> Game On, an interactive journey through the history of video games at National Museum of Scotland (Review) - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Game On, an interactive journey through the history of video games at National Museum of Scotland (Review)

Organised by London’s Barbican Centre and hosted by the National Museum of Scotland, Game On offers an interactive journey through the history of video games. Game On celebrates a wide range of video game history, from the earliest interactive games ever devised like OXO, a digital naughts and crosses originally developed in 1952, to modern blockbusters from Edinburgh’s Rockstar Games such as Red Dead Redemption II

The last 50 years of games

Game On presents visitors with a slightly overwhelming choice of games to play from the last 50 years. For someone already familiar with the gaming landscape, Game On delivers on the classics: Sonic The Hedgehog, Pac Man, Space Invaders, and Tetris. All games are on their original hardware, giving players a taste of how older titles were intended to be played. This aspect of the exhibition shines most prominently in the arcade section where visitors are free to mash buttons, twiddle sticks, and spin wheels to their heart’s content. The best use of arcade cabinets is with 1998s Daytona USA 2 which features two racing cabinets complete with pedals, steering wheels and gear sticks.

Uncommon consoles and games

I was pleasantly surprised with the exhibition’s collection of uncommon consoles and games. A couple of highlights include 1987’s NEC PC Engine running a copy of the side scrolling bullet hell R-Type, and Nintendo’s attempt to crack the virtual reality market 20 years too early with the Virtual Boy. A personal favourite of mine was REZ, an on-rails musical shooter for the Playstation 2 with some absolutely wild visuals. The most curious aspect of REZ is its exclusive extra controller, the ‘Trance Vibrator’, which is designed to enhance the rhythmic gameplay through strong vibrations.

Although there are many games that fit the exhibition’s pick up and play nature, especially if you bring a friend or two, some titles feel a little out of place. Games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, a 30-hour open world game with a narrative focus, simply do not work in an environment where visitors are encouraged to play as many different games as possible. 

Hands-on

Game On is a great hands-on introduction to the history of video games for the uninitiated and will keep younger visitors enamoured with a plethora of interactive experiences. For those with an existing interest in games, Game On has a great collection of rare and quirky exhibits that are definitely worth checking out. 


Game On will be at The National Museum of Scotland until November 3rd and tickets are available on the NMS website here

Featured Photo Credit: Duncan McGlynn

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