Walking down the halls of the museums on this list, you won’t find dusty copies of Pre-Raphaelite paintings or modern Rothkos. Instead, you’ll find old copies of Nintendo’s Game & Watch, the many variations of Atari consoles from the 80s, vintage pinball machines, and more. Film critic Roger Ebert once declared, “I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art,” but as time moves on, many are disagreeing with that opinion. If we can carve out space for fine art, film, and literature, video games also deserve a chance to preserve their already growing legacy and importance over the last thirty/forty years. Video game museums are still young (like the medium), but more are popping up (The National Videogame Museum opens in Frisco, Texas on April 2nd). Let’s talk about a handful of these fine establishments from around the world so you video game anthropology nerds can get your fix of video game history.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Oakland, California-based Museum Of Art And Digital Entertainment (The MADE) now has a larger space to dedicate to the preservation of video games and video game history, but also helping enthusiasts make history as well. Anyone can go and take classes in app development, music for games, interactive storytelling, and more. They also hold gaming tournaments and other events. I wish The MADE was in my neighborhood!
The National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, UK is your chance to get super interactive. They not only have three floors of playable games, but they also host talks and events (plus birthday parties, ahh yeah!). They even invite developers to bring their in-progress games for visitors to try and give feedback. The National Videogame Arcade really focuses on the fluid conversation between gamers and game makers. It’s never too late to try it out for yourself!
The Huis Ten Bosch Game Museum in Nagasaki, Japan is a free museum focusing on the entire history of video games from yesteryear to today. It’s located in a recreation of a 17th-century Dutch village, but when you’re inside the museum you’ll be too busy playing games and learning about weird and fascinating consoles like the Vectrex or Nintendo 64DD to notice. Fall in love with your favorite games and systems all over again at the Huis Ten Bosch Game Museum.
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation aka The Miraikan in Japan is a wonderfully vast science museum in the Odaiba district of Tokyo and currently houses the special exhibition “GAME ON: Why are videogames so interesting?” Visitors can not only play over 120 video games covering the full history of the medium (from Space Invaders to Minecraft and mobile games of today), but are also encouraged to question and ponder the value and fun of this art form. You need to act fast if you want to check out “Game On” because it is a limited engagement (March 2nd, 2016 through May 30th, 2016) until it goes to other museums around the world. Want to grab me a souvenir if you go?
Pinball machines are like the ultimate tactile gaming experience. We’ve talked about them on Geek & Sundry before, but The Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, CA houses over a hundred working pinball machines to play (some even from the 1930s and 40s!) They not only show visitors the importance of this slice of gaming history, but they get into the science of how they work and social spaces that pinball machines have created in the past. My body is ready.
What about video games makes it art to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let us know if you’ve visited any of these video game museums!