Atari, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox: Ask just about any child—and some parents—and they will regale you with tales of adventure, intrigue and war, all taking place on their living room video game systems.
A new exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry takes you beyond the world of Mario Bros. and Tomb Raider to explore the history, creation and explosion of this media phenomena that began more than 40 years ago.
“Game On: The History, Culture and Future of Video Games,” created by British Curator Conrad Bodman, is a 100 percent interactive experience, presenting you with everything from the refrigerator-size video game consoles of the past to the sleek and mobile ones of today.
The exhibit is set up in a large room with lights and sound all around and is designed as if you are walking through an effortless maze with only one path.
Serious gamers can walk through 16 “levels” of video game history heaven, where they can experience nearly all the different video game consoles ever made, from Atari to Xbox. More than 100 games in 15 different genres—to suit all playing tastes—are set up to for visitors to try.
And while video game-crazed kids comprise much of the crowd, you are also likely to see groups of nostalgic adults wandering around, reminiscing about childhood video game adventures, as well as serious adult gamers.
More than just games
But the exhibit is about more than just playing video games. Video game fanatics, as well as those new to the scene, can learn about how video games have captivated people all around the globe.
One part of the exhibit focuses on how games are created, from tiny character sketches to complete worlds stored on little disks and cartridges.
You can learn about the key people who created popular games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Tomb Raider and how they affected other industries.
Rare, colorful, hand-drawn pictures of scenes from games such as The Sims and Jak 3 pepper the space, as well as prototypes of unreleased games. Movie-based video games, such as Star Wars, also get some play at the exhibit.
In addition, “Game On” delves into the international gaming culture, showing Japan’s influence in popular manga- and cartoon-based games. You can even try your luck at some games written in Japanese.
Although the exhibit is entertaining, the crowds make it hard to move around inside. The farther you venture into the exhibit, the more crowded it gets—especially near the lines to test out games. Try to hit the exhibit on off-peak hours.
“Game On,” an all-ages exhibit, runs through Sept. 5 at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago. Cost is $5 plus museum admission, $4 for members. For more information, call (773) 684-1414 or visit www.msichicago.org/gameon. Shai Ligum, 13, of Vernon Hills