The rants of a constantly ticking mind, combined with a mess of reviews and obscure titling methods.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

'Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?' 'Later. Right now lets play Global Thermonuclear War.'

Wow, two posts within a week? That's pretty damn shocking, I can tell you. It's mostly because I feel cobblers and yet am wide awake and thus see no point lying in bed all day. I'm feeling a bit better, so thanks for asking. Oh, you didn't? Well, screw you!

Anyway, I think I fancy writing a bit of a thing about me and Chrissey's trip to London last week to see "Game On", a videogaming exhibition covering everything from the 'brown box' up to the Wii & PS3. It is running until the 25th of February at the Science Museum.

The usual thing happened: booked tickets, went to train station, missed train by 3 minutes, found we'd forgotten railcards, got railcards, went back to train station, caught train an hour later, train conductor didn't ask to see railcard - that kind of thing.

The exhibition itself is something akin to a combination of a museum (everything in little plastic boxes with little cards giving you a description) and an arcade (because you got to play on nearly all of them!)

They had an exhaustive list of computers, arcade machines and consoles, including several I'd heard about but never seen (for example: the PC Engine, the FM Towns, the Nintendo Famicom, etc. Mostly the Japanese consoles). Also, they had every single genre of game there - RPG, Strategy, Beat-em-up, Shoot-em-up, Text Adventure, you name it!

Sounds fun, eh? Especially for us two.

...but me and Chrissey were both disappointed. Why? Because it was equally lacking things we felt were important.

They had all these games, but there was no real description of why they were so important to the development of computer games overall.
They had a real Galaxian cabinet, but didn't go to the effort of telling you that it was the first arcade machine to use colour.
They had 'Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy' but didn't mention how important Infocom (it's developers) were to adventure gaming.

There was a few sections with information on, but they were fairly broad reaching, very much written for a casual gamer, and not very informative (a section about the history of Nintendo was squeezed onto a piece of card the size of a DVD case). Take into account that many of the visitors were mid-thirties white men going 'Oh wow! I remember one of these!' and you realise that trying to target kids with lots of games and very little content isn't really going to work.

We actually encountered a few kids in the ticket queue and there was a slideshow on a TV outside the exhibit:

Kid: 'Oh! A GameCube - that's so old! That's so lame.'
Chrissey: 'Do you realise you're going to an exhibit about old and retro games? You're going to be so disappointed!'

It was more depressing when Chrissey turned to me afterwards and said 'I learnt more from what you were saying than the actual exhibit'.

Another problem was the fact that there was so many games that as you were playing you felt time ticking away from you, and thus didn't really get a feel for any of them. Games aren't really designed for such short-handedness.

Also, I mentioned the Wii and the PS3 - you could only play on them if you had a special ticket. Shockingly, the queue for the Wii was bigger. I did happen to watch someone playing Motorstorm on the PS3, it actually looks fairly impressive - I think the X360 does have a fight on it's hands, albeit a pointless one. The PS3 *is* the more powerful console, but noting the PS2 is the least powerful and the most popular, I think it'll be the exclusives that make a console, and the X360 has a whole lot of them. (On a side note, the price of a X360 Core edition is £149 at - the PS3 is retailing in March for £425)

Finally, and most frustratingly (this is Chrissey pointing this one out too), it was laid out completely wrong. As you may know, Chrissey has got a degree in Archaeology and spent a lot of time working in the layout of exhibitions. The whole thing is so badly done. The way they have sectioned the whole thing is in the different 'types' of games - kids games, strategy, platformers and the like, all in their different sections. Except the sections weren't very well marked out at all, and I'd bet you most people wouldn't have noticed. Also, unless I'm wrong, wouldn't it have been sensible to, say, have some sort of timeline where you start at the early consoles and games and went up to the latest and greatest. It was truly badly horrifically laid out, and after wandering back and forth for our alloted time we couldn't wait to leave, sadly.

Maybe it was just we knew too much in the field (though most of my knowledge comes from Retro Gamer). Maybe this wasn't the exhibit we hoped for. Maybe the fact that we actually encountered this exhibit in 2002 whilst on our gap holiday (and decided to skip it) and have been waiting until it came back to the UK to see it has given it a status it could never live up to made it disappointing. Or maybe it was the fact I wanted a sodding guidebook to tell me anything about why these games were here would have made our trip complete.

Anyway, after traipsing around for a couple of hours after and giving up because everything's so flaming expensive, we came home.

Anyway, if my rant hasn't put you off - the tickets for the event are timed (you get 1 and a half hours in the exhibit, which kind of makes sense due to popularity and the willingness for some to never leave if given the chance) and are available on the Science Museum website.

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