Over the recent bank holiday weekend, I was dressed like Princess Peach and taken to Newcastle to enjoy my stag do. That’s pretty much all I’m prepared to say on that matter, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. After I got back, my fiancée and I decided to pay a trip to Nottingham, each for different reasons. She wanted to go to the “Kitty Café”, and I wanted to take a trip to the National Videogame Arcade, the first permanent museum dedicated to my favourite pastime. And based on what I saw, I would thoroughly recommend the day to anyone.
Upon entering the doors of the NVA, I was greeted by the sight of an original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade cabinet, twinned with Point Blank (Although sadly the screen on the latter was playing up), and an abundance of Minecraft memorabilia, due to an event that was taking place that weekend. After a brief discussion at the reception, I headed up to the first of 3 “galleries”, where we were greeted by a huge wall of monitors and buttons, which turned out to be a massively enjoyable “active” matching game, slightly reminiscent of TV game shows such as Total Wipeout etc. Behind that was a Dreamcast running Virtua Tennis, and another couple of classic arcade cabinets in the form of Ms Pac-Man and the classic Track and Field. Everything being on Free-Play is fantastic, and really encourages you to get stuck in.
Alongside the arcade cabinets, there is an abundance of consoles dotted throughout the venue, ranging from C64s all the way through to PS4 and Xbox Ones, all running games relating to the various areas, from game creation in the form of LittleBigPlanet and Project Spark, to the “Jump!” exhibition, focusing on platformers. There’s an interesting little quiz that exists in the corridor leading to “Jump!” where there are a number of screens showing off characters from classic platform games with a button under them to make them jump. I shan’t give anything away, as there’s a bit of a contest to see how many of the characters people could name. Some of them are incredibly obvious (One looked like a tiny Italian plumber, for example), but some are fantastically obscure.
The “Hall of Inputs” gives you an insight into the number of different controllers that have graced our consoles and PCs over the years, whether it be bashing the hell out of the Donkey Konga bongos, or manning the ludicrously complex Steel Battalion cockpit, they’ve got a great array of peripherals to get your hands on, as well as being able to see how it’s possible to turn fruit and veg into a controller as well! Whilst a far shout from GLaDOS in a potato, it’s a nice twist to show off. There’s also a cinema room, with an enormous screen (running Sonic the Hedgehog when I was there) and a bunch of bean bags on the floor, perfect for taking the weight off your feet and plunging yourself into a retro heaven. If the game on the big screen isn’t your thing, there’s several consoles round the side which will probably take your fancy as well, including a PS2 running Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 and a Saturn with the questionable Sonic R on there for good measure. The early access area was a great little room to get some exposure to some upcoming games, and there are a number of rooms throughout filled with consoles and games such as Smash Bros for Wii U, Manic Miner and everything inbetween.
Up on the top floor was one of my most anticipated sections, the “History of games in 100 objects” area. Starting with a lovingly restored Magnavox Odyssey that looks like it’s just left the store, there are a number (100, I would hazard a guess at!) of seemingly random items relating to videogames throughout the ages. The obvious highlights included the aforementioned Odyssey, Hideo Kojima’s business card, and a functioning Neo Geo running a King of Fighters game, which was a ton of fun to relive. The assortment of items seemed to be pretty random and a little sparse at points, but I imagine this will grow into something as the NVA grows and gets more donations.
The only other area that was left for me to venture into was the basement area, filled with an array of computers and all hooked up ready for “Minecraft Multiplayer Madness”. Unfortunately Minecraft isn’t really my area of expertise, and I’m the first to admit that I just don’t “get it”, so I left this to the people who were competent in what they were doing. It seemed that this was a particular themed event rather than a full-time thing, but even if it is a permanent fixture, it’s a smart way of getting kids into the venue where they can then hopefully learn a lot more about the history of the industry and where it could be going. Right now, I feel that the NVA has an enormous amount of potential and is an incredibly fun day out. It’s fantastic to finally see Videogames get the recognition they deserve as an art form and have a permanent space dedicated to them in this sort of way. I would encourage people to go and check it out, as I genuinely had a smile on my face for most of the time I was in there, and I’ve already recommended it to a bunch of people. I can only imagine the plans they’re putting in place for the future of the venue and it is certainly a place I plan to revisit in the coming months.
The National Videogame Arcade is open Fridays-Sundays, plus bank holidays and school holidays. Tickets are £8.50 for adults and £6.50 for concessions. Find out more at http://gamecity.org