Director: Jeff Von Ward
Writer: Jeff Von Ward
Producer: Wooden Horse Productions
Medium: Digital, DVD, Blu-Ray Disc
Starring: Christopher Alcott, Pete Ashdown, Peter Hirschberg, Gary Vincent
It’s not often that Gaming Age finds itself reviewing films, but now and again there are just some releases that tug at the gamer interest so much that we feel they deserve recognition.
The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time (official site here), much like The King of Kong, is a video game documentary that will introduce today’s gamer to arcade nostalgia, but for us older gamers, it is a trip down memory lane that is a delight to revisit. This documentary is a story of the rise and crash of the heyday of the video arcade era, and the sullen aftermath of collectors who are not only rekindling their love for what was their childhood, but trying to keep these arcade cabinets from finding themselves extinct in landfills.
In its brief yet engaging run time of 85 minutes, this documentary goes through all the big and key moments of the arcade era. The film starts with the introduction of Pong, takes us to the height of games like Pac Man and Space Invaders, onto the innovation of games like Dragon’s Lair, and to the fleeting games of the arcades with the fighting game genre like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. The last act of the film takes us to those who restore and take care of these classic arcade machines, be it in basements or home arcades, or helping to build arcades again for those who want to relive those gone by days.
What’s so intriguing is there was not a note missed throughout this documentary as they describe — through interviews with gamers and game collectors — how it felt to be in the arcades with the sights and smells of a full arcade room, all the way down to finding time to play a game or two at K-MART and you local Laundromat. Funny stories of how long you can try to make 25 cents last, how much parents feared that arcades were havens for drugs and seedy activity, and how rare it was to find a female gamer back in the day hanging around the arcade. Even the transition into TV media and game shows like Starcade and local news headlines are touched upon. There is even an interesting and important segment into the home console craze including the Atari 2600, Colecovision and NES and the argument of whether or not the experience of home consoles were the ultimate demise of the arcade rooms all over the world. The final segment is the struggle of how gamers who are buying up machines not only for the love of the games, but trying to salvage these machines from being trashed and destroyed. They go into details of how much time, effort, and money it takes to maintain machines to keep them not only working, but being played as they were meant to be.
For older gamers like myself (39 years old), there is not one dull moment in the stories told or the video memories of seeing these games again. Even little blips like talking about how we all used to watch the Silver Spoons TV show and wish we all owned our own arcade machines, to trying to be a contestant on Starcade, to the first feeling of seeing an NES at home are all things I’ve mimicked when talking about the history of gaming myself. What’s more, for younger gamers this is an in-depth look on what the gaming industry was before the console era took over before getting your gaming fix was far beyond your fingertips. This social interaction has now moved into a faceless online community, while far larger than it was in the days of the arcades, will never be duplicated ever again. It was a different time and a different world but for an hour and a half you can revisit it one more time through the stories and videos captured in this documentary.
Surprisingly this is a story that hasn't really been told in movie format, but thanks to Jeff Van Ward and the help of many gamers and collectors, we finally get just that. What’s more there are some nifty bonuses on a second disc that is full of outtakes, videos, stats, and artwork that make this documentary a must purchase, if not only for the amazing film, but the tons of extras not included in the film that go beyond the 2 hour mark. All in all The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time makes for a near four hour classic arcade journey into the late 70s and early 80s and beyond. Whether you are a hardcore gamer by today’s standards, or have been in the industry and a fan since it all began, this is a must see film by anyone who claims the title of “gamer”.