During a little break in London, my wife spotted a little event going on at the Science Museum called Power Up, an exhibit of gaming machines from the past 40 years. She (un?)wisely pointed it out to me and the next morning we walked across the city to visit it. If you’ve never been to the London Science Museum, it’s quite a place. A lovely building filled with interesting machinery and discoveries from the past. The space exhibit is particularly worth seeing, with pieces of history from Earth’s early forays into the universe beyond our own little pebble. But that’s not why we were there. We were there for the games!
The hall was fairly crowded, but there was always something to try out or examine.
Upon arrival, you may be forgiven for being a touch disappointed, as you’re immediately presented with a selection of systems from the past couple of generations. Wii’s and PS4 systems aplenty. But head further in and you’ll come across treasures from your childhood (or even before) that will give you that momentary nostalgia hit. You’ll sit down to a game you played at the age of 6 and it’ll all come flooding back.
Frogger on a BBC Micro. It’s surprising how quickly you get back into that old rhythm.
Brilliantly, towards the back of the room they had some unusual systems alongside ones that had good ideas but were commercial failures. Some of them I’d never even heard of, but the group putting on the event had provided information on each one. The GCE Vectrex, a machine I hadn’t seen before, was placed alongside the insanely over sized controller of the insanely over priced Jaguar.
The GCE Vectrex. I’d never seen one of these. It struck me as an early home arcade machine.
Further along we found the Amiga CD with it’s silly, and uncomfortable, controller. A few minutes playing Sensible Soccer was more than enough for my wife and we moved on. Further along we found a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and a Commodore Amiga, both playing classic games. I recognised Bomb Jack on the Spectrum but was unsure of what I was playing on the Amiga. It was a fairly enjoyable sun and gun shooter at any rate.
This is the game in question. It’s probably a little small but if you could tell me what it is I’d be impressed!
Moving along we found a Master System running Choplifter (although there were a number of other games available) and a SNES with Killer Instinct. I didn’t risk embarrassing myself by trying to play that with other people around. I’m awful at it. It was nice to see some systems set up alongside each other showing just how far games had come. Two different versions of Batman, one on Mega Drive (Genesis to those of you overseas!) and one on Gamecube showed the difference in graphics and complexity of gameplay. Pole Position II on an Atari was placed next to Outrun on XBox. This was somewhat different as it highlights just how similar most racing games are, and the only way that genre has really gown is in terms of graphics and level of content (at least that’s how it came across to me).
Very different generations of racing game.
There were a few peripheral based games, such as Samba de Amigo, but light gun games were very noticeable by their absence. That’s a genre of games I particularly enjoy so I was disappointed by the lack of them. I suspect it may be to keep the exhibit more family friendly, although Halo 3 was set up for multiplayer so I’m not so sure. Something peripheral based that I finally got to try was VR. Both my wife and I tried a VR football game (Sociable Soccer I think it was), which was interesting. It wasn’t from a first person perspective, rather you controlled the camera in the sky with your head movement. This could be helpful for setting up plays and looking what players are further ahead, but it did come across as quite odd (especially seeing the score board suspended in the sky). The players were controlled with a traditional controller. It’s not sold me on the idea but I can see the appeal. My wife on the other hand said it gave her a headache so I think she’s even less sold.
The head strap can get caught in your hair too!
It wasn’t all games. There were some areas that would teach you some basic coding on the BBC or a PC. These areas were understandably quieter, but they were nice to take a look at. Less quiet was the Minecraft area which was swamped with youngsters taming horses and punching trees.
Some simple coding here (complete with instructions) was a nice change of pace.
The event is running at the London Science Museum from 22nd July – 7th August. So you’ve got a week at the time of posting to check it out if you’re interested! It’s £8 per adult for one of the four 90 minute sessions each day. If you’re interested in gaming history you may want to look into it.