SXSW 2020: Insert Coin

Winners Play, Losers Pay. Photo credit: Ten Point Oh LLC.

Insert Coin provides some closure on WMS/Midway over a decade after Midway was forced into bankruptcy and had to close its doors.

Arcades may not be a game of the past but the market sure has changed.  Just like how the cinema landscape is changing to benefit the consumer, the same has transpired in the video game industry.  And yet, here we are on a time machine back to the 1980s and 1990s.  It was during this decade when NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat were all the rage.

Eugene Jarvis was a star of the 1980s.  He took some time away from the industry but when he came back, the team he started would bring about a new era.  This is also around the same time that WMS acquired Midway.

One thing that the folks at Midway did to change the industry was introduce the concept of live-action.  What’s surprising is that they had to do this at a time when their budget meant having to get creative for less.  In addition to the interviews, we get an inside look at the process.

One of the things I found fascinating about the documentary is that it puts a new perspective on video games.  For instance, Tim Kitzrow–an actor from Second City–was hired to do a Marv Albert impression.  So, no, that’s not the real Albert you heard while playing NBA Jam.  The more you know!

Watching this film reminds me so much of General Magic–a film that put closure on a tech company that closed its doors.  Much like General Magic co-director Sarah Kerruish worked at the tech company, Insert Coin filmmaker Joshua Tsui is a former Midway employee.  As such, Tsui already has the required insight into the industry going into the film.  Here’s a filmmaker who is interviewing his former co-workers.  It’s one thing for a filmmaker to do so much research going into a film.  The veteran experience from working at the company helps give the film a personal touch.

This documentary isn’t really a game-changer for the genre by any means.  It’s honestly more or less a conventional documentary.  Much like General Magic, Insert Coin is a documentary that aims to recreate the magic from happier days.  Again, having a filmmaker that comes from within is also where the film benefits.  It takes away the aspect of needing to do so much research.

DIRECTOR:  Joshua Tsui
FEATURING:  Eugene Jarvis, Ernest Cline, Paul W.S. Anderson, George Petro, John Tobias, Andrea Rene, Jeff Gerstmann

Insert Coin holds its world premiere during the 2020 SXSW Film Festival in the Documentary Spotlight program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.