Video gaming has come a long way from its earliest incarnations and these days virtual reality and augmented reality create an immersive experience that transports us away from our everyday lives. It wasn’t always like this and the game that kicked it all off, Pong, is hardly recognisable as a video game alongside the latest contenders. The Science and Media Museum in Bradford has a permanent exhibition, The Games Lounge, celebrating the evolution of video gaming. If you have children, you can show them how it used to be ‘back in the day’ or you can just go and enjoy a bit of nostalgia yourself. It is also an excellent resource for any student or aspiring student of game design and gaming technology.
The Games Lounge is set up to take you on a journey through the history of gaming. You can trace the evolution of digital gaming which goes back to its origins in 1952. They also have a collection of all the video gaming hardware, consoles and paraphernalia including original models from Commodore, Sega, Nintendo, and Atari. This isn’t an exhibit to just look at through a glass cabinet though – it is a hands-on experience too. You can play your way through a selection of the games that were ground-breaking in-home gaming at the time. Play as Super Mario on SNES and be Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64. For a taste of where it all began you can try out the Atari Super Pong Console.
There are also table arcade games including Pac-Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong and Asteroids. In this part of the museum, even the seating is inspired by the blocks that never stopped falling and filling up the screen in Tetris.
There is a digital interactive experience designed by Richard England where you can learn more about the history of video game animation through classic titles like Prince of Persia. You can even experience the power of the Microsoft Kinect Camera for yourself.
The exhibition is located on Level 5 of the building and is open Wednesday to Sunday during term time and every day in the school holidays.
Gaming used to be regarded as child’s play and was considered by some to be the reserve of unsociable kids lost to their computers. The evolution of gaming actually tells a very different story. Games like FIFA have seen people playing with friends online while enjoying a chat in a Discord channel. Mass participation games like Minecraft and World of Warcraft have never been solo games. They bring large communities of people together to play in simultaneous worlds. They have created whole sub-cultures and genres within the games themselves. The online casinos have used video game technology and graphics to create the best online slots experiences. Games like Pokémon Go have used AR to make characters appear to be in real-life surroundings and people meeting up to collect them.
In February the museum hosted The Yorkshire Games Festival. Last year due to Covid 19 pandemic restrictions it had had to move online. It was back in the museum this year and offered an in-person event for 2022, with special guests, workshops, and a fun-packed weekend. Guests even had the chance to play on the huge screens at the museum. You might have missed out on the festival this year, there is still plenty of interactive fun to be had in Bradford. As well as The Games Lounge there is currently a special event celebrating 100 years of broadcasting and a Top Secret “Spy” exhibition.
The Museum opened in 1983 and is one of the UK’s most visited outside London. Entrance to the museum is free but you do need to book your visit. There is a £2 charge for entry to the Games Lounge. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.