23rd Dec2020

‘Insert Coin’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Features: Paul W.S Anderson, Ernest Cline, Warren Davis, Eugene Jarvis | Written by Andrew Hayward (story editor) | Directed by Joshua Y. Tsui

As somewhat of a gamer I often take for granted the pioneers of the genre… Case in point, here is a documentary about some guys that helped shape my love of gaming! And they didn’t even know…

When I came across Insert Coin online I saw the tagline “inside Midway’s 90s revolution” and that gave me massive flashbacks to my youth. I instantly started to think of the many Midway games I, and every other kid like me, used to play. Either at home on cartridge or in the glorious amusement arcades (shout out Johnny Bingos)… Personally I was obsessed with games like Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam.

There have been some truly great video game documentaries over the last few years; covering the rise and fall of particular games and companies but Insert Coin boasts the story of one particular company that paved the way for many others and how they created one of my most loved gaming franchises… Mortal Kombat! These are the guys who – for the most – part went unnoticed, yet formed a big part of our youth.

Insert Coin is a lovingly put together homage to a company that rebirthed coin-op gaming in an era when it was just about on its knees. The company was in fact a small group of guys in a factory in Chicago, who as kids had dreamt of the fantastic things they would love to be able to do when playing games; and as adults they had that chance at Williams. Insert Coin documents their humble beginnings putting together a series of games that would change the landscape, their battle and eventual take over of competitors like Midway, Dealing with censorship and of course the inevitable downturn as home entertainment console gaming swept the globe.

Director Joshua Y. Tsui obviously has a tonne of love for the guys he is interviewing and the story he is telling. And this film held may attention from the get-go because there is nothing more fascinating than hearing the story of how these games got made. Hearing these gods of programming talk about how the ideas came around and how they revolutionised the way people thought, seeing that twinkle in their eyes as they reminisce about what they created, is SO endearing.

We get to see the creation of games like Defender and Smash TV, which helped pave their way before striking gold with groundbreaking arcade versions of Terminator 2, NBA Jam and the smash hit franchise Mortal Kombat. With a little research you can also find that director Joshua Y. Tsui actually played characters in three separate instalments of the game!

We also get to hear from the likes of Paul W.S Anderson, the director of the Mortal Kombat movie, and his reasons for getting involved in the process. The most knowledgeable nerd on the planet (next to Simon Pegg) Ernest Cline pops up to talk about his love of these arcade games, which gives a little insight into how they helped craft Ready Player One. We even get a whole section on the Aerosmith starring often lamented Revolution X, and seeing Joe Perry refusing to say “Rock and Roll” because he is too cool for that shit… Scene stealer!

I absolutely recommend you guys give Insert Coin a shot if your the slightest bit interested in arcades or gaming in general. It’s very open and honest in the way they talk about the success but also the major mis-steps. The story is told in a well structured way, separated into chapters and as you move through the credits are getting less, till you come to the end which I really thought was pretty unique.

My nostalgia bone was being tickled pink by Insert Coin and I found this to be one of the most interesting documentaries I have watched in recent times. I am really glad these guys put this out in the world so we could get a bit more insight to this particular era and I’d be interested to see them cover this kind of topic again.

**** 4/5

Go watch it! In fact… Hit this link to find out where you can find it


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