The Lost Arcade and the Loss of Public Play
Doc tells the tale of a New York gaming institution in its final days
By Will McCarthy,
8:00AM, Wed. Nov. 9, 2016
As personal consoles have taken the place of arcades, the whole idea of arcade culture has been pushed into a sort of forced obsolescence.
Presented by local video game collective Juegos Rancheros, The Lost Arcade is a documentary that dives right into the nostalgia of neon lights and pinball machines at an old New York City arcade called Chinatown Fair. Written and produced by Irene Chin and directed by Kurt Vincent, the film celebrates the arcade, its inhabitants, and the poignancy of a video game community.
Vincent and Chin immediately felt drawn to the arcade when they first visited it in 2011. “It was authentic, it was real, it wasn’t trying to recapture something from the past, it was just existing in its current form,” said Vincent. That night left a real mark on the two filmmakers, and they decided they had to capture the atmosphere on camera once they learned the arcade was closing down. But what began as a simple portrait of Chinatown Fair transformed into a broader eulogy for the nostalgic ideal of teenagers hanging out together at an arcade on a Friday night. “Something’s lost when video games are played alone in the living room,” said Vincent. “I think when you place them in a public venue they’re played with respect and they bond people together.”
As the story evolved, so did Vincent and Chin’s understanding of Chinatown Fair. They realized that the arcade wasn’t just a place to play games and pass the hours, but a home for many people who didn’t have anywhere else to go.
“A lot of people, when they see an arcade and video games, they think it’s just a place to blow off steam,” Vincent said. “I would love for people to see the movie and realize that surrounding them in the world are these special places that might not make the most financial sense or be particularly pretty either, but that still have so much value.”
The Lost Arcade screens Friday, Nov. 11, 8:30 at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Visit www.drafthouse.com for tickets.