Ep. 9: Midway Games, as seen by Josh Tsui

In his documentary, Insert Coin, Josh Tsui explored the good, the bad, and the ugly of Midway Games’ Studio from varying management styles and their resulting culture to the magic formula for sequel games. Listen in with the guy who knows where all the skeletons are buried and learn how the NBA may owe much of its current popularity to NBA Jam.

See more from Josh Tsui:

Twitter: @insertcoindoc

Instagram: @insertcoindoc

Website: insertcoindoc.com 

The Video Game History Hour music is Blippy Trance by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Kelsey Lewin  00:00

Welcome to episode number nine of the Video Game History Hour, presented by the Video Game History Foundation.  Every episode, we’ll be bringing in an expert guest: someone who’s done their research and has an interesting story from video game history to tell.  My name is Kelsey Lewin, I’m the co-director of the Video Game History Foundation. I’m here, as always, with Frank Cifaldi, the founder and co-director of the Video Game History Foundation.

Frank Cifaldi  00:20

Hi!  Our guest today is director, producer and game developer Joshua Tsui. His new film, Insert Coin, is a documentary chronicling the story of Midway Games providing firsthand insight into games such as Smash TV, Mortal Kombat, and NBA Jam. Josh, welcome to the Video Game History Hour!

Joshua Tsui  00:39

Hey, thanks for having me on. It’s a real pleasure.

Frank Cifaldi  00:40

Of course!  Um, so when I watched this film, as I do for all our guests, I was taking notes. And the first thing that I wrote in my notes is, “This film does not waste one second.”  It just throws us right into it!  And there is not a lull in this film. I get the sense that there was a lot to talk about.

Joshua Tsui  01:05

Yeah, there absolutely was a lot to talk about.  And you’re right, I did keep it at a breakneck pace for a couple of reasons.  One is because, yeah, there’s a lot of information to be had in there.  The other thing is that, you know, even with all that information there was so much that didn’t make it in.  And so it was just a real challenge just to make sure that I got the right information in there and kept people’s interest as much as possible.  And in the back of my head, I think I wanted to pace it like an arcade game, which is just, you know, just fast and furious and just get people right to the action.

Kelsey Lewin  01:42

Was there a point in the middle of making this where you were like, “Holy crap, this could be four movies?”

Joshua Tsui  01:48

 Yeah, absolutely!

Kelsey Lewin  01:49

Like, do you feel like you didn’t have enough time to talk about… I mean, you already said that you’ve had to skip a couple things over.  Were even some things that you did talk about that you’re like, “Man, I could have elaborated WAY more on that!”

Joshua Tsui  02:00

Yeah, all of the above.  I at one point I had, I actually had a four, almost five-hour cut of the film and I was seriously thinking about –

Kelsey Lewin  02:08


Joshua Tsui  02:08

– I know, it’s crazy? And I was we, speaking to myself, I thought, “Well, maybe I should have just turned this into a docu-series.”  And I chose not to do that for a couple of reasons.  One was that this is my first time making a film and it was just be ludicrous to think that I can take on a docu-series right off the bat.  And I think how I really wanted to make sure that the information that ended up in the final product was the most compelling information, as opposed to just trying to fill up as much time.  And ultimately, it has to be entertaining and not be an encyclopedia, you know.  There are other mediums to get more into depth on some of the things that that ended up not in the film. But yeah, it’s…  But even within the film itself, you know, there were probably a few items that I wish I could have kept longer, but it’s just it… Ultimately, it had to be entertaining and it was all about the pacing.  Like I felt like if there was one speed bump in there, it could derail a good chunk of the film. So I was very sensitive about that.

Video Game History Foundation  03:13

So take us back, Josh, because when we say Midway Games, there’s kind of a caveat there, right?  When we’re talking about “Midway.”  So kind of guide us through the history of this company or maybe even, you know, team?  Or teams, as it turns out, and how we sort of set the stage for this film.

Joshua Tsui  03:42

Yeah, so the film itself, the bulk of the film, is about Midway Games in the 90s. And that was, you know, for all intents purposes, that was like the end of the last gasp of the of the classic arcade scene.  But if we go back further and I touch upon this early in the film is, you know, Midway grew out of Williams Electronics, which was, you know, goes all the way back into the 70s – if not the 60s – with pinball machines and other types of coin-operated machines.  And wanted to make sure we touch upon that and get a little bit of history of Williams and also the first arcade boom that happened in the late 70s and through the early 80s, before the crash itself. And to kind of reference back to what you mentioned about kind of being at a breakneck speed.  One of the things that I kind of went through pretty quickly was the whole video game bust of the 80s.   And, you know, I reference it but I didn’t want spend a huge amount of time on that because most people who are watching this film will probably already know that history a bit, and so for me to kind of take 10 minutes to regurgitate that, it just would have been too much and it would have taken out time from from the more meatier things that I wanted to get into.   But yeah, my concentration was solely on the arcade portion of it because, you know, Midway, you know, during the 90s was really much known for their arcade games.  They did do home games and they did ports of their games with companies such as  Acclaim, but it was really about what the arcade scene was like.

Video Game History Foundation  05:22

Right and, you know, you mentioned the crash, but I don’t often think of the crash and its effects on the arcades.  

Joshua Tsui  05:34


Frank Cifaldi  05:34

The 1984 crash story that’s canonized in my head is based on a glut of home product-sinking companies.  But I guess it didn’t really click until I watched this that, you know, its effects on the arcade industry were real.  But can you kind of explain to us that ripple effect and how that happened?

Joshua Tsui  05:59

Yeah, it was collateral damage from the recklessness of the of the home market.  And there were just so many games out there in the home market; that it was just a lot of crap that got flooded into the marketplace that people got so tired of video games – because they didn’t know what was going to be quality and what wasn’t – that video games in general, it just was tiring.  And it didn’t matter if it was home or arcade.  Like, there were some great arcade games during that era.  But, you know, it was almost like this tidal wave happened and arcades happen to just be off on the sidelines and got swept up with this big negative wave.  And so yeah, it just, you know, got washed away.  Ironically, the part of the arcade business (or the coin-op business, I should say) that didn’t get affected as much was pinball.  And so what ended up happening was that Williams, they had great games such as Defender and Robotron and Joust.  You know, hugely successful games. They basically more or less exited the video game industry during this crash but they kept their pinball department afloat because pinball was still big and it survived that era. 

Frank Cifaldi  07:10

And so that’s why the company was still around when Eugene Jarvis, one of the star subjects, I guess you’d say, of this film?

Joshua Tsui  07:22


Video Game History Foundation  07:22

When he decided to come back and start making games again post crash, I guess, that that’s the reason that the company was still there waiting for him.

Joshua Tsui  07:33

Yeah, exactly.  And, you know, and we didn’t really touch upon this in the film, but… So Eugene left during the crash.  He went back and I think went to go get his master’s degree in business or finance or something like that in California. 

Frank Cifaldi  07:46


Joshua Tsui  07:47

I know, lame!  No fun at all!  And but, you know, knowing how Eugene Jarvis is, he always wanted to get back into games business, but he was more interested in video games. But a lot of people don’t realize that Eugene is one of the most successful pinball designers in pinball history.  And that’s how he got started a long time ago, even before Defender.   And so what happened was, Williams during this crash period, was trying to lure Eugene to come back to work in pinball. And the only reason Eugene came back to do pinball was he wanted to make one more video game.  And so the deal was, “Come back to Williams, help us in the pinball department, because we need to get more pinball machines done.  And, you know, we’ll probably let you make another video game.”  And that’s how Narc came about.

Kelsey Lewin  08:35

Yeah, I get the sense that he sort of returned for what felt like would be a final hurrah type thing?  Like, “Arcades are probably not really coming back so much but I want to I want to try one last thing. I want to go out with a bang.”  And that that obviously didn’t happen.  Kind of kick-started a whole new wave of that.  At least that’s the sense I sort of got from it.  From the film. 

Joshua Tsui  08:57

Yeah, that’s exactly it. Yeah.  It’s just, with video game designers, there’s always that… You know, they’re kind of like Olympic athletes or boxers. They feel like there’s still one more game in them, whether it’s true or not.  So yeah, in talking with Eugene, his thinking was, “Yeah, I would love to just do one more game.  I have this crazy idea I love, you know, I love crazy 80s action movies.”  So there’s, you know, he felt like this could be the last hurrah.

Frank Cifaldi  09:27

Something that Midway as… I guess we’ll just shorthand call it Midway!  Because it gets it gets confusing!

Joshua Tsui  09:36

 I know, it’s very convoluted how much of Williams [during what…]

Video Game History Foundation  09:42

One of the common threads throughout the games produced through the 90s is, of course, the sort of rotoscoped digital art, right?  Like, the capture of people and objects through video. Of course, we think of that with Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam. But it really starts with Narc, which is the game that he came back for.  And something that I found fascinating and had never considered before was that this was a response to the game art that we were seeing out of Japan. So I thought that was really interesting.

Joshua Tsui  10:27

Yeah, it really, it was as much of an economic play than it was artistic.  And that, in all honesty, a lot of the bigger innovations at Midway was a combination of, you know, art and commerce.  At that time, if you if you think about the very late 80s, especially in the arcade scene, there was some beautiful games coming out of Japan.  And they had just, in Jarvis’s words, they had armies of artists working on these games.  And Williams, which eventually became Williams-Bally-Midway… You know, their teams were super small.   And well into the 90s, like, a game like Mortal Kombat was only, like, five people.  And so there was no way that, going into late 80s and early 90s, that they were going to be able to compete art-wise against some of these other companies. So it seemed to them that the best way to get around this is to go full digital video and suddenly two artists can do the work of multiple animators.

Kelsey Lewin  11:33

And that kind of small team thing I feel like is a really big point of the film and a really big part of the Midway story, where it’s like… You know, you wonder why certain decisions were made and it turns out it’s just one guy who kind of felt like doing it.  And there wasn’t really anyone to tell him “No.”  So I mean, that really feels like a lot of things we think of as iconic now, I mean… the flaming basketball in NBA Jam, and that sort of thing was just like, “Well, yeah, I just kind of wanted to do that. And no one stopped me, so…”

Joshua Tsui  12:03

Yeah, that really stemmed out of the lack of management that the studio had.  And that was from Williams through in the 80s, through Midway in the 90s, that’s how the management style was.  Especially in the 90s, leading with Narc.  Eugene Jarvis comes back, he’s more or less the head of the video game department.  And if you’ve ever met Jarvis, he’s, he’s crazy.  He’s just, he’s just a mad genius but he’s also just nuts. And it’s like, fly by the seat-of-your-pants game development.  And so because he was the head of the studio, that’s how everybody acted.  And so management or marketing never told the game designers how a game should be.  Their job was to sell the games once they were done.  And so you have these people who are making, you know, crazy gameplay decisions or art decisions or animation decisions just based off of almost a gut feeling.  Or if it’s something that cracks them up, they’ll just put it in the game.  And yeah, that’s how you end up with fatalities in Mortal Kombat,

Video Game History Foundation  13:06

I think there’s really something to that that makes output from a team so memorable. I’m reminded of Looney Tunes cartoons in, like, the 40s, right?  Where it was sort of the same situation where you had (what was his name?) Leon Schlesinger was the boss. And he didn’t really care what they did as long as money was coming in. And that’s how the cartoons got so innovative, and I feel like it’s sort of the same situation here.

Joshua Tsui  13:44

Yeah, most definitely.  And, you know, the other thing to think about is that the games are very low budget at the time.  Arcade games in general are not that large to begin with.  If you were, let’s say, you know… You don’t have to even be a speed runner. If you’re really good at a game, you can pretty much finish a game in, like, a half-hour.  That’s tops.  It seemed like there was a lot of gameplay because they were so incredibly hard, but the games were small and the budgets were small, also. So because of that, there’s no reason for management to come down and harass the game teams to make sure they do this or that because, you know, based off of research, you know, don’t get a return on their investment better if they put this feature in.  It didn’t matter because it was so cheap that it was going to make money no matter what.  And so that’s why they just left it alone, because it’s these were… When the games were successful, they were cash cows.  I mean, you’re talking about games that cost, you know, not even a million dollars.  I mean, it might have been, like, a few hundred thousand dollars to make one of these games and they go off and they sell the machines for you know, for $4,000 apiece, and they sell, you know, 20,000 of them?  I mean, it’s amazing!  So, you know, it’s that lack of budget was very freeing in many ways.

Kelsey Lewin  14:59

I thought one of the most fascinating statistics that was in, that just kind of showing that disparity between how much freaking money arcade games could make, was the side-by-side of what the Jurassic Park movies made compared to what NBA Jam made?  And I can’t remember the exact number, but it was something like, you know, “$350 million was the biggest success for our movie ever. And then here comes NBA Jam with, like, a billion dollars!”  It’s insane!

Joshua Tsui  15:31

Yeah. And nobody, you know, during this time nobody talked about it.  It’s interesting, because, in the movie industry they talk about the grosses.  Every week everyone knows exactly how much money a movie made that weekend.  But with video games, and even to this day with video games, companies don’t really trot those numbers out. So a lot of people have no idea how huge these these games can be.

Kelsey Lewin  15:56

Yeah, I feel like we’re still surprising people all the time by telling them… Like, we have a little graph on our website that shows just how much money video games make compared to movies and books and all that stuff.  And it’s, I mean, it’s NOT even close. Video games are outselling, like, every other industry, but you’re right – I think that’s not common knowledge to everyone.  Really, to anyone just outside of the game world, you know?

Joshua Tsui  16:21

Yeah, definitely.

Video Game History Foundation  16:22

So something that I thought the documentary did a great job of with setting up how Narc essentially set the tone for the studio. Because not only does it introduce this notion of digitized actors for the in-game sprites, it also introduced extreme violence. And it’s not just extreme violence, but just extreme, right?  Extremities, right?  Like, just just pushing things to their limits.

Kelsey Lewin  16:59

Yes, it’s like a humorous extreme violence, maybe.   And that, yeah, that sort of extreme-ness kind of carries them through – the Midway name – throughout the entire 90s.

Joshua Tsui  17:10

Yeah, it really set the pace for sure.  I think beyond the violence is just everything in Narc was extreme.  You know, so you bring up explosions, like, body parts flying, you know.  Everything was kind of taken to eleven on the volume control, and I think it really has to do with Jarvis wanting to make a big splash for his comeback.  He just wanted to get a lot of attention.  So you see the violence.  You see all this, these extreme actions, but I think you also see just the personality of the developers in that they put a lot of humor into it, and you can tell that they were kind of entertaining themselves.  And I think if you look at a game like that, and think about when it came out, I think… You know, Mike… Mika, Mike, is… I never say, is it “Meek-uh” or “Mike-uh, I always forget…

Frank Cifaldi  18:03

It’s “Mike-uh.”

Joshua Tsui  18:03

OK!  Mike Mika makes a really good point of, at that time you had a game like Narc standing right next to Q*bert and Donkey Kong, and instead of these cute games, then suddenly, you see what back then was considered a realistic view of a bad neighborhood in Chicago and you’re blowing up people and you’re being thrown syringes and stuff from drug dealers.  It just had such a contrast to what else was going on at the time.  And I just felt like, if you look at that game – and this was in all honesty, this was a surprise to me – when I started the film, I knew Narc was going to be featured, but I didn’t realize how influential Narc was going to be, on not just the games coming out of Midway, but even to what kind of people are going to get hired at Midway who would want to work on games like this?

Video Game History Foundation  18:56

Yeah, and that struck me as well watching this. And that’s part of the magic of the canvas you chose to tell this story is that, looking at  Narc now and knowing where it’s going, it’s like, “It’s all in here!  Like, all of the Midway is in this game!”  It just started…

Kelsey Lewin  19:19

Right, this predicts rest of the future of Midway!

Joshua Tsui  19:22

Yeah, yeah.  Like I said, I knew it was gonna be in there, but as I was editing the film, and I started with the Narc part, yeah, it really dawned on me.  This is, yeah, it’s predicting the future of this entire company. And it was very pleasant surprise.

Frank Cifaldi  19:38

Yeah, even the games that Jarvis didn’t work on, it’s like that influence just persevered throughout the entire output. 

Kelsey Lewin  19:49

So you started at midway in ’93?  Is that right? 

Joshua Tsui  19:52


Kelsey Lewin  19:53

So I mean, you are kind of coming in post-a-little-bit of this kind of history, here. So tell me a little bit about what it was like to kind of come in into the middle of that.

Joshua Tsui  20:06

Yeah. So when I got in ’93, Mortal Kombat was already out.  NBA Jam was out already and but it was – I don’t want to say still fairly new, but it was like it was successful – but they didn’t realize how like big it was going to get. And then the other team was working on Mortal Kombat II. And so when I came in, I didn’t know Mortal Kombat as well as I did NBA Jam, because I just remember seeing NBA Jam at a bar and thinking like, “Wow, this is a really fun game!”  So I was excited about going to Midway.  But I didn’t really know things were starting to blow up all over the place.  What I was really surprised by though when I got to Midway was that, the legacy of people that were there, you know?  Like Warren Davis, he was the co-creator of Q*bert, he was there!  Eugene Jarvis was there.  And I’m a huge 80s arcade rat and so I knew Jarvis, like from my childhood, so it blew my mind that he was there and such. So it was like, for me, it was almost like going into Willy Wonka’s factory. It was just, it was amazing for someone like me who loved arcade games to be amongst these people.  Now, with that said, I walk into the facilities and there are, like, some of the worst working conditions you can possibly think of.  And even then, I thought it was amazing, you know?  But like, we talked about in the film how there like, there’s literally rats in the ceiling, in the in the vending machines… We were in a very small, really just kind of a gross area that’s behind the pinball factory for Williams. So you have to walk through the pinball factory assembly line to get to our set of cubicles in the back.  And think about, like, just… you have assembly lines next to you. Everyone is sharing the same bathrooms…  It’s not like, you know, you’re working at Google now, where everything is great and you have meals every day.  I mean it was like, we were lucky if our vending machines had anything edible.   But with that said it still seemed wonderful, because you know, here are a bunch of people making video games, which I thought was just the coolest thing in the world. And everyone was really excited. And they were excited because the first wave of Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam were starting to blow up and getting a lot of attention.

Kelsey Lewin  22:36

So did any of that ever improve after the success of NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat? Like, did they upgrade anything?  Or was it just like, “Ahhh, these guys are programmers and nerds, they’ll just live in their cubicles.  It’s fine.”

Joshua Tsui  22:46

Yeah! [Laughter] It did, but only up to a certain extent.  And it’s funny, because… so they bought a building across the street that was newer.  So it wasn’t a new building, it was just newer, because the old building was around since the 50s.  So we moved to across the street to this new area and, you know, they fixed it up, they built it out and everything.  And I want to say that was around around 96, maybe 97. And so we all moved over there.  But even then, you know, the ceiling was constantly leaking.  They kind of reburbished an old building to make it look as nice as possible. But there was just, you know… it was still pretty, pretty nasty. They’re different rats. Still rats but they were nicer! [laughter] [laughter]

Kelsey Lewin  23:31

“They were nicer rats!  We were pretty sure these ones didn’t have diseases…”

Joshua Tsui  23:37

[Laughter] Exactly, exactly!

Video Game History Foundation  23:40

One of the stories that I appreciated and in fact learned from was the Pleasure Dome inside of Smash TV. 

Kelsey Lewin  23:50

Yeah!  [Laughter]

Frank Cifaldi  23:50

 I mean, I remember this text. Unlike some of the people you interviewed, I never went searching for the Pleasure Dome. but I had no idea.  A Pleasure Dome was not a thing.

Kelsey Lewin  24:01

Had enough pleasure in your life.

Video Game History Foundation  24:03

So yeah, can you kind of tell us about tell us about the Pleasure Dome in Smash TV?

Joshua Tsui  24:10

Yeah, it was funny because… Like, I played Smash TV and I knew the game.  But I didn’t know about the Pleasure Domes at all!  And what happened was that I interviewed Ernest Cline for the film.  We sat down and you know, he was very excited to talk about Midway’s games and stuff. And he’s just an encyclopedia of games as you can imagine.  And we got to talking about Smash TV, and he started talking about the Pleasure Domes. And I was like, “What?”  When he was talking about I was like, “Wait, I never even heard of those!”  He was talking about his quest to find this thing when he was a kid and how much money he blew on and stuff.  And turned out, that it never existed and how hurt he was.  And so luckily, I had interviewed Ernest before I interviewed [Mark] Turmell about it, and so I asked Turmell about this. And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, I felt really bad about that.  Yeah, we put in the hint that this level existed. But yeah, it never existed because, you know, I just… I just didn’t want people to stop playing.”   That is SO Mark Turmell.  And you see it later on, when we get into NBA Jam, how he pulls strings behind the scenes to maximize not just gameplay fun, but also how to monetize the game.  And I’ve known mark a really long time. And it’s SO his personality.  It’s just one of those things where it’s like, “I’m going to do this until somebody tells me not to do it.”  And yeah, he’s just brilliant that way. And it just for me, I think it’s just so funny that he works for, he heads up a studio for Zynga now for  free-to-play games. It’s just so perfect.

Kelsey Lewin  25:53

When it turned out that someone did eventually tell him “Hey, you can’t do that. You have to [correct] this.”

Joshua Tsui  25:57

Yeah. Yeah, it was one of those things, though… And you’ll notice that they told them to fix it only after there was an outcry because they kind of knew it was happening, but there was just kind of waiting to see.  And that was the personality of the management and also the designers at Midway is, you know, let’s just put stuff in there and ask for forgiveness later.  So anywhere from weird easter eggs to secret games and the machines and things like that, it was always about entertaining themselves.  And then if somebody gets mad about it, then they’ll be like, “OK, well, we’ll update the game and fix that one.”

Frank Cifaldi  26:34

Right, but updating the game wasn’t, like, downloading a patch.  It’s not as if all the machines magically got fixed.

Joshua Tsui  26:45

Yeah, it’s interesting, though, you know.  I think a lot of people don’t realize that back then, games were actually updated all the time.  They would basically send out a new set of ROMs to the arcade operators, and they would swap them out.  And so it’s really funny because, from the arcade era – in the arcade era, the operators were able to update the games on a regular basis.  But then when modern consoles came around, that practice pretty much disappeared until later consoles with the DLCs and consoles that are online.  So there was a period of, let’s say, anywhere from 15 to 20 years where games weren’t allowed to be updated.  Um, but yeah… In the early days, they were updated all the time.  And then obviously now in the modern era, they’re they’re updated every day, practically.

Frank Cifaldi  27:36

 I have never shipped a game where it wasn’t understood that there’s a “day one” update.

Joshua Tsui  27:40

Yeah, yeah.  But I remember one of the things I used to freak us out, when during the SNES-era or even like PlayStation one-era You know, there was no online component, so when you shipped the game that was more or less it.  And coming from the arcade days, that frightened the hell out of us.  You know, it was because we knew that if we shipped a buggy game to the arcades that we could fix it later on.  But there was a period of time going to the into the console era where that was impossible.

Kelsey Lewin  28:14

Yeah, I mean, you have a lot less arcade machines to deal with than copies of a PlayStation game to replace, so there’s at least a path for that.

Joshua Tsui  28:22


Frank Cifaldi  28:22

So the first game that this team ships that has any sort of license attached to it – correct me if I’m wrong – would would be Terminator 2, right?  

Joshua Tsui  28:34

Yeah, it’s for the… the gun game.

Frank Cifaldi  28:37

Yeah and that… I don’t know, I was tempted to say that’s the first one that comes to mind for me that’s just kind of mean in the way that it actually is impossible to play without the quarter slot being, like, your third button.  But I think that really starts with Smash TV now that I’m thinking about it.

Kelsey Lewin  29:07

Well, they had the interview in there where someone was saying, someone was shouting like, “That was 18 seconds to get killed throughout the arcade.” I love that. 

Joshua Tsui  29:16

Yeah!  Terminator 2 was so hard to finish and that was before Mortal Kombat, so that was a real cash cow for arcade operators.   Before, Narc did pretty well and Smash TV did pretty well and such, but it really… Terminator 2 was the first Midway game that broke a lot of records in terms of weekly earnings with the arcade operators.  And it was because it was so hard to play, but they did such an incredible job of bringing the movie to life in the game. You know, they really started mastering the digitization process that was started to Narc.  You had people who looked exactly like they were in the movies if not the actual actors from the movies.  So the content was so compelling that people were more than willing to spend tons of quarters just to finish the game itself.

Kelsey Lewin  30:12

Yeah, I think that’s an interesting point. I mean, I think there is a line where people are like, “This is just way too hard. I’m not… this is unfair. I’m not going to deal with it.”  But when it looks like the movie they just saw?  That’s a whole different story.  They’re so excited to be playing this movie.

Joshua Tsui  30:27

Yeah, and a good counter example for Terminator 2 – a direct counter example, there’s Revolution X, which is basically Terminator 2 but with less compelling content. And so didn’t do well because of it!  You have the Terminator or Aerosmith, like… which is gonna be more interesting to you.

Kelsey Lewin  30:43

And the actors aren’t quite as good. [Laughter]

Joshua Tsui  30:47

[Laughter] Well, you know…

Frank Cifaldi  30:49

Yeah, the the footage that survived of Aerosmith’s voice and video recording for Revolution X was quite a treat in this movie.  Yeah I loved the audio engineers trying to kind of prompt Steven Tyler to say things, you know like, “Yell ‘No!'” and he’s like, “…no.”

Joshua Tsui  31:15

Yeah, that footage was pretty amazing to kind of shuffle through. [Laughter] 

Frank Cifaldi  31:21

So Terminator 2 does really well, does really well in terms of even their access to the studio.  And even, like you said, some of the actors I mean – I forget the guy’s name offhand – but the antagonist in the movie, the liquid metal guy?

Joshua Tsui  31:43

Oh, yeah, Robert Patrick.

Frank Cifaldi  31:44

Yeah. Robert Patrick. I mean, actually, it was a delightful little story in there about how excited he was to be in the game!

Joshua Tsui  31:52

Yeah, it did well, because the process was, you know, like… People in Hollywood (except for Jim Cameron) don’t know a whole lot about tech. So they were kind of amazed by the digitized process.

Frank Cifaldi  32:01

Right!  And this is a movie that’s actually kind of innovating in terms of digital animation and stuff, too.  So definitely, they were in that headspace. And then, you know, that does really well. And then the next move is to try to get Jean-Claude Van Damme in a game.

Joshua Tsui  32:21

Yes, yeah. So that was the original idea for Mortal Kombat.  And Van Damme was, you know, huge at the time.  It was him and Steven Seagal were the big martial arts stars.  I think the original idea was, “Let’s do a fighting game,” because Street Fighter II was doing really well, and “let’s use our digitizing process and bring in movie stars.”  They saw the success of Terminator 2, so it all made sense. But then being the diva that he [Van Damme] was at the time, he made it very difficult to get access to him.  So history was made where the team decided that they were just going to make up their own characters and stuff.  And, you know, ultimately that obviously was the best decision, or the best thing that can happen to them.  Because had it been a Van Damme game, it probably wouldn’t have just the character that Mortal Kombat has now.

Kelsey Lewin  33:18

And the other thing that really struck me about the Mortal Kombat story was, it was supposed to sort of be this like filler game like this in between, you know, “Let’s just get something out the door.”  But it really struck me just how loose the management style was that they saw that this game was awesome, and then they were like, “OK, nevermind – change of plans!  It’s gonna be a big game for us!”  And I think that not a lot of places necessarily have that flexibility.

Joshua Tsui  33:45

Yeah, again, it goes back to the fact that the games were pretty inexpensive to produce.  So that was an example of how there were multiple teams at Midway just making games, just literally prototype games.  And they would allow them to do that just to see what would spark out of it.  So, you know, out of every one game that gets released, there were probably, like, four to five other games that teams were working on that then they would put into a machine and test it out in an arcade, then find out that they wouldn’t do well, and they would just cancel them very quickly.   And so Mortal Kombat was John [Tobias] and Ed [Boon] having this idea and putting together a prototype of it working on before, I think, the original prototype was not even a month and they got that in there.  You know, they brought in one of the actors and created the sprites and everything and… yeah.   Everybody knew that when they first saw that prototype that this was gonna be a hit game. And part of it was, you know, Ed Boon’s amazing programming and gameplay design skills. The other is John Tobias’s, amazing artwork.  And I’m biased on this because I’m very close friends with John, but he is one of those unsung heroes of video game art.  Just the work that he does is amazing. And you look at that, the early Mortal Kombats, you can tell right off the bat that it was just going to be a massive success.

Kelsey Lewin  35:14

Yeah, and I especially really like that you sort of illuminated the learning process in that game, too.  You had a really great thing with the Johnny Cage actor (whose name is escaping me), and how when they were trying to do the motion capture for something they hadn’t really done before – which is these high flying kicks and really fast action things… You couldn’t just do that, like, he couldn’t just jump in the air and kick because it would turn out all blurry.  So, you go from seeing footage of him doing those kicks, being told he has to somehow suspend himself midair so that the footage comes out. And then eventually, you know, it’s settling on being on steps and just kind of posing.  That’s a part that I don’t think is really a well-known part of game processes, even today with modern motion capture.  I think that’s an interesting little anecdote there.

Joshua Tsui  36:13

Yeah, there’s a lot of DIY stuff and just figuring it out as they went along. They built on what was learned from Narc, but they were definitely getting into some new territory that later games would benefit from.

Frank Cifaldi  36:27

And I think exploring that ignorance is something that we as historians don’t always remember to do, you know?  And that tends to be some of the most compelling stuff where you make people sort of realize, like, “No, no one had done this before!  So no one knew that the way you capture a flying kick isn’t to literally go to a flying kick.” Like, they had to figure this out on their own.

Joshua Tsui  36:59

Yeah. No, I think that was one of the big things that I wanted to make sure that people got out of the film was just, the entertainment that they’re enjoying, you know, being able to see how the sausage was made.  It’s not as glamorous or as pretty as you would think it is.  [Laughter] Yeah lot of rats!  A lot of standing on crates and things like that.  I look back on when I was a kid and learning how they did the effects for Star Wars using models that they cobbled together, or styrofoam and things like that, that always fascinated me and I wanted to get that sense of discovery with this film.

Kelsey Lewin  37:19

More rats than you’re used to…

Frank Cifaldi  37:45

So the next major game from Midway is NBA Jam.  And that one has its own sort of interesting history in terms of just trying to get the NBA on board.

Joshua Tsui  38:03

Yeah, the people at the NBA, you know, they’re…  The NBA back then, and it’s still maybe, they were based out of New York City. And so when they were approached to by Midway to possibly use their license for a video game, their thinking was, “Oh, this for arcade that’s… we don’t like arcades, because we look at these old arcades at Times Square during the 70s and 80s.”  And how there were, you know, just like Mos Eisely Cantina where it’s just horrible people out of there and such.  So they really had a bad view of arcades, and so the video people at Midway had to put together a video piece showing them, “Hey, no, arcades are actually, good, clean, family-fun places,” to convince them to let them have license.  And Turmell, he was telling me about it, he said that it was a real struggle to get the NBA; to convince them.   The irony in all this, is that back in the early 90s and in the 80s, the NBA was big but it’s not as big as people really remember them to be.  Back then, the finals for the NBA were aired in the middle of the night – they weren’t even aired live.  And so a lot of people forget that.  So what ended up happening is that the NBA actually benefited a lot from NBA Jam.  You can make the argument that a lot of people discovered the NBA because of playing NBA Jam, people who weren’t even interested in basketball kind of learned about stuff. 

Frank Cifaldi  39:48

I mean, that is my recollection as a child when this game came out is that suddenly you have people in [Michael] Jordan t-shirts running around in middle school.  And even though he’s ironically not in NBA Jam, but that’s sort of when professional basketball got cool.  And I think it was from this game.

Joshua Tsui  40:17

I really do believe that.  I followed basketball fairly well during that time.  But I really didn’t know the names of players on teams outside of the Bulls, you know?  But when playing an NBA Jam, because you’re only picking two people from each team, I got to know, like, at least two players from every single team in the NBA from that. What’s sad is now I don’t follow basketball, so I still think they’re the same players that are still playing now. [Laughter]

Frank Cifaldi  40:50

Yeah, you know Jordan retired, but it’s probably still Horace Grant. [Laughter] With his goggles…  Yeah, again, it’s not extreme violence – of course – in NBA Jam, unless you’re concerned for the welfare of a backglass. But it is sort of that “take it to 11”-extreme thing, and it’s just in all of these games.  And it just never really occurred to me until I got to watch them back to back to back like I did in this film.

Joshua Tsui  41:29

Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up. It was, you know, a lot of people don’t think of NBA Jam as an extreme game.  But if you really look at it, they basically threw out 90% of the rules of real basketball, distilled it down to its essence, and then added some extreme action to it.  So you have On Fire mode, you have people shoving each other, you have these crazy dunks were you’re flying 50 feet up in the air.  Everything was exaggerated.  And, you know, some people that were on the team did not necessarily agree with that; they were hoping to make it more realistic.  But once they saw how people reacted to all the crazy action, then it was like, “All right, this just makes a lot of sense.”  And that’s why Midway was perfect for the arcades.  Because in the arcades, if you think about it, you walk into a room and it’s full of games everywhere.  And they’re all loud.  And they’re all vying for your attention.  So you have to do things that are going to get people over to your machine.  And Mark Turmell was great in that, he understood the environment.  So when he makes a game, he’s blasting people with just sensory overload to get them to play the game of stay on it.

Kelsey Lewin  42:45

Yeah, you have to be kind of the the high-energy game, and I love that you highlighted that – especially in the sound – differences between NBA Jam and some of the other basketball games at the time.  I think it was a Konami’s Run and Gun?  Yeah. And just the difference between the announcer in that one and NBA Jam… it’s night and day.  And you can totally imagine that in an arcade environment someone going “Nice shot” isn’t going to draw anyone in.

Joshua Tsui  43:18

Yeah, exactly.  It really shows the difference between, you know, ’90s American sensibilities versus let’s say, a Japanese game.  Again, it goes back to the whole thing about digitizing of characters and things like that.  It was all about the company trying to stretch his legs and differentiate itself from what else is out there, which was at the time, you know, was mostly Japanese games.  And so it was like, “All right, you know, Run and Gun to being this polite about things.  Why don’t we just have this crazy announcer just yell at you constantly?”

Frank Cifaldi  43:54

 Yeah, and I think that Tim Kitzrow kind of invented the video game announcer by screaming a lot in that game, it’s like…  That’s just what a video game announcer sounds like. I mean, we mentioned Mike Mika earlier, he developed a game that I helped a little bit on called #IDARB.  And, you know, it was a sort of sporty game, and we needed an announcer and the direction was, basically, “Just do the NBA Jam guy, but like, something’s wrong with him. He’s just, he’s kind of strange.”  And it’s like, that’s just a default video game announcer now, and this came from Tim.

Joshua Tsui  44:39

Yeah, that’s so funny!  It’s interesting, because when I look back on it…  Like, for me, Tim is the default sports announcer just period now, you know?

Frank Cifaldi  44:51

But that’s not what sports announcers –

Kelsey Lewin  44:53

Even though he has never been a sports announcer, he’s never worked in sports!  But but you’re right!

Joshua Tsui  44:59

Yeah, it’s so weird, because then it’s like, you know, when… It’s because I’ve seen myself, you know, it’s kind of like, “Oh, it’s like Marv Albert back in the day!”  But then when I hear Marv Albert back in the day, he was nothing like that!  But it almost like, sounds like Tim channeled a real sportscaster and then just made it just completely demented.  And now that’s a standard for all for all sports announcers out there…

Frank Cifaldi  45:21

Yeah, Marv could never hit those notes. So this kind of, I don’t know, NBA Jam’s success and then your arrival – I don’t know if this had anything to do with it – but I kind of think of this is the start of Midway almost being a sequel factory for a while.

Joshua Tsui  45:41

Yeah, I mean, you got more to talk about, which –

Frank Cifaldi  45:41

This is your fault! [Laughter]

Joshua Tsui  45:43

Yes!  I don’t know if it’s MY fault… [laughter]

Frank Cifaldi  45:50

You came in, and then suddenly… [laughter]

Joshua Tsui  45:54

I mean, I think that’s when the, you know, the… how do I put it?  The taste of money started coming in.  So there were other original games we made in the studio, but once the sports titles and fighting game titles start to really blow up, people were kind of looking at each other thinking, “Man… that’s the formula to success.” So obviously, sequels are going to be automatically popular.  But what ends up happening is, now you have other game teams that are working on genres that might not be as successful now thinking, “Hey, you know what?  Maybe we should do a fighting game or maybe we should do a sports game.”  And that’s where some of the lighthearted competition or rivalries in the studio will start getting a little bit uglier, because now people are starting to step on each other’s territories.

Frank Cifaldi  46:49

Right, and you illustrate that pretty well with a game that honestly I’d never put much thought into until now, called War Gods.

Joshua Tsui  46:58

Yeah, I think that was one of the benefits of me being in the studio was knowing about the rivalry.  Because I think most people, they saw War Gods, they would be like, “Oh, it’s just another ’90s 3D game.”  But the drama behind the production of game was insane. And basically what happened was, Mortal Kombat – I think they were on Mortal Kombat 3 at the time?  They were between Mortal Kombat II and 3.  And there was some pressure to do a 3D fighting game.  And the Mortal Kombat team just didn’t feel that the technology was there to do it right, just yet. And so another team in the company decided to take up that mantle.   And, you know, par for the course of management… they didn’t say anything about it.   Most modern companies with proper management, they would make sure that people aren’t stepping on each other’s toes, you know.  This is the equivalent of, “I’m gonna open up a 7-11 at a strip mall and next to another 7-11.  Tt just didn’t make any sense.  And so they allowed another team to to go off and make a 3D fighting game called War Gods and it upset some people.  If you think about how much money Mortal Kombat was making for the company and now you’re going to go around and let somebody else make a fighting game that’s gonna be your competition, it just didn’t make any sense.

Frank Cifaldi  48:19

And probably on a more machine, I would imagine, as well?

Joshua Tsui  48:23

Yeah, exactly. More expensive, machine more expensive people!  It’s a whole new team of people come in and, you know, in Midway, it was a very close-knit group of people.  So when somebody new came in… It’s not like they didn’t let new people in, but somebody if new comes in and they’re acting like hot shots because they think they’re gonna make the next great game with the next great technology, it starts rubbing people the wrong way.  So you’ve got that coming in.  And yeah, it just got really ugly.  People were literally closing their doors on each other’s faces because they didn’t want to divulge secrets to each other. 

Frank Cifaldi  49:07

And I don’t know that anyone outside of Midway knew about this until this film.

Joshua Tsui  49:15

Yeah, I don’t think so.  I mean, obviously, the team members in the studio. But yeah, nobody outside knew about it.  And so for me this was a great example of how the style of Lord of the Flies Island management doesn’t make any sense after a certain point.  It was great in the early days, when you have smaller games and people weren’t making ten times more than other people within the studio.  But then it starts breeding competition like this.   And it was interesting to watch when I was there. It’s just like, you know, it was like being in West Side Story. We have two different gangs on different sides of the building, and they were very much competing against each other as if they were in different companies.

Frank Cifaldi  50:02

Something I was delighted to see get some attention in this documentary (just because the game is so interesting to me) is a game called The Grid.  And, you know, it’s one that I vaguely knew was a Midway game, but I had no idea who made it, I had no concept of why it was made.  And now that it’s presented here, it just seems like a crucial piece of the creative story of Midway. 

Joshua Tsui  50:35

Yeah, thanks for saying that!  I really believe that a lot.  It’s a great game!  If you ever get a chance to play it or see it somewhere, they bring it out that California Extreme every year, and here at Galluping Ghost outside Chicago they have a full setup. And it’s a fantastic game!  And it just… it was just a game that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You know, nobody… this is like at the tail end of the ’90s.  I think it’s literally ’99 leading into 2000s. And it was a multiplayer game that was very expensive to set up.  And the only way it was going to make money is if six people were always playing it at the same time.  But it was really fun because this was the era of, you know, where first and third person shooters were really starting to be amazing games. But people aren’t going to go to an arcade to play those games when you can play Quake at home, or you have LAN parties and such.  But there was a lot of innovation in that game.  You can make that game now and make it an esport game and it will do really well.  There’s a game called Monday Night Combat that came out quite a few years ago. And I always felt that that was a spiritual successor to The Grid. And I remember talking to the art director, and he said to me, “Yeah, so many people have told me that and I’ve never played that game before!”  I told him, “You should go find that game because it has that same personality!”

Frank Cifaldi  52:05

I like that it’s “so many people have told me that” and it’s like, they sold 500 units…. like, how many people know…?

Joshua Tsui  52:11

It has such a cult following, it is really amazing.  But it is fun; it’s a super fun game. And and I take particular joy in bringing that game up because I would love people to discover it.  That game and Smash TV are two games that, if nothing else, I hope people rediscover those games.

Frank Cifaldi  52:31

It’s kind of hard to rediscover the grid. I don’t think it works…

Kelsey Lewin  52:35

Someone’s got to make a console or PC version, I’d think.

Video Game History Foundation  52:38

Well even then, does it work dual analog?  I don’t know!

Joshua Tsui  52:44

It was like… The control scheme was really unusual, because it had a Tron-like controller with a trackball and a numerical –

Frank Cifaldi  52:55

And a telephone number pad!

Joshua Tsui  52:57

I still remember that, I just remember seeing that and I was like, “This is insane!  This is gonna do extremely well or it is gonna go nowhere.”

Kelsey Lewin  53:04

Hey, people bought Steel Battalion, that’s all I’m saying… 

Joshua Tsui  53:06

That’s true! [Laughter]

Frank Cifaldi  53:09

So this is kind of around when you wind up the story you want to tell, which is Midway sort of at its creative peak in coin-op.  But you did skip over quite a few games and I feel like that’s… there probably had to be some tough decisions there, because I think in a documentary like this, a Midway fan is coming in hoping to hear about – for example – NFL Blitz, right?

Joshua Tsui  53:37


Frank Cifaldi  53:37

 And I have to imagine that you had to make some some tough decisions to cut this movie down and get it movie-length and not the five-hour cut that you had.

Joshua Tsui  53:51

Yeah, no, Snider cut here!   It was extremely difficult.  I got a lot of advice from people who make documentaries and I think the thing that helped me to really prepare for cutting things was, there’s a phrase which is: “You have to learn to kill your babies.”  So I learned that very early on. And then the other thing that really resonated with me was, you’re making a film, not an encyclopedia. And so, when I heard that, that’s when I realized it’s all about, you know, people need to obviously learn from it, but they need to enjoy it.  It has to be a very specific flow to it.  And so that helped me edit a lot of things.  But yeah, there were probably four to six segments, full length segments that were edited that got cut out of the film for many reasons.  I mean most of it was for pacing purposes, but you know, let’s say in the case of NFL Blitz: the segment for NFL Blitz was almost exactly the same story as NBA Jam. You know, they ran into controversies with the NFL also.  There was a lot of crazy violence in that game that the NFL ended up calling them out on. There’s all these different things.  And when I put them back-to-back in the film, the audience is gonna feel like déja vu.  It’s the same story.  You know, the first game I ever worked on at Midway was WrestleMania. It was this crazy arcade wrestling game.  And it’s still one of my favorite segments for personal reasons, but that storyline was the exact same storyline as Revolution X, which is: Midway is so big now that celebrities want to work with Midway and show up at the studio, even though studio looks like hell.  So when I’m watching the film and I see WrestleMania, and then later on I see the Revolution X segment… Yeah, it’s repeating same story again.  So I had to kind of pick and choose which ones made sense in terms of the overall story arc.

Frank Cifaldi  55:50

Yeah, it’s like I, I bought this book years ago about beans – Hear me out now!  – It’s like, a history of different kinds of beans.  And I was like, “This sounds ridiculous, I want to read this.”  And I was excited to read about all these different beans, but every chapter is, “This used to be a peasant food and now it’s kind of a bougie thing. And it’s like, by the fourth one, I’m like, “OK, I get it, that’s the history of the bean.”

Kelsey Lewin  56:20

The entire history of beans. [laughter]

Frank Cifaldi  56:22

Yeah. So, question that I had just watching this and just seeing all of the behind-the-scenes stuff, and the stories you’re able to get out of people… Like, Could anyone else have possibly made this film?   Besides someone who was there?

Joshua Tsui  56:42

Man, I… you know, I…  It’s hard for me to answer that.  When I look back on the film, and particularly with the way the interviews went – you know, a lot of people have told me that when they see the interviews, they feel like they’re sitting next to somebody at a bar and being told a story?  Which is, for me, it was the highest form of flattery because there’s that familiarity with them talking to me, and getting them to be very candid and open and relaxed about things.  So, in that respect, I don’t think anyone else could have done it.  And stories such as the War Gods story, I think it would have taken people a very long time to unearth the the point of that story.  So, yeah, you know, I’m sure there are very seasoned documentaries out there that could probably do it because they are much better at journalism than I am.  But I just felt like, for me, it was easier to do.  So, it’s kind of a non-answer. I’m sure there’s somebody that could do it. But I don’t know, it’s tough for me to say, because there are just there’s so many details that I knew… Yeah, I know where the skeletons are buried.  So I was able to ask these questions and get honest answers from them. So I guess it’s mostly “No, and maybe a yes.”

Kelsey Lewin  57:59

So there’s obviously a level of knowledge you already have and then a trust that these guys inherently have with you when you’re interviewing them.  But do you also feel like this could have been made, like, ten or fifteen years ago?  Is part of it also the passage of time that makes people a little more willing to be open and candid about their past?

Joshua Tsui  58:21

Yeah, I think that’s definitely… I think the timing was right for it.  I mean, you’re talking about 20-plus years later; if there were any grudges out there, people were more willing to talk about it.  It’s not like they forgave each other, but they’re more willing to sort of just cuss through it and such. But yeah, it’s really interesting.  You know, everybody in this in the studio had… there’s almost like a camaraderie.  Even though they were rivals and there was some bad times, when it came down to it, everybody had each other’s backs.  And I feel like I really benefited from that.  When I brought up the idea that this documentary, I really didn’t get a single note from people. And some people kind of delayed the […] for a little bit and such. But yeah, I think if it was done 10 years ago, I think the demise of Midway would have still been a little bit too raw for people to talk about.  But yeah, I think I just got, you know, I just had good timing.

Kelsey Lewin  59:19

You’ve said no one said no, but I did notice there was no Ed Boon in this.

Joshua Tsui  59:24

I should say… No one said “no.”  I did talk to Ed quite a few times about being in the film. And I’ve known Ed for a really long time.  And there was no, like, definitive reason why he couldn’t do the film, but I wasn’t going to push him on it either.  Because I really respect him. And, you know, I didn’t want to do something that he was going to be unsure about. And he’s still working on the Mortal Kombat franchise.  He works for Warner Brothers and such, and so there’s a lot of sensitivities there.  So I wasn’t going to push them on that.  But I did want to make sure that he saw the segments that he’s in. And I want to make sure that he was represented in the same way that everybody else was represented in the film.  And so that was a bit more of a challenge, that I had to find the right archival footage to do that.

Kelsey Lewin  1:00:20

Yeah. And I think you did a good job of making sure his story was there, and it definitely wasn’t danced around or anything.  People talked plenty about him and you had good footage and stuff, so.

Frank Cifaldi  1:00:33

So something that I did want to bring up while we still have some time left is the unearthing of material that had to go into making this documentary.  What’s still out there, you know what I mean? Like, were you able to find everything that you needed? Is this sort of the last time that we’re gonna attempt to scrape together ephemera from from Midway Games? 

Joshua Tsui  1:01:00

Boy.  Well, to answer that question: I’m hoping somebody else will do more with the subject matter.  Like, I’m done with it.  I was on this thing for way too long.  But there’s so much. There’s so many stories out there, there’s so much more footage out there. I mean, just the archival footage that I was able to dig up for the film, I’m using not even 10% of it.  I mean, there’s just a ton of things out there. And I got very lucky in that I was able to get this footage.  I had a lot of materials of my own because, when I was working at Midway, coming out of film school, I was documenting things constantly.  Without any idea of what I was going to do with them. So I always had my video camera with me. And I was able to capture a lot of things.  And a lot of the other people that Midway, they also had their own personal videos that they let me have access to, which helped a lot.   But the real treasure was, Ken Fedesna had rescued almost an entire room full of old tapes from the creative media department in Midway when Midway went bankrupt and were sold off to Warner Bros. and other companies.  That material was going to get dumped into the trash.  Yeah, I know, it’s crazy for you guys, it really hurts!  But yeah, so Ken got wind of this and he went down with his truck and took all the tapes.  And so when I interviewed Ken, he originally didn’t want to be in the film, but he allowed me access to his tapes.  And so for almost two years, I was at his office going through tapes and digitizing what I need and everything.  And then I finally talked him into being in the film. But yeah, it was just literally sitting at his at his office.  Luckily, now he’s donated everything that he has over to the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York. And so people can get access to that now.  But I got lucky in that I had access to before he donated and so I just spent a ton of time there.  The material is just amazing, because Midway documented everything.  We had a whole creative media department that did behind-the-scenes videos constantly. And so you just get mountains and mountains of videotape.

Kelsey Lewin  1:03:10

Yeah, that’s so great. It’s so rare for a company to be thinking about themselves that much as they’re just kind of going through and making video games like that. How many other companies are turning video cameras on while everyone’s just kind of at work doing their job?

Joshua Tsui  1:03:28

Yeah, yeah. And I was wondering about that, too, because I knew about the creative media department. So I was really hoping that I can get access to that material even before I knew Ken had it.  But yeah, I always wonder like, “Do other companies do this or not?”  Because Midway was nuts when it came to documenting.

Frank Cifaldi  1:03:44

And if they did, I mean, that’s stuff’s gone from most companies.  Because you have to have that person who comes with the truck. Otherwise, you know, all that stuff gets tossed. And it’s heartbreaking. 

Joshua Tsui  1:03:55


Frank Cifaldi  1:03:57

Josh, where can people find out more about this movie and how to stream it?

Joshua Tsui  1:04:02

Yeah. So right now, it’s currently available through what’s called virtual cinemas and our main partner is Alamo Draft House on-demand. You can purchase or rent the film from there. And then on top of that, we’re partnering up with a lot of independent local theaters all over the country. So you know, I think there’s, at this point I think there’s close to 20 theaters all over the country.  And what you do is: let’s say here in Chicago, for instance, one of the arthouse cinemas is Facets.  And so you can go to Facets website, order the film through them and then stream it at home to watch.  And part of the proceeds goes to Facets.  And it’s a fantastic way of supporting these theaters, because obviously in these crazy times, theaters are really hurting, especially the independent ones.  So we thought that this was a really good way to roll out the film initially.   And so the best way to find out where it’s screening is at the website. It’s InsertCoinDoc.com. And then there’s a screenings page and you go there and you find all the links you need to.  Obviously look for Alamo on-demand. It’s on the front page there also.  You can also follow us on Twitter @ InsertCoinDoc, and Instagram, the same name, InsertCoinDoc. And we’ve been posting all kinds of great photos of videos from the film and also materials that’s not in the film.

Frank Cifaldi  1:05:29

Wow, Josh, this was great.  Thank you for joining us on the Video Game History Hour.

Joshua Tsui  1:05:33

Yeah, no, thank you. Thank you for having me. I’ve been a big fan of all your work that they all do there. And, you know, trust me: I’m amazed by the level of archiving that you do, especially given the pain I had to go through getting some of the stuff.

Frank Cifaldi  1:05:50

Thanks, we like you too, yay!  [Laughter] Thanks, Josh.

Joshua Tsui  1:05:54

Thank you.

Kelsey Lewin  1:05:56

Thanks for listening to the Video Game History Hour brought to you by the Video Game History Foundation. If you have questions or comments for the show, you can find us on Twitter @gamehistoryhour or email us at podcast@gamehistory.org.  Did you know that Video Game History Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit and that all of your contributions are tax deductible? You can support this podcast and all of our other work on Patreon or at gamehistory.org/donate. This episode of the Video Game History Hour was produced by Robin Kunimune and edited by Michael Carrell. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.