Ambition is shaped by circumstance; it is easier for one who grew up around boats and enjoyed the independence that wealth brings to set their sights on circumnavigating the globe and achieve their goal than for one who grew up in poverty and never saw the ocean who may have the same desire but to whom it is only a dream to alleviate the daily grind of responsibility and survival.
Similarly, who can say what moment triggers one person to like rock music, another classical, one person the comforting lure of romantic comedies and another horror? For Danish laboratory technician Kim “Kanonarm” Köbke it is the arcade game Gyruss which has become his personal and private retreat, first released by Konami in 1983 and now only found in retro-themed establishments who celebrate and preserve such artifacts.
A documentary directed by Köbke’s close friend Mads Hedegaard whose narration tends towards the style of a fairy tale, Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest (Kim Kanonarm og rejsen mod verdensrekorden) chronicles the preparation and undertaking of the challenge to beat the current world record of forty-nine hours of Gyruss with a mammoth one-hundred hours of near continuous play, from 9am on Friday to 1pm on Monday.
With no other reward than being a footnote in gaming history and “the satisfaction of seeing something through,” autistic poet Michael Dyst is coordinator of the battle plan, present nearby for much of the time playing his own favourite games and organising a rota of watches, snacks and the tally of saved lives, allowing Köbke to focus solely on the immediate task of saving the solar system from alien invaders.
An ascent into cathode ray tube heaven or a walk through the dimly-lit passages of eight bit purgatory depending on one’s relationship with games, Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is observational rather than interrogative, the reserved Köbke established as a father and grandfather yet with no glimpse of his wife or family or even a single woman in the whole film, this particular gamer enclave apparently a male domain.
Köbke racking up points and gaining extra lives which can be sacrificed to allow catnaps, the challenge is both mental and physical, requiring determination and stamina and the support of his friends, understanding of Köbke’s need to complete this seemingly meaningless self-imposed Herculean labour, the unspoken agreement seeming to be never to ask why Tetris or Pac-Man or the patterns in Bach’s scores obsess each of them, only accept these are the things that make them happy, if indeed happy is what they are.
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is available on Digital Download now