Are you a physical-phile? Do you love visiting your retro game store and talking with the associates about your most loved (or hated) video games? Then you need to check out our latest Industry Interviews where we are joined by Kevin J. James. Kevin is the director for the upcoming movie, Not for Resale: A Video Game Store Documentary. In an increasingly digital world, what happens to the physical games and print media? Join us as we speak with Kevin about his journey across the U.S. and Canada to learn more about the changing landscape.
Kevin, thank you so much for allowing us to speak with you. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey, thanks for having me. As you can guess, I’m a filmmaker from New England. At any given moment I’m usually working a contract gig on a reality TV show, co-directing a digital short for YouTube, or putting my efforts into Not For Resale.
Oh, and I also love the games industry. I’m a big Giant Bomb guy.
What was the first console/game you ever owned?
Oh, an easy question. I was a Sega Genesis kid with the Sonic the Hedgehog pack-in. I still remember being frustrated that I had to buy additional cartridges in order to play every game that was advertised on the cardboard box the console came in.
The story you are telling with Not for Resale is one that is near and dear to a LOT of people’s hearts. Growing up with Blockbusters and bountiful video game stores, it has been sad to see the decline over the last couple of decades. What made you want to pursue this documentary?
A big factor for me was where I live: Salem, Massachusetts. So many restaurants and businesses in town are independently owned. There are very few chains in downtown Salem. I can walk from my apartment to a local coffee shop, barber, comic book shop, and video game store all within two blocks. I love being able to know the people behind those shops and see familiar faces around town. It makes it very easy to appreciate the work they do in order to keep their business alive in 2018.
I was born in ‘87, so I remember a time before the internet. My generation has watched a lot of amazing democratization occur when it comes to creativity and running a business through the internet (I mean, c’mon, look at what you and I both do). In the same breath, we’ve also seen those advances eat away at traditional areas of employment. With digital distribution we see less need to manufacture, ship, and maintain boxed media, which is great for content creators, but it also takes away one more reason to go outside every day. It hurts local retail.
It would be easy to vilify the current gaming industry, to shake my fist and yell at a cloud, but I was more interested in exploring a story about middle-class business owners and the changing landscape of media access in parallel. We romanticize nostalgia, we love the things we have memories imprinted onto, but maybe it’s ok to question that infatuation and ask why we care so much about tangibility to begin with. There’s some poetry there.
How long have you been working on Not for Resale?
The idea for the film first came to me while working on the road during a reality TV shoot in upstate New York. That was in the summer of 2014. There was this local game shop, Robot City Games, and the crew would take trips there every week or so to buy some retro stuff. I toiled the idea around in my head until Thomas and I hit the road in late 2016 for a three week trip across the US and into Canada. The purpose of that trip was to prove to ourselves that we had a movie before moving onto anything that might put us in serious debt (fiscally and time-wise).
With that in mind, I’d say I’ve spent a year and a half on Not For Resale.
What has the reception been as you spoke with retailers about your project?
We hit some hesitation from shop owners early on, for sure. I charted a map across the United States and tried to find stores that would let us see the country from their perspective. I think a lot of independent shops are used to people coming through with cameras, so plenty of them probably assumed we were nothing special until we pulled up and started setting up lights and sound gear.
Most stores were on board from the get go. Others I had to call a few times in order to get the owner on the phone. One shop in Toronto refused to get back in touch with us via phone or email, so we moved on and found Ice Man Video Games. They were great.
What’s funny, and this happened numerous times, is what would happen right around the thirty-minute mark during the first interview with a store’s owner. They would suddenly realize just what the film was going to be about and light up. We made a lot of friends shooting Not For Resale.
Over the course of your journey, what are some stories that have stuck out to you the most?
There’s a shop in Tennessee called Control Freak Video Games. The owner, a great guy named Seth Meyers, noticed that a lot of his customers in the mountains had pretty crummy internet access. So many video games have these huge patches you have to install, and without a solid internet connection you’re kind of screwed even if you buy the game on disc. Seth decided to hook up a high speed ethernet jack in his store for his customers. You can walk in with your PS4, buy a disc-based game, and then hook up you console in the shop to download any major patches you might need. I thought that was a pretty cool service to offer. It made his shop feel extra communal.
This is purely a win for me and my habit, but I got to visit Luna Games in San Diego in 2017 for an interview. We walked in, started setting up, and I saw it: Silent Hill 2: Greatest Hits for PlayStation 2. $14.95. I immediately bought it.
It’s… a very hard game to find for a reasonable price.
Not for Resale is hardly your first foray into the movie industry. Would you like to share some words of your past projects?
Some people might know me from my work on Guaranteed* Video with my buddies Ryan Murphy and Neil Cicierega. We’ve been making short films online since YouTube first hit in 2005.
I think my most notable project was The Creed in 2013. It’s a 20 minute horror film I directed about a woman who accidentally wins tickets to see Creed in concert and then can’t get rid of them. Think Christine, or maybe The Cat Who Came Back. I’m proud of that one.
Can you tease when Not for Resale will be available for viewing/purchasing?
The million dollar question. I have taken a lot of pride in how transparent and on-time Thomas and I were with delivering the goods with our last crowdfunding effort (The Creed). I take people’s interest, goodwill, and backing seriously, so we want Not For Resale to be viewable in a timeframe that’s appropriate for our audience as well as our efforts behind the scenes.
We’re on track to have our rough cut done this spring with festival screenings in 2018. Ideally we can let backers see the movie in some capacity before the year is through, but the politics of that stuff can get very tricky. We’ll be posting behind the scenes materials and cut segments for certain backers, so hopefully those can wet their appetites.
Let’s quickly “switch” gears. We at The Switch Effect love the Nintendo Switch. What are your thoughts on the system?
I think consolidating their handheld and living room console efforts into one machine might be the single smartest thing Nintendo ever does. No matter how successful or beloved their efforts have been in the past, I’ve always thought Nintendo’s general game output was too few and far between for my tastes. Having a single ecosystem they can put all their efforts into and iterate upon solves the issue of them having to split their talent and library, and it makes the Switch hard to ignore.
I was a Vita guy. I loved Share Play and the fact you could buy a game on PS3 or PS4 and get a version for a handheld device that shared leaderboards, multiplayer components, and saves. However, the bridge developers had to gap when it came to porting a piece of software to Vita made it tricky. If you wanted to have a Share Play game you needed to make two versions of your software and then basically give one away for free. The Switch gives you one piece of hardware to develop your game for and, hey, as a consumer you don’t need to buy two devices anymore. You just take the console with you. Boom.
It’s crazy to see the Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 all doing so well after all the doom and gloom talk about console gaming a few years back.
Are there any upcoming games that you are most looking forward to playing?
I’m combing through my back catalog of 2017 games right now. Horizon: Zero Dawn has my undivided attention at the moment- I can’t believe I slept on it. The sheer fun that game delivers while also having such a crazy multitude of things to do is astounding to me. You can’t turn a corner and not be engaged on some level.
Afterward, I want to play through Night in the Woods. I’ve avoided reading much about it so I could go in spoiler free, but a few close friends have told me some promising things.
I have a Hidden Agenda party with some friends this month, I’m excited to see that. I’m crossing my fingers that we see some of that Resident Evil 2 remake soon, too.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just that anybody looking to see some of what we have in store should check out GameStoreDoc.com. We update monthly and try to have substantive posts with clips and photos, so you can get a genuine feel for the film by checking us out there.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. All of us at The Switch Effect wish you much success as you continue to work on Not for Resale. We will definitely be watching for future updates and can’t wait to watch the final version!
Use the links below to follow Kevin and future updates regarding Not for Resale!
Not for Resale