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Local arcade receives a space in a documentary

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Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 8:46 pm | Updated: 12:19 am, Thu May 5, 2011.

DeKALB | It's about more than video games. It's about the community, the arcade, the kill screens and the quarters on the marquee.

"Star Worlds: A Pocket Full of Tokens and I'm Heading to the Arcade," will be screened at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Wirtz Hall RM 101. The documentary, created by communication studies graduate students Byron Czopek and Andy McLaughlin, explores the community of classic video games through Star Worlds Arcade, 1234 E. Lincoln Highway.

The film follows owner Patrick O'Malley and his Star Worlds crew as they go about their day-to-day operations, celebrate Pac-Man's 30th anniversary and voyage to the Midwest Gaming Classic.

"On the surface, people think it's a movie about video games and video games are ‘bad' and ‘isolating,'" Czopek said. "But going through this [film], there's a huge community of people who like playing or talking to their friends about video games. It's not something that's evil or detrimental, it's something that's a really strong part of our culture and another way of connecting us together."

The filmmakers spoke to a few dozen people (including some of O'Malley's old friends) in a few different states and acquired over 12 hours of footage for this 20-minute documentary.

Initially, O'Malley seemed a little hesitant because the filmmakers weren't avid gamers.

"I don't know how many times during the project Pat [O'Malley] told us, ‘A lot of people in this film are criticizing you because they can tell you guys aren't big gamers, but I kinda think you're gonna have a unique twist,'" McLaughlin said. "My last system was a PlayStation 2 and I played two games on it and was way too bored to continue. But I can still go back and play the nostalgia games -- Nintendo and Super Nintendo were my games as a kid."

For the last 25 years, Star Worlds has been a sanctuary for classic gaming. In addition to the rows of classic games, pinball machines and memorabilia, the business also sells and repairs games.

Although it officially opened its doors in DeKalb on Jan. 11, 1985, Star Worlds' first inception came in O'Malley's parent's garage in Maple Park, a town east of DeKalb.

"I started out with three games I got for my eighth grade graduation," he said. "Eventually there were so many kids hanging out in my garage, my parents were like ‘we need to get you and your friends out of our house.'"

Following the screening will be an after party at Star Worlds. For $12, attendees get two-and-a-half hours of unlimited game play, free tournaments, pizza and soft drinks. Rumor has it that Walter Day, founder of the international video game high score statistics organization Twin Galaxies, will be at the after party to present Star Worlds with a mystery award. A legend in the classic video game community, Day recently appeared in the Donkey Kong documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters."

O'Malley hopes that the documentary will provide insight into the evolution of Star Worlds from a hobby in his garage to a lifelong passion and business.

"So many documentaries focus on negative things like people's egos or money and this is not what this documentary is about -- it's about us and more important, our customers and the people who support us," he said.

"I don't need people with their big egos here at Star Worlds. I keep on hearing that people feel at home here, which makes me feel really good."



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