Science museum

Geeky gamers at the Science Museum – The Oracle

The Science Museum of Minnesota celebrates the history of video games with a new interactive exhibit.

Cry over neighborhoods no more, thanks to a new exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM). With the purchase of a museum ticket, over 100 console, PC and arcade games are open to play at the Game Changers exhibit.

Affirming that there is a lack of knowledge about the world’s great video game designers, Game Changers aims to inform and celebrate what it really takes to make a great game. At the intersection of art and technology, video game creators bring both programming and storytelling skills. The exhibition, developed by the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI), not only hosts multiple screens to test games, but also rare interviews and concept art from some of the biggest names in the industry.

Sabrina Merritt
Concept art from Double Fine Productions’ 2005 adventure game Psychonauts lines the walls of the Game Changers exhibit.

Located on the first floor of SMM, Game Changers takes visitors through the 40-year timeline of the video game medium. From the 1970s, vintage arcade games line the walls ready to play. Information plaques accompany the machines to highlight each game’s creator and country of origin. Among other things, visitors can play Toru Iwatani’s Japanese game Pac-Man in its original form or American-made Asteroids from Ed Logg, which was the first game to invent a list of players with high scores. If retro isn’t your style, Game Changers focuses on the big names in console gaming that have brought the gaming experience home.

Here, visitors can learn the stories of iconic characters, including Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog. A teenager Yuji Naka was scribbling on the back of a notebook one day when he created the first concept for the blue creature. When the developers approached him looking for a character to feature in a new game, he was reluctant to bring up the idea he had in high school. Now, with Sonic appearing in over 50 titles, Naka feels pretty protective of his brainchild.

“Sonic never gets old, but to me, I feel like Sonic’s father. I raised him for fifteen years,” Naka said in one of the various interviews featured at the expo.

Sabrina Merritt
The exhibit contains several screens where attendees can play iconic games, including Sonic the Hedgehog.

Game designer Warren Spector is also getting sentimental about the medium. Known for Epic Mickey games, Spector’s interview deconstructed the stigma around aligning video games with artwork and narrative.

“I long ago gave up the idea that video games aren’t art,” he said. “We express ourselves through our work.”

The exhibit embraces this by displaying heavy narrative for all demographics. This type of entertainment isn’t just for kids, as there are several games for adult players, including Spector’s Deus Ex, the Fable series, and Diablo. To then relax from the battle games, the exhibition takes visitors into the world of music through Singstar, Dance Central and Rock Band.

The visit through time ends with a report on the new indies that have become popular thanks to the Internet and mobile applications. This includes heavyweights such as Mojang’s Minecraft or the more underground 2012 game Journey from American developers Thatgamecompany.

Aiming to bring out the geeky gamer in everything, Game Changers runs until May 5th. College students can get a discount on museum tickets every Friday after 5 p.m. for $6 with a valid student ID.