New Yorks laatste speelhal: Gesprek met documentairemaker Kurt P. Vincent



Dit interview stond eerder op Monobrow. Foto’s door Nick Carr and Anthony Cali.

Toen filmmaker Kurt P. Vincent voor het eerst de Chinatown-speelhal in New York binnenstapte, besefte hij meteen dat het een speciale plek was. Toen hij hoorde dat de gelegenheid na meer dan 50 jaar ging sluiten, besloot hij een documentaire te maken en de essentie te vangen van een teloorgaand deel van de gamecultuur.

Jan Wicher: The reasons for a diminishing arcade culture are obvious. So how come Chinatown kept on going for so long?
Kurt: “I believe the simple answer to that is because of its geographical location. Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown had stable rent for longer than other areas in NYC and it is also easily accessible via train to just about everyone in the region. It was also very tolerant of all types.”

Did the dinginess of the place attract dubious types looking for trouble?
“I don’t think so. I mean, back in the 1980’s the area was very dangerous and was a hangout for Chinatown gangs. So it has had its moments involving trouble.”

Could you describe the most colorful regular?
“I’d have to say that it was the guy who broke the joysticks. The former manager of the arcade was Henry Cen and noticed that some of the joysticks were breaking. He’d fix them and then they’d break again. But they weren’t breaking the way a joystick should. It looked like someone was yanking them, deliberately pulling them to the point that they broke.”

That’s weird.
“Henry was determined to find out who was doing this and sure enough he spotted the culprit one night. He told the guy he knew what he had been up to and to stop messing with the joysticks. The problem was, the guy kept returning, sometimes when Henry wasn’t around, and continued to break the joysticks.”

How did it end?
“Henry knew that the NYPD had much bigger things to deal with and that he alone couldn’t stop this guy from coming in the arcade. Henry decided the only way he could prevent this guy from ever breaking the joysticks again was to befriend him, which he did and they are still friends today.”

Why did you keep coming back?
“I only discovered the arcade a few months ago. I never had the chance to be a part of the community. But making this film has given me an opportunity to be a part of it and I am very lucky for this chance.”

Part of the Chinatown Fair community consisted of 2d beat ‘em up players. Mike Ross told me he thought the fighting game community is different from other game scenes. Do you agree?
“Absolutely. It is so competitive and full of ego. People get heated. It has unwritten rules and if you break them your reputation will suffer.”

How’s the documentary coming along?
“Very well. Irene, my producer, and I are allowing the film to grow organically. Incorporating new things as we go along. For instance, some people that found out about the movie were at a bar and met someone they told about the movie. That guy ends up having a friend that filmed at the arcade in the 1950′s with his super-8 camera. Crazy connections are happening. As more people find out about the movie the more interesting things I learn.”

What do you want to achieve by making this film?
“I want it to be an honest portrait of the arcade and the people that hung out there. To do them justice. Beyond that I want the movie to be funny and beautifully constructed. My ultimate goal is to have this movie shown during midnight screenings. You know, the type of movie that people will want to get stoned and watch.”

Whenever I play the latest Mortal Kombat, my wife wants to finish me instead. Do you think your film can make her see the beauty of a culture that plays these games?
“Oh yeah, for sure. I have had people that have zero interest in video games tell me that by the end of the trailer they wanted to see more, to learn more about the arcade and the people.”

Until yours comes out: what are the best documentaries about videogames?
“I don’t really know very many documentary’s about video games, so I will include fictional films as well: Tron, Tron Legacy, King of Kong, Reformat the Planet is a documentary about chiptunes, Terminator 2: this movie to me feels like a video game at times and the scene in the mall arcade where T-1000 first battles the terminator is unforgettable.”

Onder de indruk? Ondersteun Kurt en doneer via crowdfundingsite Kickstarter.

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