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Professor and exhibit advisor Stephen Jacobs offers a preview for the opening of a dedicated video game exhibit at the Strong Museum Of Play, including excellent resources and archives from the history of gaming.

Stephen Jacobs, Blogger

November 22, 2010

3 Min Read

[In this guest article, professor and exhibit advisor Stephen Jacobs was nice enough to fill us in on the opening of a dedicated video game exhibit at New York State's Strong Museum Of Play, including a host of excellent resources and archives from the history of gaming, from arcade machines to historical artifacts and beyond.] This past Saturday the first visitors to eGameRevolution streamed past "life-size" figures of Link, Sonic and Pikachu to watch decades-old video of Ralph Baer demoing a “brown box,” play on 30 original arcade cabinets like Asteroids, Tron, and Rampart, and see collections of games and systems from days gone by. eGameRevolution is a 5,000 square foot exhibition and a love letter to games that draws on the combined resources of The Strong. The which is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG), the National Museum of Play, and the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play among other ventures. All three played a part in contributing content to the exhibition. Exhibit-goers will see more than just a litany of who begat what. According to JP Dyson, ICHEG’s director and vice president, The Strong wanted to ensure they exhibited the stories of the interchange between electronic games and the culture of play, as well as stories of the interchange between games and society. Dyson, curator Eric Wheeler, and cataloger Shannon Symonds mined ICHEG’s collections with assistance from RIT co-op interns Matt Fico and Ned Blakely. They pulled some of the most unique items from the almost 25,000 items collected so far to populate the exhibit with all types of electronic games, game-related merchandise, video, audio, and more.

Non-electronic games such as an original, flipper-less pinball machine, vintage doll houses, baseball equipment and more came from the Museum of Play’s collections to connect the timeline from old games to new. Some of Will Wright’s, Don Daglow’s and Ralph Baer’s original notes and diagrams from the Library and Archive grace the cases to illustrate the beginnings of complex electronic and digital creations.

The exhibit features also include the following:

  • Six PC stations for enthusiasts to play games across the decades, from Infocom titles through Plants vs. Zombies.

  • A series of four consoles demonstrating the technological growth of the industry; from a working replica of Baer’s Brown Box to a PS3 running Flower.

  • A recreated arcade with black light, posters, and more than 20 cabinets side-by-side. Other cabinets populate the floor of the exhibit as well.

  • Video montages that cover the history of video games in four minutes and pop culture references to video games.

  • Cases of artifacts discussing ties to traditional games, hardware and software timelines, big questions such as violence in video games, games in education, and more.

  • A Lightspace interactive game floor with numerous games and modes.

Most importantly, all of this is more of a beginning than an end for video games and The Strong. Some games and other items will rotate on and off of display and further additions to the exhibition are likely over the next few years. ICHEG and the Library and Archive will continue expanding their archives, both of which are research collections that can be used by those in industry or academia by appointment. So now you’ve got an official reason to visit eGameRevolution and the rest of the assets at The Strong. You’re doing "research."

About the Author(s)

Stephen Jacobs


Stephen Jacobs is an RIT Associate Professor in the Department of Interactive Games and Media, and the Director of the Lab for Technological Literacy at RIT. He is also a Game Writer/Designer for Ratatoskr Entertainment, Inc. For the past several years he has been on the Executive Committees for The IGDA Writers and Educators SIGs and has been a presenter at GDC faculty for the several years. His resume also includes: Museum Exhibit Designer, Bench Tech for Crazy Eddie's, Sign Language Interpreter for Deaf Street Gangs and Paramount Pictures, Educational Filmmaker, and Technology Journalist.

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