to go. With a little more plutonium we can travel more and farther. It’s up to the fans.“
The team have produced a trailer for Arcade Dreams which you can see here:
There is also a press release about the new documentary.
Video documentary series Arcade Dreams launches on Kickstarter chronicling over 100 years of arcade gaming history
Documenting amusement arcades from their birth to the present day, Arcade Dreams aims to be the definitive history of arcades from their mechanical roots to the cutting edge experiences of today.
Philadelphia, PA, USA – October 21st 2020 – Grab yourself a bag of quarters and get ready for a heavy dose of nostalgia! Rock Steady Media, the makers of the hit documentary Viva Amiga, today unveiled Arcade Dreams, their latest passion project, on Kickstarter. The Arcade Dreams Kickstarter is now up and running and waiting for your quarters. It will run out of lives on December 5th.
Arcade Dreams takes viewers back to the button-bashing temples of their youth and beyond in this multi-episode love letter to the 100-year history of amusement arcades. Starting with the mechanical penny arcades of the early 1900s, the documentary series chronicles the evolution of arcade gaming from mechanical marvels through to classic cabinets, crazy rides and the ultra-immersive VR experiences of today.
Arcade Dreams delves into the history of these gaming institutions from their very beginnings. The series is a vibrant celebration of amusement arcades, and Rock Steady Media have already captured hundreds of hours of rich 4K footage, spanning machines from classics like 1970’s Gunfight right through to 2020’s King Kong of Skull Island, as well as interviews with legendary industry figures, historians, collectors, and expert enthusiasts.
“Growing up in the ’80s, I was obsessed with arcades. In fact, I never stopped going to arcades. Now I get to turn this lifelong passion into my dream documentary series” said Arcade Dreams Director Zach Weddington. “I’ve always wanted someone to create the definitive history of amusement arcades, but nothing ever seemed to materialise. So, I realised that I was going to have to do it myself. I was lucky enough to have Bill Winters join me as Director of Photography and we have built a team of award-winning writers, editors, production designers, researchers, and 3D animators. Together we’ve uncovered some amazing stories and we’re halfway through our journey. Now we need our fellow fans to help us get to the finish line. We also discovered some plutonium in the back of an abandoned arcade, so the DeLorean is all ready to go. It’s going to be epic.”
Arcade Dreams traces technology and trends in arcade games of every generation, including:
• Early electromechanical machines like Duck Hunt, Gunfight and Moto-Champ
• Pinball games all the way from pre-war titles like Jigsaw to modern classics like Avengers: Infinity War
• Early video games SpaceWar!, Space Invaders and Asteroids
• Classic fighting games Double Dragon, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, King of Fighters and Virtua Fighter
• Games with innovative cabinet designs, including OutRun, Densha de Go!, Afterburner and Sega’s outrageous G-LOC R360
Interviews with industry luminaries such as:
• Eugene Jarvis, pinball and game designer who created classics like Defender, Robotron:2084, Cruis’n USA, Pinbot, NARC, and Smash TV
• Gary Stern, head of Stern Pinball and a second-generation arcade legend
• Jon Hey, sound designer and composer who worked on many games for Midway such as NBA Jam and was the voice of Raiden on Mortal Kombat
• George Gomez, game designer who created the iconic cabinet design for TRON and Spy Hunter. He is now the Chief Creative Officer for Stern Pinball
• Roger Sharpe, known as “The Man Who Saved Pinball.” A notable pinball historian who worked in the industry for more than a quarter-century
Arcade fans and video game historians can support Arcade Dreams on Kickstarter for the next 45 days. Backers will receive several exclusive rewards, including a collector’s edition Blu-Ray box set and limited edition posters by legendary artists Jeremy Packer (Avengers: Infinity War) and Rich Davies (Ready Player One, Terminator Dark Fate). Reaching their goal of $95,000 USD will ensure this documentary series matches the ambitious vision of Rock Steady Media, with stretch goals delivering hours of additional content.
Pinball News will keep you updated with progress towards the funding and completion of the Arcade Dreams mini-series.