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Games Entertainment

History of Video Games Exhibit 87

Mandi Walls writes "Wired is running an article about an exhibit on the history of video games at Barbican in London. It's supposed to hit the US next year. They start at Space War! from 1962 and move forward from there."
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History of Video Games Exhibit

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  • Or I will type in 'Zippy' and drop 5 dudes behind their base!
  • I was playing games back on the vacuum tube machines... graphics weren't quite as good... but once we got to punch cards things really got cool.
  • From the article:

    > Fifty game stations. Zero quarters required. I'm there.

    So basically, you get to jockey for position in order to catch a sideways glimpse over the shoulder of the guy who's been playing the game for the past two hours?

    Screw it- just download MAME and enjoy in the comfort of your own home.
    • by realgone ( 147744 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:08PM (#3389111)
      Fifty game stations. Zero quarters required. I'm there.

      But that takes all the fun out of it. I mean, I can't even imagine playing Street Fighter II without a long row of quarters balanced along the bottom edge of the screen. ("I got next.") That'd be like having a clean floor at a bar: wholly unnatural.

    • It's likely that they won't let the public actually play the games. Wear-and-tear on machinery, cabinets and artwork, fan-boy monopolization (can you really call an unkempt, overweight 45 year old man a "fan-boy"? Maybe we should say "fan-man" or "otaku-san" or something) and such would probably compromise the exhibit.

      MAME and its kin rock so very, very much. And I don't know of a single video-game historian or theorist ("ludologist") who doesn't use it. An interesting exercise in black-market 'fair use.'

  • by /dev/trash ( 182850 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:05PM (#3389070) Homepage Journal
    Behold! The largest, most comprehensive collection of computer and videogame memorabilia ever assembled is about to go on display. Game On, opening at the Barbican Gallery in London in May (and traveling to the US in 2003), chronicles 40 years of game development.

    The show is every player's dream. View more than 250 separate exhibits, including hard-to-find vintage titles. In a wonderful coup, organizers nabbed one of only 10 or so known working DEC PDP-1 minicomputers, which runs Steve Russell's legendary Space War! (1962), the first computer game ever. From there, you can move through old arcade favorites - Computer Space (1971), Pong (1972), Space Invaders (1978), and Pac-Man (1980) - and on to the Atari 2600 (1977) and Magnavox Odyssey (1972) consoles. Of course, the 21st-century Xbox, GameCube, and PS2 are represented, too.

    There's more than hardware to lust after here. As curator Lucien King says, "Our broad aim is to explore the culture, history, and global context of the industry." The exhibition and accompanying book, Game On ($28, from Laurence King), deconstruct characters (like Lara Croft) along gender and age lines and examine their relationships with players. They also consider the various sociological contexts of releases from Japan, the US, and the rest of the world.

    Game On offers case studies of specific titles (Pokémon and The Sims among them) that demystify just how games are made. It's not about a single creative genius working alone in some back room anymore. Games come from the collective imagination of large development teams. This idea, it turns out, parallels the evolution of the way we play games. What began as heroic individualism - solitary epics of self-expression - is increasingly about interaction among many participants.

    The show also delves into the complex relationship between the gaming community and Hollywood. Comparing film posters, screenings, and playable versions of franchises like James Bond and Final Fantasy, it becomes clear that what makes a good game doesn't always make a good film and vice versa (think Tomb Raider).

    Game On ultimately reminds us that games are part of a living culture. By making the works available to the public in an art gallery instead of a commercial environment, King hopes to invite a fresh, more critical appraisal. Who are they kidding? Fifty game stations. Zero quarters required. I'm there.

    • The show also delves into the complex relationship between the gaming community and Hollywood. Comparing film posters, screenings, and playable versions of franchises like James Bond and Final Fantasy, it becomes clear that what makes a good game doesn't always make a good film and vice versa (think Tomb Raider).

      Well I guess that's true but I think a lot of that is just Hollywood being lazy and not putting any real effort into making a good videogame-based movie. Take Street Fighter for example. The Hollywood movie with Van Damme is beyond awful. But Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is actually reasonably well done, for what it is. The problem is that Hollywood just doesn't have respect for the gaming industry yet. They realize there's tons of money floating around but they don't recognize games as anything more than flashing lights and crazy sounds. I would argue that there SHOULD be a "complex relationship between the gaming community and Hollywood" but that's still hasn't happened yet. Ideally, a videogame-based movie would develop the characters to a degree that can't be done in a videogame. This, in turn, would make the game more interesting and complex than the original designers ever intended.

      Just my two cents...


    • Anyone know how much this'll be yet?
  • when case studies are being done on Pokémon for video game history and culture.
    • ...when case studies are being done on Pokémon for video game history and culture.

      I think it's marvellous. The faster Pokemon can be consigned to history the happier I'll be...


  • The "three day weekend Quakefest" exhibit with 10 computers connected with a rats nest of cables, all covered by a pile of aluminum cans and pizza boxes should be great. Wonder which 10 lucky geeks they will hunt down/dig up and preserve the bodily remains of for use in this exhibit?
  • Just the thought of seeing all the old gang, Defender, Galaga, et al. brings a nostalgic tear to my eye... remembering mastering Pong and Breakout. Atari, we hardly knew ye.... and no quarters necessary?? Man, we gotta get these guys over here...
  • I'd drop the e11 ($9.79) just to be able to play with a pdp-1 alone!
    Something about running it virtually in memory space ( http://simh.trailing-edge.com/ ) is just not as appealing as being able to have the opportunity (for the first time in my young life fascinates me. (I am only 20 and did not have the ability to play with this growing up)
  • You can play the original Spacewar! online:

    http://agents.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/projects / pacewar [mit.edu]

    According to the readme it's based on a print out of the original Spacewar! code. It uses an PDP-1 emulator written in Java. Source code is available.

  • creative genius? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SevenTowers ( 525361 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:15PM (#3389180) Homepage
    "Game On offers case studies of specific titles (Pokémon and The Sims among them) that demystify just how games are made. It's not about a single creative genius working alone in some back room anymore."

    Anybody hear of John Carmack?
    Some people don't like Pokemon (come on, it's a yellow sqwishy thing!) ID software is a small group of dedicated individuals that have produced consistently and I think the best games still come from a small core of elite hackers and people with great imaginations. So much for large development teams... It is the game design that matters, not the number of people (look at Romero's ideas of grandeur...)
    • I have a ton of respect for John Carmack, but I don't particularly enjoy any of his games. The only thing that gets me excited about id software anymore is "wow -- this is pretty. Imagine what *other* developers will be able to do with this!"

      And even still -- id is a team. Same as the (probably also dedicated) teams that built The Sims and Pokemon.

      Also -- Pokemon is a "yellow sqwishy thing"? You've obviously never even played it, and don't know anything about it. "Some people don't like Pokemon" because they really don't like it, and others because they don't know what it is.

      A kid can tell you what they really like because they don't have to worry about what other people will think about it.

    • While I don't really know Romero, I'd place a large chunk of the blame for what transpired at Ion Storm on the shoulders of Todd Porter. I've worked with him (SSI), and I've worked at cleaning up the mess after he left (Twin Dolphin Games). Todd is something of a anti-legend in the industry, whom almost everyone has some horror story about, often how he managed to find yet another investor to burn. And unlike Todd, John Romero has made some lasting positive contributions to games.
    • So much for large development teams... It is the game design that matters

      Matters? For who? For you? Well unfortunately, this isn't the goal of most for profit game companies. Now let me ask you, which is a more profitable company, ID or Nintendo? (Even disregarding the consoles and all their other titles, Pokemon absolutely dwarfs and offering from ID for sales/market saturation).
      The point is, Nintendo exists for one reason, to make money, and apparently their bloated development teams make them very very good at their jobs. While it's not as romantic as we might like, business will always follow the path that brings the most profit...

    • Carmack is a gifted programmer. What he is *not* is a gifted designer. You neglect the other 15 people that work at id Software who put their stamp on character and level design.

      Has everyone forgotten that it was the greatness in the form of Sandy Petersen that put his stamp on Doom and Quake? Sid, Sandy and Wil are the creative geniuses that you seek. Carmack only does his creative work on the programming side.

    • Yep, and even more so back then. Back in the 70s and 80s, a single creative genius is just how it worked. Adrian Braybrook (sp?) was single-handedly responsible for some of the most significant games of the early 80s on the Commodore 64 - he pioneered the use of parallax scrolling in top-view shoot-em-ups, for example. And in the early 80s, the C64 was the _only_ serious games machine, it set the standard for everything else (flame on, Spectrum users! ;-)

      Of those early games, most of the good ones were created by individuals or small teams of 2 or 3 ppl, and most of the real dogs were created by teams of coding drudges turning out crap using film tie-ins (eg. US Gold).

      • Amongst other things, he wrote Paradroid (top-down shooter with the twist that you could either kill the bad guys, or take control of them and use them to kill others) and Uridium (classic side-scrolling shooter.

        I wonder what happened to him?

  • sucks for you guys, (Score:2, Interesting)

    by paradesign ( 561561 )
    i have 72 different systems to choose from. 8bit, 4bit, 16bit, 24bit, 32bit, 64bit, 128bit, you name it i bet i can be playing it within a day.(alot are in storage) if you want to see them go here. vidgame0 [tripod.com] good bye bandwidth.

    • Oh wow, in the picture is that one of those old Frogger games? I had one of those and drove my folks crazy with it's insipid theme song many a weekend early morning. Thanks for the nostalgia! Plus, that initial picture on the homepage is a great group shot... I never thought I'd see those things all in one picture.
    • Shite! I had my pants around my ankles just waiting for that page to load!

      I have a sizable collection of classic consoles myself. I've been tinkering with the thought of moving in to classic arcade cabinets, but my not-too-spacious living quarters make that a nightmare.
    • Temporarily Unavailable
      The Tripod site you are trying to reach has been temporarily suspended due to excessive bandwidth consumption.

      The site will be available again in approximately 2 hours!

      Didn't take long at all... ;-(
  • Lara Croft (Score:2, Funny)

    by Conare ( 442798 )
    The exhibition and accompanying book, Game On ($28, from Laurence King), deconstruct characters (like Lara Croft) along gender and age lines and examine their relationships with players.
    Oh so it's a pr0n exhibit.
  • by daminus ( 575417 )
    it would be pretty cool to relive some of this stuff.
  • I wonder what the schedule will be like ...

    Here in the upper Midwest, we normally don't get huge cultural events like this.

    Even if it happened to be in Minneapolis, I'd be a happy camper ...

  • Check out RIT [democratandchronicle.com]'s new program. Video games are more than just a hobby today.
  • by bdsesq ( 515351 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:30PM (#3389319)
    It was the 1968 Spring Joing Computer Conference in Boston.

    There was about a half million bucks worth of gear running the simplest possible spaceship game on a CRT.

    And about a thousand people trying to crowd in to see it. All the other booths had boring stuff like glossy literature and programming manuals. And of course people in suits looking very unhappy because all everyone was interested in was space war.

    The marketeers learned. Next year they had spiffy demos and babes to show them to you.
  • The only real video game is pong. The rest are just updates.
  • Hi!

    I was lucky enough to experience a similar exhibit in back in 1999: it was called Videotopia [videotopia.com]. Videotopia had its own Slashdot story a while back.

    It was a room full of 1980's coin-op games - it was like being dropped back into an old-time arcade (except the air wasn't thick with cigarette smoke - times have changed.)

    I got to play Computer Space and Pong, along with many other classics like Tempest and Asteroids.

    Unfortunately, the tour schedule on the videotopia web site has no entries past 1999. There's still some interesting pictures of games to drool over, though.

    - Tim

  • Pong (Score:3, Informative)

    by finny ( 107762 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @04:12PM (#3389534)
    All though Spacewar often gets credit as the first video game in 1962, William Higinbotham an employee at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, NY had a working Pong-like game [osti.gov] in 1958.

    Designed from an analog computer hooked up to an oscilloscope, Brookhaven Lab was promptly besieged by players who waited on line for hours to get their chance to play.

    Higinbotham never patented his device.
  • MAME is a great way to play many of the older games, there is something about playing the original in its intended form that is second to none. The cabinet art, the lighting. You can't get the full immersion of a game like "Disks of Tron" sitting in front of a desktop machine. Or how about playing "Gyrus" without that 360 degree spinning joystick. Or a game like "Track & Field" without mashing the hell out of those RUN buttons.

    It's the little things that get lost in the digital age. Sure, I can download MP3's of the latest release, but something about seeing the album are and reading the liner notes makes it pale in comparison.
  • I went to VideoTopia in DC about 3 years back. Pretty cool, lots of games, including Space War. I was the only person in the place. No need to fight for position.
  • The Euros get all the cool exhibits, all we get is the some ancient pottery ever so often.
  • These are DOLLAR machines!
  • Videotopia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BigJimSlade ( 139096 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @05:15PM (#3390025) Homepage
    Videotopia [videotopia.com] is a similar US based exhibit that mostly focuses on arcade games. I got to see it twice back in '98 and '99 (it was in Washington DC and Baltimore, MD almost back to back). The schedule at the bottom of the page shows the Baltimore showing as the last one, which was 2 1/2 years ago. I hope it's still touring... I think it actually did a good job of showing the development process (or at least, how it used to be during the classic era in the early '80s) They had original design sketches for several games, a couple cabinets that had see-thru plexiglass sides so you could see the internals of the cabinets (ever wonder how the optical rotary steering wheel on an original Pole Position worked?) and more.

    I think one of the most interesting parts of the exhibit (besides the fact that there are so many games in one place to play) is the inclusion of informational stands telling you about what was going on in the world at that time, which often had some effect on the theme or elements of the game. You then can go to a kiosk and answer questions about the "history" behind the games and win free tokens! The ultimate learning tool! :)

    If it comes to your area, don't pass it up. Also check out the site and read about some of the games that the exhibit showcases.
  • Virtua Tennis should be on there for best sports game of all time.
  • At the Museum Of Science And Industry in Tampa, Florida
  • When did it happen? When did I get old? 20 years ago I was in my element while in front of an arcade game. Those machines are primative, archaic by todays standards. No 3D graphics, no stereo sound, no 32 bit or 64 bit processors. Hell, I have calculators with more processing power then a lot the old arcade games. But those old games have something a lot of the new games have...a soul. Back then the technology was so raw that the people who created them had to concentrate on game play and couldn't fall back on pretty pictures.

    My daughter is about to turn 13. Over the past few years I've taken her to just about every arcade within driving distance. She always had fun, except for the times when we went to arcades with a row of the old classics. My eyes would glaze over and I'd wander over them. One time I really embarrassed her when another 30-something dad and I got into a Pac Man grudge match (Poor fool, couldn't last past the 2nd key). One day she was endured the agony of watching the old man flip the score on a Star Trek (I used to own one until the 3rd monitor went out). I only was able to play it for 5 minutes after that because the vector monitor finally burned out as I was playing it, setting off one of the building's smoke detectors (If you've ever owned a vector game, you probably know what this is like).

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982