Ultimately, there’s a life lesson at the heart of all this videogame madness, which world-champion Galaga player Jordan Dorrington will explain as plain as day: “I wanted it more than anything else.” That might seem like some 8-bit information to pass along, but I assure you, that’s as 3D as it gets. It applies to EVERYTHING in life, not just video games. It’s solid advice regarding the kind of determination, focus and commitment it takes to be the best at anything if you ask me, and I’m hearing it on crystal clear FM.
Can we get a round of applause for the patience of his wife, Naomi Dorrington? Talk about a champion! To say that her husband is obsessed with video games would be the understatement of the year. This guy has got tubs and boxes FULL of games. Considering how long it took him to win the title as the world’s best score in Galaga (14 hours of straight-up solid gaming!), you can visually see he’s put in his time training in a variety of ways, established via cartridges of all kinds from Nintendo to Atari and back again. And let’s be clear, kiddies of the younger generation…he ain’t laying back on the couch kickin’ up his feet with a controller in one hand and a beer in the other – we’re talking about STANDING UP, yes vertically, playing Galaga in its original arcade format! He even has tricks to hit the trigger button on the machine faster & longer than most people…Jordan’s got it all figured out, and he’s EARNED his title y’all.
Enter Mat McGill to help further his dreams and aspirations by supplying him with his Donkey Kong fix. Not only does the guy share his enthusiasm for video games and Donkey Kong in particular, but he seems to know his way around fixing machines at this point in his gaming career. He sets Jordan up with everything he needs to start conquering the Kong. The next thing you know, we’re going from the faux arcade of the basement straight to Arkansas for an official tournament – that takes place on Dorrington’s WEDDING ANNIVERSARY. I already mentioned Naomi deserves an award of her own, right?
So…look…I ain’t here to tell ya that “Arcade Gamer: The True Story” is gonna be the most high-budget film you’re ever gonna see in your life, or even documentary for that matter. That being said, it’s definitely not the lowest you’ll see in that regard either; honestly, it’s got everything it needs to tell a story like this – and it’s much more than just watchable. Tom Garland, the writer/director of “Arcade Gamer: The True Story,” knew how to get what he was looking for onto the screen, and I feel like he got this documentary done right.
Jordan is an encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to the gaming world, as is Mat, and we get to spend a lot of time talking to them directly, tapping into what makes them passionate about gaming. The dude practiced, nay – he TRAINED LIKE A CHAMPION – for months at the Quarter Barrel, a local arcade, in order to hone his skills and get himself prepared for a run at the upcoming tournament title. Beers on tap, games everywhere, his wife Naomi is the MANAGER of this fine local establishment…I mean, what’s not to love about this? Clearly, the Quarter Barrel is Jordan’s home away from home. He doesn’t phone this shit in though y’all – I’m serious – he trains and trains like any serious contender would need to in order to compete in what they love doing at the highest of levels. Say what you want to about gaming or whatever, but you have to ask yourself if you’ve EVER applied yourself as much as a person like Dorrington has to the pursuit of his championship titles. Aside from the fact that he WILL substitute a Pepsi for a Coke, which a Coke snob like me would NEVER do in the reverse situation, I like the cut of this man’s jib. Jordan’s an everyman but charmingly relatable in his own man-child type of way. He’s a testament to those of us that never fully grow up and remain young at heart forever & ever.
I like that it’s not just a film that’s all hardware and trophies but one that actually DOES focus on the drive, dedication, and determination it actually takes to become the best. We don’t just see Jordan on a huge winning streak, but rather, humanized by being outside of his Galaga element, in pursuit of a similar goal but via completely different means. If you were to ask me if I think he’d get to the goals he wants to achieve based on the things I’ve seen in “Arcade Gamer: The True Story,” the answer is an emphatic YES. You might argue that Jordan’s interests are somewhat juvenile…and sure, I can see that – we’re talkin’ about a lifetime of video games here – but at the same time, his level of dedication to HIS craft is all-out freakin’ inspiring. A champion is a champion is a champion, no matter what it is you do.
As they head to the VIDEO GAME CAPITAL OF THE WORLD…which…you guessed it, is in a mall in OTTUMWA, IOWA, because, OF COURSE, IT IS…like…c’mon – we’re all rooting for Jordan at this point, aren’t we? This takes me back to the days of watching Fred Savage in “The Wizard” going for the gold. I ain’t gonna lie, I see an old NBA Jam arcade machine, and you’ll find me fishing my pockets for quarters. Will Jordan achieve his (new) dream of becoming the world’s best Donkey Kong player? Will he get wrapped up in the bitter rivalry of two embattled arcades across the mall hallway from each other? Will he and Mat get snared (yes, of course they will) by the flashing lights and addictive sounds of just about every other game in between their adventures from point-A to point-B? “Arcade Gamer: The True Story” is actually a whole lot of fun…chances are you’ll relive your own childhood as you watch, and before it’s ‘game over,’ I can pretty much guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself watching this film.
As for the story’s true hero – Naomi – you can see she’s about as happy as a person could ever be in the life that she’s made with Jordan, and no amount of quarters could ever come between these two. At the end of the day, that’s the real victory if you ask me. I’m gonna go ahead and give “Arcade Game: The True Story” a solid three and a half stars out of five…sure there’s a bit of a quick wrap-up by the end that tells us a bit more than we’re shown, but aside from that, this documentary had everything it really needed.