A few years back I was at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles and on a whim, picked up a book called Lucky Wander Boy by D.B. Weiss. Upon reading it, it reminded me of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 in its post-modern sleight-of-hand mind-fuckness where the line between protagonist as anti-hero, my id and reality were blurred as it referred to a piece of software called MAME that allowed me to run original standup arcade ROMs on my home computer. One of these games was called Lucky Wander Boy and as the author of the book would tell it – to play the actual game led one down a very mysterious, even dangerous path.
With some healthy skepticism in place, I searched for the game online. Imagine my astonishment when it showed up as a download! Marketing tactic? Nope. It was the real deal.
Here’s the thing. A lot of us have game consoles and spend way too much time reading bullshit threads about how PS3 and Blu-Ray trump Xbox 360s and back and forth ad nauseum. But there is a thing about the old standup games wherein the farther you go back the more pure the gameplay is. You boil down to the perfect game, ie., Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Pong or Donkey Kong and you realize there really is no way to boil it down further from there.
Well, imagine the joy for us dying Generation Xers when by simply pressing the number 5 on your laptop keyboard you can have as many quarters as you want. Pressing the number 1 or 2 for number of players sets you loose into Arcade nirvana. And yeah, if you actually figured out how to move out of moms basement by now you can even smoke cigarettes in your home arcade as you suck back that Orange Julius – just like the old days!
Even better, you can play versions of these games that you never even knew existed – bootlegs, demos, revisions, and international versions! Total. Heaven.
So, how do you get your hand on these pretties? Too easy. Run a search for MAME32 and MAME32 ROMS. Used to be heavily protected, even considered piracy, and I am not certain what the actual hard laws concerning this sort of use is these days, (so I hereby absolve myself of any liability by stating that if you download and or use these ROMS you do so at your own riskj) but since almost every old school arcade is going out of business, you are effectively participating in an examination of our cultural history and identity and paying respects to the soon to be forgotten art form that was tabletop/standup arcade gaming.
Here’s an example of a site for ROMs and emulators.
There are many others. Enjoy, padawan.
1. Dungeon Masters
An attempt at eye-level documentary of three still-operating Dungeon Masters. One is an active American Reservist who has a wife one would assume to sway the army from examining his obvious need to come out. Another is a part-time apartment manager living in Torrance with a wife and kid who just can’t find a way to make a living doing what he does best – running a D&D campaign. The other is a lonely intelligent girl from Mississippi who paints herself black from head to toe to become a Drow Elf and frequently participates in LARP (live-action role-play). The score is by Blonde Redhead. The film is great, one of my festival favorites, but there is so much more to mine, that I left feeling a bit cheated and curious if it was really as neutral an eye as the introduction claimed. I felt a like the director was mesmerized by the nerdiness of it all. I think there is more to the culture than nerddom. But that’s just me.
2. Who Do You Love
Bleh. What is it with German directors who can’t grasp what it is that makes American music as cool as it is? An outside-in fanboy look at the Chess Record label, it misses every opporunity for nuance, subtext and so on and defaults to the same shitty Lifetime Network Movie of the Week about [Insert Blues/Rock Icon Here] growing-up-in-a-small-time, having-affair-on-his-small-town wife,-seeing-the-error-in-his-ways, trying to -to-get-her-back,-left-onstage-at-the-end-with-the-fans, but-was-it-really-worth-it? formula that we saw in Ray, Walk The Line, etc etc ad nauseum except to the point of caricature.
Stop-motion. Using almost Bunuelesque surrealism, a freaky fallen angel character who I am still contemplating, great voice work from Geoffrey Rush and company, eerie winsome soundtrack, a refreshing and candid fiction about the meaning of life.
Recommend if you can ever find it in distribution.
4. American Swing
Some documentaries are just plain archaeological digs that endeavor to retroactively reassemble a story from the few bone fragments discovered. This one feels like that and does a remarkably good job considering the short order of barely viewable beta 3/4″ footage they have to intercut between the HD interviews they shot with the old-folks who once moshed around in a couple of club basements in New York in the ’70’s fucking everything that moved. Then AIDS and coke came into the picture and the scene crashed and roll credits. Cool enough I suppose, if I cared a little more.
For a slow night, or if you need more insight into why people dig the Lifestyle.