Gamers geek out at Science Museum

The Science Museum of Minnesota is celebrating the history of video games with an interactive new exhibit.

Museum attendees play shooter game Child of Eden, developed by Q Entertainment.

Sabrina Merritt, Senior Reporter

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

Claiming there is a lack of knowledge on the world’s great video game designers, Game Changers aims to inform and celebrate what it really takes to make a good game. At an intersection of art and technology, video game creators bring both programming and storytelling skills to the table. The exhibit, developed by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), curates not only several screens for testing out games but also rare interviews and concept art from some of the top 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 the SMM, Game Changers takes visitors through the 40-year timeline of the videogame medium. Beginning with the 1970s, vintage arcade games line the walls ready to play. Informative plaques accompany the machines to highlight each games’ creator and country of origin. Among others, visitors can play Toru Iwatani’s Japanese game Pac-Man in its original form or Ed Logg’s American-made Asteroids, which was the first game to invent a high-scoring players list. If retro is not your style, Game Changers shifts to focus to big names of the console gaming, which brought the playing experience into the home.

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

“Sonic never ages, but to me, I feel like I am Sonic’s Father. I raised him for fifteen years,” Naka said in one of the various interviews shown at the exhibit.  

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

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

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

The exhibit embraces this by displaying storytelling heavy for all demographics. This type of entertainment is not just for kids, as several games for mature players including Spector’s Deus Ex, the Fable and Diablo series are available to play. To then relax from battle games, the exhibit brings visitors to the world of music through Singstar, Dance Central and Rock Band.

The tour through time ends with a feature on new indies that have become popularized through the internet and mobile applications. This includes the heavy hitters such as Mojang’s Minecraft or more underground 2012 game Journey from the American developers Thatgamecompany.

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