The Lost Arcade follows the rise, fall, and importance of the arcade in New York City.
Director: Kurt Vincent
Summary: The story of Chinatown Fair, the last arcade in New York City, and the community that made it legendary.
The concept of the arcade was one that dominated a large part of the Generation X’s young lives. As they grew up in gamings golden age, the arcade became a place for a certain subset of young people to meet and mingle for possibly the first time. It was a unique experience that would be impossible to replicate, and while the world tries to preserve what it remembers from the “good old days” the reality is that nothing is what you remember when you were a kid. That is, essentially, what the message of The Lost Arcade comes to; the world moves on and so do you. A documentary that follows the history of the Chinatown Fair Arcade in New York City from its inception, the highs, the lows, and the culture that followed it. The nerd culture has always put a lot of its identity into the things it is into whether that is an arcade or a subset of fandom. The Lost Arcade doesn’t just tell the story of the last proper arcade in New York City but the people around it.
The history of the Chinatown Fair Arcade is a large part of the documentary but it wisely focuses on the people just as much as the history. Over the course of the seventy-nine minute documentary we meet and learn about the people that called that arcade home for years. We see the success stories behind the kids whose lives were changed by having their first jobs at the arcade and their sorrow as the closing looms over their heads. They aren’t just worried about losing a place to hang out, they are worried they will lose friends, a safe place to go and a piece of their lives. The film highlights that but it also makes the wise decision to show how this community is moving forward.
While everyone that we talk to is very obviously honest in their love for the games and the culture, it does highlight the gender disparity within gaming culture. There have always been women playing games but we don’t get to see much of any of them. While there is a moment where the idea of “it feels safe to come here” does come it feels almost tacked on. We hear about how the original arcade felt safe for some kids but we don’t get to see how that applies to the two modern spin-offs. There was an angle there that could have been exploited along with the idea of appealing to a specialized market and appealing to everyone that could have been explored. These are large topics, however, and likely something that could have an entire documentary made about them.
The Lost Arcade is an interesting little documentary for fans of not only the history of New York City but also the evolution of gaming culture as a whole. It shows how important something as simple as a place to hang out can be for the formative years of a young man or woman and how that can change lives for the better. The culture around gaming has been changing and adapting faster than we can keep track of but it’s important that we look back and see where we’ve come.
The Lost Arcade is available on VOD on June 1, 2017.
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