Sunday, December 17, 2006


Wandering around our nation's capital today, as I so often do, I popped into the Science Museum and checked out the Game On Exhibition. I'd meant to go when it was first exhibited in the Barbican about five years back, and could probably have better justified it at that age. Ah well. It was a lovely blast of nostalgia, seeing some old arcade favourites for the first time in ages . Plenty of home machines too, and some that never really made it over here, like the PC engine, and the Virtual Boy (sadly not operational).

The tone was a bit peculiar. Admirably, the curators have chosen not to focus on the nostalgia element, setting it up as a serious history of the form. Whilst this was probably a sensible approach, it would have been nice to have a little more space dedicated to the true greats. You would have thought that NEC did as much for the industry as Nintendo, Sega and Sony, going on floor space alone.

Most of the machines were in pretty decent condition, surprising, given how much of the bad touch they must get from the hordes of kids. There were a few points during my time there where I was thinking "Oh God, don't do that!" as a small child drooled onto delicate circuitry. What they really need, instead of the army of stewards that currently patrol the floor, is Archer Maclean. Just him, on his own, tearing around the floor wailing like a banshee whenever someone manhandles the controls on Galaga a little bit too hard.

Another thing that surprised me was just how little there was in terms of non-games content. There was Jon Burgerman's Timeline, which is fantastic. Very reminiscent of Pete Fowler's artwork, this covers a huge wall as you enter the exhibition. It's pretty detailed, but I'm sure any serious gamer could pick holes in it. They usually can, for almost anything. There was a small exhibition on game sound, which wasn't working, and some little bits of game memoribilia, like the history of Nintendo gashapon that appeared a year or so back, all of which were worth a quick look, but were fairly insubstansial.

There are some nice bits of concept art, and a wall donated by Rockstar giving a rough layout of how they set about designing Grand Theft Auto 3. My favourite thing though, by a staggeringly long way, was this:

Max Payne's clothes. His actual clothes. They were scanned for the textures in the game. Max Fucking Payne's actual fucking clothes. It's fair to say, I was excited.

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