A playable history of video games

On Saturday I took a trip to the National Museum of Scotland to see their Game Masters videogame exhibition, a collection of just over a hundred playable games from across the history of interactive electronic entertainment.

The exhibition starts incredibly well with over a dozen genuine old arcade games all crammed into a dark room. The illusion would have been perfect had the floors been sticky and if the whole place had smelled of bacon crisps and fag ends but on the plus side I didn’t need a pocket full of oversize 10p pieces to play and the floor wasn’t sticky and the place didn’t smell of bacon crisps and fag ends!. The games are proper classics too, including obvious essentials like Donkey Kong, Pacman and Space Invaders but also other gems like Robotron:2048 and Defender. I particularly relished the chance to finally play Tempest properly. And Asteroids still looks gorgeous.

After the interactive arcade nostalgia tunnel is the main body of Game Masters where many of the best game designers and studios are given a shrine to their greatest achievements. Nintendo first (unsurprisingly) with various iterations of Mario and Zelda to play. If it had been me setting it up I’d have put up half a dozen GBAs with Wario Ware running but I guess the museum’s choices might have better showcased how far gaming has come since the NES.

Local heroes DMA get a wall and a wee rolling documentary about the crazy gestation of the original GTA. Fumito Ueda gets a look in with both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus playable. Just about everything Tetsuya Mizaguchi ever made is there as well as Sonic Team and Yu Suzuki (with the full size Outrun and Hang On cabinets), Warren Spector, Will Wright, Harmonix and plenty of others all get a look in too. I particularly enjoyed Tim Schafer’s corner and could have easily lost the whole morning to either Psychonauts or Day of the Tentacle!

The exhibition finishes with a bright a cheery room, full of bright and cheery indie games. Oh, and Samarost 2! It might be hard to remember why but Minecraft and Angry Birds are both present alongside many more humble samples of the vastness that is Indie. I am pleased that both Flower and Journey have a place and opposite them sit Parappa the Rappa and Vib Ribbon, which is awesome. I also had a first play of Glitchspace which was nice.

As I left I realised that there wasn’t a lot of representation for modern consoles but then I guess it would have been hard to tell the stories of Call of Duty or Half Life yet keep if family friendly. A bit of Portal would have been good though. Maybe something from Naughty Dog. It is a shame they couldn’t find room for Sandlot and their Earth Defence Force games but then they probably deserve their own exhibition.

It turns out that Game Masters is actually an Austrailian exhibition on a worldwide tour and this is it’s only stop in Europe. So if you are in or around Edinburgh sometime before the 20th April take a few hours out of your day and a tenner out of your savings, go to the National Museum of Scotland and play through (a significant chunk of) the history of videogames.


Event details.

Full list of all playable games.


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