For a show dedicated to displaying the future of the video game industry, one of the highlights of E3 came from the distant past at the display for The Videogame History Museum.
As most of the companies on the show floor spend countless man-hours and untold millions of dollars to be at the forefront of the latest technology, The Videogame History Museum is the exact opposite.
Seated in the far corner of the South Hall, age is the Museum’s calling card. A small army of used Ataris sit behind glass cases, vintage memorabilia from Nintendo and Sega are shown off—dents, dings and all—and old arcade cabinets buzz and hum with the sounds of an industry in its infancy.
Founded in 2009 by gaming fanatics John Hardie, Sean Kelly and Joe Santulli, The Videogame History Museum was created out of a passion to preserve these games, consoles and merchandise and keep them from being lost to time. The collection comes from the men themselves, who have been gathering everything for decades.
“Most of it’s just collected over the years. We were collecting stuff 30 years ago before it became popular, back when nobody was thinking to do it; to preserve it,” said John Hardie, one of the Museum’s founders.
Just one look at the E3 exhibit—a mere fraction of what the eventual physical museum will hold—is overwhelming. There are objects that every fan will instantly recognize, like t-shirts from the original Pac-Man, a Gameboy Advance and a Marvel vs. Capcom 2 cabinet. But what about a Nintendo Power Glove? Or Jaguar system? How about an unopened can of Super Mario Cola?
Yes, this was a thing:
“We have 40-50,000 pieces total,” Hardie explained when I asked him how many physical objects will be at the museum when it opens in its fixed location in Frisco, TX.
“We have hundreds of thousands of pieces of paperwork,” said Sean Kelly, another museum founder.
“Memorabilia, you know, stuff besides just the games themselves,” Hardie explained.
With a physical museum measuring in at 11,000 square feet, there is a lot of space to house the endless joysticks, packages, arcade cabinets and toys that I got a taste of at E3. While you might be thinking that an Atari or an old Mortal Kombat cabinet isn't so rare, the museum also boasts a whole collection of items that you can’t find anywhere else.
“We have a Sega Neptune mockup. It’s a Sega Genesis with a 32X built in. It’s the only one in the world,” Kelly explained. “We have a Doctor Pong here—there’s only maybe three or four of those that have ever been found. I don’t think we seek out things that are hard to find, but we own several things that are impossible to find.”
Awash in nostalgia and historical oddities, this exhibit serves not only to remind video game fans of where the industry came from, but to also let them know that it’s OK to take a look back at the classics and enjoy them, just like I did on the convention floor:
Literally in the shadow of EA’s monolithic Star Wars: Battlefront display that almost takes up the whole floor, I watched as everyone from young children to grown men decked out in business suits pulled wildly at a Frogger joystick and mashed the buttons on a 30-year-old NES controller, grinning incessantly the whole time.
The clunky graphics, muffled sound effects and simplistic mechanics might sound like something any kid would just roll their eyes at, but the museum founders have noticed a big shift in recent years as a younger generation has stumbled upon the likes of Ms. Pac-Man, Asteroids and Galaga for the first time.
“Five or 10 years ago, the ugly graphics on an Atari or Intellivision Game would have turned them off, but I don’t think it does anymore,” Kelly said. “They also appreciate the history of the industry. They love video games so much that they want to see where they came from. We see that more and more with younger kids.”
More kids have been gravitating towards simpler titles like Minecraft and mobile games in recent years, so it's only natural that they would eventually find their way to classics like Joust and Q-Bert.
As the video game industry keeps pushing players and technology further into the future, it’s important to remember the beautiful simplicity of saving a princess, guiding a frog across a busy highway or doing whatever it is that Pac-Man actually does.
For more information on The Videogame History Museum, you can visit the website here or you can check out the physical museum, which is being targeted to open this year in Frisco, TX.
Stay tuned for more E3 2015 coverage all week from TechTimes and T-Lounge.