Days Out: Game On at the Science Museum, South Kensington
Sunday 29 October 2006
This exhibition is a boy's dream - a huge gallery full of videogames. Girls can have a good time too, of course, but with more than 120 games to play, it's the boys (of all ages) you will have to drag away. The show is a history of videogames - racing, sporting, dating, puzzling, role-playing, flying, dancing and, of course, annihilating.
Many of the dads made a beeline for the Space Invaders machines, happily zapping aliens while their sons looked on. Pong, a simple electronic version of ping-pong is up on a big screen. And it's harder than it looks. The prototype was installed in Andy Capp's tavern in California in 1972. Two days later, the tavern owner rang Pong's creator, Al Alcon, to say it had broken down. It transpired that the overflowing coins in the cash box had jammed the machine - an indication of the videogame revolution to come.
Science Museum staff valiantly insist "this is a retrospective not an arcade" and say they will be going round the exhibition encouraging children to look at the information on the walls as well as playing the games. Good luck to them. The information - including a videogame timeline from 1947 (when a Cambridge don "taught" a computer to play noughts and crosses) to today - is interesting and well displayed, but it cannot compete with the screens. The 12-year-olds I took didn't learn much, but they had a great time. And, to their own surprise as well as mine, they enjoyed the early games as well as the modern ones. A big screen with a state-of-the art "eye-toy" was a hit. Here, a camera puts you into the action and you physically move in front of the screen. There is a section on family games, including the early Sesame Street Cookie Monster Munch (1983) and some Pokémon games.
The museum has a restaurant and several cafés.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible. The exhibition area is too, but some of the games cannot be played from a wheelchair. In recognition of this, wheel-chair users get in half price. There is one game, Chillingham, that is designed for the visually impaired.
Game On runs until 25 February. Open daily 10-6. Adults £8.50, children and concessions £6.50, family (one adult plus two children) £19.50 or £26.50 (two plus two). Timed tickets can be purchased from 0870-906 3890, sciencemuseum. org.uk/gameon.
How to get there
The Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD.
By Bus: Nos. 9, 10, 14, 49, 52, 870, 74, 345, 360, 414, C1.
By Underground: South Kensington.
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