My local museum of badassery has been hosting an exhibit since early July about videogames entitled Game On 2.0: More Than Just a Game. It was an enlightening, nostalgic and ridiculously fun experience that I got to share with my partner’s 5-year-old son, Kai. But before going into the majestic details, let me first qualify the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry as the hottest of hot shits.
The OMSI is a sanctuary to anyone touched by a scientific wonder. It was the one school field trip that I remember feeling wasn’t a huge waste of my time (time I usually dedicated to videogames). OMSI validates the simultaneous awe and disbelief we experience when we witness natural or technological phenomena – like how magnets seem like a form of ancient sorcery.
OMSI houses the usual museum facilities: an IMAX theater, a planetarium with obligatory laser light shows and original and international exhibits. Oh, and it is “home to the U.S. Navy’s last non-nuclear, fast-attack submarine, the USS Blueback (SS-581).” Yep, it has a fucking submarine to wander through, push buttons, and treat as if Jacques Cousteau gifted it to your 10th birthday party as a play structure.
The big draw of the Game On exhibit is of course the 125+ playable videogames. But before Kai and I even entered the massive demo hall, we noticed a mechanical contraption hidden a bit to the side. It was a display of stuffed pigs, sheltered by small cardboard bricks, that allowed participants to catapult stuffed birds into the towers to knock them down in a blaze of avian fury. If you aren’t picking up what I’m putting down, it was a live emulation of the hyper-addicting game Angry Birds – a game Kai has already mastered. I could tell this game actualization was
an incredible moment in his life, and I knew then, too, that OMSI was still fostering that sense of awe and wonder I’d come to know it for.
One of the first things to notice upon entering the hall, aside from the rows and rows of screens, is the wall-sized projection of Pong – an honored and appropriate beginning to our expedition. The initial portion of the exhibit is devoted to the earliest attempts at software gaming, including several obscure consoles (Neo Geo, anyone?). One game that struck a particularly nostalgic chord for me was Lemmings. Oh, the joy I derived from watching those little yellow fools drop to their doom! This “origins” portion also reminded me how much I was into the Sierra games like King’s Quest and Police Quest.
There were elements of scenic creativity, complex plot and innovative interactivity that I wouldn’t have dreamt of before this visit.
Moving on to the more successful consoles, Kai couldn’t get enough of Mario 64. And who could blame him? That shit raised the bar on graphics and gameplay to a level some still consider unmatched. He and I shared a special treat, playing two generations of Zelda games side by side: Legend of Zelda (NES) and Ocarina of Time (N64).