What do you do when your guest has no love for art, architecture, history and culture in a city that oozes in old-worldy charm? This was the challenge I faced when my sister’s boyfriend came to stay, although fortunately I’d caught something about Museogames on TV: a retro computer games exhibition in Paris.
Although I was the inventor of some pretty cool, extremely popular, not to mention boyishly violent playground games, I was also part super geek myself. At six years old I was programming my Dad’s Commodore Vic-20, and converting binary to hexadecimal and trying to learn machine code at 7. When I wasn’t being cut, bruised or bashed playing games in the junior school playground, I’d sometimes be sat down with paper and pen, writing computer games in my head, which I’d later go home and write up on my Spectrum 128k. I used to play a lot of computer games in those days, right up until my Atari STE days (The Atari was also a nice machine for writing music in Cubase, although Commodore Amiga owners would give me grief over its gaming capabilities!) I no longer have the time, nor inclination for gaming. Even though I have a good degree in computer science, graduates would find themselves lined up for database or programming jobs, and I just couldn’t find the motivation for a career in it. In a very short space of time, I learnt how to draw and paint, traditionally and digitally instead, and ended up a graphic designer.
Before I disappear under a wave of reminiscence… Back to Museogames! I couldn’t say it was a particularly educational experience, but it was an interesting trip down memory lane, and a reminder just how terrible some of these games were. I got a little nostalgic when I saw ‘Boulder Dash’, a game I enjoyed some 25 odd years ago. The dodgy Museogames’ joystick action made moving left a little tricky though, and that triggered yet another memory of the awful control mechanisms that you could use to play these games. I ended up concluding that the retro world of computing gaming was but a false nostalgic memory, and that today I they would bore me to tears within minutes.
My little sister found Lemmings, which she once had on a Sega Game Gear, but then later discovered GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64, and her boyfriend found satisfaction shooting her to death time and time again, as they relived their teenage gaming days. I sat down to try Arkanoid with Atari mouse in hand, when the French ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ came to talk to me just as I’d started.
Another room is tucked around the back with some old arcade machines, some of which existed in the tuck shop of my old high school. The old classic Outrun would vibrate so much when you drove onto the sand, that the entire arcade machine would shake and move across the floor. They also had one of the first light gun machines, and Time Traveler, a hologram laserdisc arcade game which was frustrating to play.
There was a guided tour in French to explain more about the machines and games, but it’s not so much an exhibition to educate, but a chance to look back over the years of computer game development, from the oldest games to one of the latest.
The exhibition is open until the 7th November and costs 5,50 euros to enter (I think it may be cheaper for students). More information can be found here: Museogames