SXSW 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! In the late 1980s and early ’90s, coin-operated arcade machines became a billion-dollar industry. You couldn’t go to a laundry mat or a pizza place without seeing an arcade cabinet, and there was a pretty good chance at least one of those cabinets was going to be a Midway game. Director Joshua Tsui’s Insert Coin is a love letter to one of the biggest and most successful arcade publishers and game developer companies of that period. The subject is interesting, and it has a very unique visual flair to it. Unfortunately, despite being overall quite enjoyable, it feels very rushed in places, especially towards the end, and it fails to cap off Midway’s epic rise and fall as it deserves.
“…stories about the development of the groundbreaking violent videogame NARC, the tumultuously hilarious merger between Williams Entertainment and Midway/Bally’s…”
After a recap of how the company began, we’re introduced to our talking heads. We have video game industry titans like Eugene Jarvis, Ken Fedesna, John Tobias, Neil Nicastro, George Petro, Mark Loffredo, Jack Haeger, and Mark Turmell. They recount stories about the development of the groundbreaking violent videogame NARC, the tumultuously hilarious merger between Williams Entertainment and Midway/Bally’s, and other related tales. A few non-game developer personalities like Ready Player One author Ernest Cline are sprinkled throughout to give an outsider’s perspective on the events the documentary covers.
I loved the bits about working with James Cameron on the Terminator 2: Judgement Day arcade game, the NBA’s reluctance to work with Midway on NBA Jam, and how that issue was resolved. I got a kick out of the footage of the team working with and directing the bandmembers of Aerosmith on Revolution X. My favorite parts in the film covered the development of Mortal Kombat.
"…a fun look back on a bygone period that helped redefine video games as we know them."