The arcade gaming experience of the 80’s and 90’s is something that has somewhat declined here in the U.S. What was once a thriving scene, has now been diminished to people playing in their homes, playing online and presenting a much different experience than placing quarters into arcade cabinets. In Japan though, the scene is alive and well, which is illustrated by Brad Crawford and his film, 100 Yen. This 68 minute documentary is an incredible insight into the arcade gaming scene in Japan, its rich history and how that has affected video gamers all over the world. From overhead shooters falling into obscurity, to the rhythm games that have dominated all over the world, 100 Yen manages to always be insightful, poignant and fascinating, even for its short running time.
The film starts out by showing how Taito began the new wave of arcade games and began a revolution in the gaming experience, with Space Invaders. While I’ve loved playing that game over the years of seeing it in arcades, 100 Yen is able to place the game in a context that most gamers wouldn’t even think of today. Speaking with people from the industry and players that have loved these games over the years, 100 Yen encapsulates what it means to play video games in a social environment and how much fun it can be.
The interviews that Brad Crawford managed to capture in the film were also a major point of interest. From Tez Okano, a classic Sega game designer, to Daigo “The Beast” Umehara, a Street Fighter world champion, all of the talking head segments of 100 Yen offer different aspects of arcade culture and explore all kinds of avenues that both hardcore gamers and casual viewers would be able to enjoy. Being born in the early 80’s, I have fond memories of arcade culture and 100 Yen made me a bit nostalgic. It managed to captivate my interests by exploring something that I deeply care about and still managed to show insight, make me be hopeful and most of all, feel like I was having fun the entire time.
In this day and age, where anyone and everyone plays games on their cell phones, plays either a PS3 or an Xbox, I would tell them to sit down for over an hour and watch this film. Its one of the best documentaries on gaming culture I’ve ever seen, right up there with The King of Kong and Indie Game: The Movie. 100 Yen shows that another aspect of gaming culture from the past is still thriving and if you want to see what that’s all about, then please, watch this film. Highly Recommended!