Occasionally I skim through the long list of emails I receive from signing up to the Science Museum’s mailing list, and even more occasionally, there’s something particularly interesting which crops up at the museum.
Billed as a “fully interactive gaming event features the very best video games and consoles from the past 40 years, and is as much a social and technological history as it is a full-on player’s bonanza of the greatest games ever made”, ‘Power Up’ promised to be something special, and so Steve and myself made our plans to take a trip up there to see what was going on.
Being at the Natural Science Museum, the event was very easy to get to, with it being a short walk from the nearest Underground station, South Kensington, which is on the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines, which can be reached from most of the London mainline stations.
Although we’d bought our tickets for the event online, there was the option of buying tickets on the day near to the entrance to the hall where the exhibition was being held, we had to wait in a queue whilst our tickets were checked – however, this wasn’t too bad, there was a sizeable queue built by the time we got to the exhibition, but we were checked and allowed in within five minutes or so. I can imagine that earlier exhibition times may take longer, but being the school summer holidays here, we were expecting a bit of a wait.
Then we were allowed into the hall converted over to use for the exhibition! There were approximately 160 separate booths set up, with all the major consoles from 1977 represented, with playable games, of which there were around 100 available to muck around on.
Upon entry, the newest consoles were the first set up, and so we spent some time playing games which we already knew well on the Xbox One and PS4 – Forza, Rayman Legends, an older version of Quake which had been ported, Trials Fusion and Project Cars, spending around five-ten minutes on each one. Although they were fun, they weren’t exactly the nostalgia-filled blast we were looking for, though I can understand why they were included in the exhibit as an example of gaming today. So with slight dawning horror in our search for nostalgia, we realised we’d have to look for the games which would be considered old enough to be a museum exhibit…
Along the walls of the hall were other games set up – alongside the entry door wall were the music games, such as Guitar Hero and similar, with the people playing on them making a nice racket whilst using the drums and bongos. On the other side of the hall along the wall, it seemed the Science Museum staff had done a re-enactment of one of the bitterest rivalries in video gaming from the 1980s/1990s, with booths set up for the old Sonic the Hedgehog games pitted against the older Mario games. Of course, in the interests of fairness, Steve and I had a go at both Super Mario Sunshine and Sonic the Hedgehog. Both, we found far more entertaining than the newer games. Other games such as the original Super Mario World, Super Mario Galaxy and Sonic: Chaos were also there to have a go at.
After this, I then made the mistake of finding Lemmings. Unfortunately it was a demo disk version for the PC, and not the original for the Atari ST from 1991 which I spent… many, many….many hours of my life playing back in the 1990s. However, I still had a good deal of fun working my way through the first couple of levels, enjoying the old-style music (damn that copyright which game out on newer releases of the games), and then spending five minutes or so just blowing up Lemmings in various different levels.
After this, Steve found the Minecraft computers, and we spent a good fifteen minutes on the computer spawning mass loads of sheep to then set fire to. The Museum had set up a server with around 15 games of Minecraft running on it, and it was rather good fun seeing people creating various things in real life, and then running over to heck them on the game as well.
We then had a wander around some of the Co-Op games, choosing to pass on League of Legends and Goldeneye, along to the end row of exhibits, and it was here that both of us stood for a moment in slight shock. Starting from the left, with a console dated from 1975, all the way along to the year 2006, was a line of what the museum deemed to be the most significant consoles from this period. There were plenty of old old consoles, ranging from the Atari Pong, to the Commodore 64, Atari ST, NES, original Playstation, Sega Master System, Atari Jaguar, all the way up to the Xbox and Wii. Walking along the row of consoles and games, various ones caught our eyes, ranging from Space Invaders to Pac Man, with one very notable offering from 1985, a game which defined my childhood (well, along with Lemmings) – Buggy Boy on the Atari ST.
I have absolutely no shame in admitting I spent (probably) more than my spare time on the game, playing all the different courses in the game and humming along to the music whilst playing it. I think it was this experience which defined the nostalgia blast that this exhibit was, and what I was looking for.
Now please, excuse me, I’m off to have a hunt in the loft for my old Atari ST…
‘Power Up’ is on show at the Natural History Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD, until Sunday 7th August 2016.
Written by Karen
N.B. FireHawk Gaming visited the exhibition on 28th July, 2016