New film 100 Yen explores arcade gaming in Japan

Pledge your support now to help with production.

Arcade gaming might have flat-lined here in the West, but in Japan it continues to endure, despite the fact that the coin-op industry is a shadow of its former self.

The infectious vibrancy and energy of this culture has inspired Canadian filmmaker Brad Crawford to create 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience: a movie that delves deep into the country's obsession with location-based entertainment.

"The film's title is inspired by the fact that Space Invaders caused a nation-wide 100 Yen coin shortage; people were literally spending coins faster than they could circulate," Crawford told Eurogamer.

"Experiencing gaming culture in Japan is something that I felt hadn't been given enough exposure. We all know that many of our favourite games come from Japan, but I don't think people realise the level of dedication people have to gaming, especially arcade gaming, in Nippon."

Crawford has been working in the film industry for just over two years, and prior to that lived in Japan for three years. It was during this time that he was exposed to the sheer magnitude of Japan's love for coin-operated play.

"Moving to Osaka from the middle of Canada was a big shock and as an avid gamer I was greeted with a whole new world of technology and extravagant games that I'd never even heard of," he continued.

"I saw the rise of Dance Dance Revolution in North America, but those types of experiences are just the tip of the iceberg in Japan. Just the sheer size of some of the arcades that litter the landscape of major and smaller cities across the country is daunting. To have five or six story buildings filled with arcade cabinets and packed with people playing them is a dream come true.

"Clearly the population density plays a large role in this success, but also the thought that's put into their organisation and layout. If you're a fan of music games, go to that floor and you'll be greeted with all kinds of possibilities. You'll find players of all skill types who clearly have similar interests and you can play and chat and spend more time than you'd thought possible. Fighting games more your cup of tea? You've come to the right place. Arcades in Japan don't just carry the newest titles either. The nostalgia factor alone makes you wish the places never closed."

I hope that this film not only entertains people, but educates them on what the arcade scene could - and should - be like.

In a sharp contrast to the West, where amusement arcades are now a rare breed, Japan's desire for such entertainment allows it to support a wide variety of venues. "No matter what genre of game you enjoy, you'll find the answer to your desire in these buildings, and the best part is there are so many of them to choose from," Crawford said. "It's not like there are six good arcades in Tokyo - there are hundreds, and each one brings something a little bit different to the table."

Crawford has already had his previous work screened at festivals in London, Barcelona and Moscow, but readily admits that 100 Yen is his biggest and most personal project to date. By raising the required cash through crowd funding site IndieGoGo, he funded a trip to Japan to compile footage and interviews with leading players and experts, including Kotaku editor Brian Ashcraft, Q Games' Bear Trickey and Street Fighter legend Daigo Umehara.

"To capture all of the subtleties of Japanese arcades we've spoken to many different people who play major roles within their respective parts of this varied community. I hope that this film not only entertains people, but educates them on what the arcade scene could - and should - be like. Video gaming is part of a worldwide culture that should be celebrated. This is the story of a small part of gaming history and how it came to encompass so many of our lives."

The movie is now in the post-production stage, and a second IndieGoGo fund-raising campaign is in place to allow people to pledge support in return for a copy of the finished film. The 1080p digital download edition costs $15, while the physical DVD edition - packed with bonus content - is $35. Head over to the 100 Yen campaign page if you'd like to lend your support.

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Damien McFerran

Damien McFerran

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Retro fanatic and tech bore Damien has been writing words for professional publication since 2006, but has yet to fulfill his lifelong ambition of being commissioned by Your Kitten Magazine.

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