Chasing Ghosts

Institute History


In the eighties, video games were synonymous with arcades, and games were bringing in enough quarters to fill the Rose Bowl. This endless possibility led Iowa entrepreneur Walter Day to declare himself the sole authority on high scores. In 1982, Walter launched his Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard and the rest, as they say, is history. Teenage superstars came from all over North America to join Walter in a LIFE Magazine feature spread, which recognized them as video game world champions. This led to nationally televised competitions, a touring National Video Game Team, and the promise of fame, fortune... and groupies. The participants came from throughout the continent with one common goal - to be the ultimate player. Feather-coiffed Bill Mitchell could plunk one quarter into a Pac-Man cabinet, conduct a veritable clinic on hand-eye coordination and hours of perfect play later (every dot, energizer, and ghost) work his magic until the machine—out of memory—gave up. Todd Rogers—"marathoning" genius—once played a sleep-defying, record-breaking 82 hours straight. Ron Bailey and Joel West, best friends in 1983, stopped talking to each other after Ron beat Joel's Berzerk world record. They presently live 30 miles apart and haven't spoken in 22 years. This type of ego-fueled feuding was not uncommon among the players of that era.


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]