Game On, the video game exhibition and globe-trotting sensation is getting its spiritual homecoming at Odaiba’s Miraikan this Spring. From Space Invaders to World of Warcraft to Playstation’s soon-to-be-released virtual reality headsets, the exhibition is a chance to experience, and play, the history of computer games.
There are over 120 games playable on their original hardware, separated into eight stages tracing the evolution of video games. Fans of gaming might get emotional over the super rare arcade games on display, including the first ever video game, 1971’s Computer Space, while anybody who grew up in the 90s will be fighting for a turn on TEKKEN. There’s original Sonic the Hedgehog artwork, a replica of the development wall for Grand Theft Auto and a version of the massively-multiplayer online game, Ingress, which brings together players from across the world based on their location.
Originally created by the Barbican Center in London, Game On is the world’s largest exhibition of computer games, travelling to 24 cities across the globe from Helsinki to Hong Kong, and now arriving in Tokyo for a three month stint from March to the end of May. For the organizers, holding the exhibition in Japan has a special meaning; it’s the country that pioneered video gaming and currently boasts one of the biggest mobile gaming markets in the world.
“Bringing the Game On exhibition to Tokyo is kind of like a homecoming for us”, said exhibitions manager, Patrick Moran. “Japan is well-known across the world as a leader in the video gaming industry, producing some of our favorite game characters like Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog.”
There are a number of special features unique to the Tokyo exhibit; the huge Minecraft station allows players to navigate a replica of the Miraikan building in the Minecraft world, as well as learn how to play in special workshops. The big draw though will be the chance to have a go on one of the new PlayStation VR headsets to be released later this year. Visitors can put on a futuristic visor to enter into the virtual reality game play. There’s deep sea diving, a first person shooting heist, and collaborative adventures where two players can connect across the VR dimension.
It’s not just fun and video games though. The exhibition aims to teach visitors about the social and cultural meaning behind video games, as well as their impact on future technologies. Bilingual information boards, movies and interviews with game creators explore how video games impact our reality and vice versa, asking the question “Why are video games so interesting?”. The hope is that visitors will realize the importance of gaming culture in our society, particularly how it can create opportunities for connection and collaboration.
“There’s this idea that games, and particularly future games like the virtual reality headsets, will isolate people and harm our ability to communicate. But we’re seeing a movement towards collaborative play that echoes changing consumer behaviour”, said exhibition engineer Leonardo Araujo de Assis.
In the ‘Collaborative Play’ section all about multiplayer gaming, we had a go at Papers Please, a game where players work as an immigration inspector at a fictional border checkpoint. You’re challenged with moral dilemmas about who and how many people you let in, earning money based on the number of applicants you process. Papers Please had us emotionally entangled quicker than you can say “access denied” – and got us thinking about the issues of immigration long after putting down the controller.
That’s what makes Game On so interesting; as much as it’s an amazing video games playground it’s also a thought-provoking museum exhibition that both gamers and non-gamers can appreciate. The exhibition is for a limited time only so check it out while you can before it’s game over….