Features & News

The Game Lounge @ National Media Museum

May 19, 2010, Author: Andy Corrigan

There really aren’t that many redeeming features about this horrid little home town of mine named Bradford. I mean most of it has been demolished, with the local council unable to afford to build it back up into the shopping utopia they had envisaged. Amongst the wasteland, at the edge of this pitiful excuse for a town centre, there is a single ‘highlight’, if you can call it that. A museum known mainly for hosting an IMAX cinema; The National Media Museum, formally known as the Museum of Film and Photography. It’s fair to say that the museum is in need of a sprucing up with some of the exhibits looking a little dated; however they have just added a new installation that might just be of interest to gamers.

The new ‘Games Lounge‘ has just been unveiled, offering a chance for visitors to play some classic games and have a look at how consoles and games have evolved over the years in a relaxed atmosphere. On Saturday afternoon I found myself in our dilapidated town centre enjoying a nice Chinese Buffet with Simon, Kirsty and their sprog, my fake nephew, Jack. So after we had eaten, I managed to convince them to come along and check it out.

Welcome to the pleasure dome!

I’ve been to the museum a number of times since my childhood, but I can’t remember a single time where I’d actually been this excited to get there. The excitement actually began when I spied what was undoubtedly my favourite thing about the exhibit from the outside; a fully functional Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting cabinet. Before I played on my beloved brawler, I had a quick wander around to take a look at what was on offer, and with the advertising they’ve been promoting this exhibit with I have to admit it was overall a little bit of a let down. There is just so much about this great industry of ours that although it would be hard to encompass the many great facets about gaming and put them in one room, there is a lot more that could have been covered, and not just the games themselves.

There are plenty of classics for people to experience aside from Street Fighter II; such as Space Invaders, classic tabletop cabinets in the form of Donkey Kong and Pac-Man, but these aren’t free to play. It’s a clever move by the museum as people visiting for this area will almost certainly pay a nominal fee to sample classic games, and I was clearly no different. After my brief wander (this really isn’t a big exhibit), I headed straight for the game that defined my childhood; I went straight for Street Fighter II. After taking on Simon in a battle to the death, and winning, I carried on and completed the game first-time without needing any continues. That was despite little Jack’s best efforts to put me off, as you can probably see in the placeholder image at the top of the page.

Not all of the gaming on offer was to be paid for, with Sonic 2, Super Mario Kart, Pong and Goldeneye 64 all available for everyone to sample for free, that was about it. Despite some glass cases showing off some of the consoles of yesteryear, along with some memorabilia, you were left with a few choice games to sample, and not a great deal of information to go along with it. I couldn’t help feeling that it was all a bit of a missed opportunity. Where was the insight on game development? A look at where we are headed? Why gaming is so popular? It wasn’t bad, it was just… lacking.

Maybe I was expecting too much; I mean the fact that a respected media museum even having a section dedicated to gaming is a step forward, a sign that opinions are changing as to whether gaming is legitimate media, despite how misguided some of the attractions or direction might prove to be. That said, there is definitely room for this area of the museum to be improved and expanded in the future, and I hope that it’s something that’s on the agenda at some point.

Even though I found it to be lacking, if you’re a gamer and find yourself in the Bradford area, I would certainly recommend that you go check it out, even if just for the nostalgic value. Just don’t expect to spending an age engrossing yourself in rich gaming history.

If you want to see more imagery from the exhibit, why not head over to our Facebook Fan Page, or our Flickr account?