I have just got home from checking out the National Videogame Arcade, which is set to open on March 28.

Built in my home town of Nottingham (and thus a quick bus journey from my house any day) the former Midland Group of Artists house was the setting for GameCity 9. During the festival in October I found the building to be ill fitting for somewhere where people will be attending en masse. Many of the rooms were tiny, the corridors tight and apart from the ground floor, unsuitable for what could be considered to be used as a museum-esque environment. Thankfully, the news that walls had been knocked down (and some new ones put up) was well received. The place looks much more befitting a hub of gaming history, education and fun. I was given a personal tour by co-director Jonathan Smith, who was very excited about the impending opening day tomorrow.

Over the five floors there are classic arcade machines everywhere, as well as classic home consoles from the Magnavox Odyssey to the Wii U. The majority of these are playable such as an original Track and Field and, of course, no place which pays homage to videogames would be complete without Donkey Kong. The NVA is not just about conventional gaming, it’s also about how other outside influences can affect and enhance how we see and how we play games.

20150327_110732Mission Control was perhaps one of the most interesting games I saw – involving two players using N64 controllers to pilot spaceships whilst several other controls around the console allow others to manipulate the gameplay by changing the colours and even the style of text that shows the high score at the corners of the screen. It highlights the different aspects that make up a game and  by changing them can affect the players’ experience. For a brief moment it can turn game player into a game artist.

You can even design your own enemy and have it enter the game.

You can even design your own enemy and have it enter the game.

Zone Dome was housing a version of Minecraft, curved as such to give you that Oculus Rift feeling without the feeling of having something on your head.

Zone Dome was housing a version of Minecraft, curved as such to give you that Oculus Rift feeling without the feeling of having something on your head.

The Hall of Inputs shows the history of gaming input including controlling without controllers (Such as the Kinect) to really easy-to-master controls such as the Steel Battalion set up to the really complicated peripherals like the Bongos that come with Donkey Konga.

This or the Donkey Konga bongos? I think we both know which is easiest to use.

This or the Donkey Konga bongos? I think we both know which is easiest to use.

Room Racers was another fun example of how we can use outside influences to change how we play games. When I first entered the room it looked like a weird play room with lots of random toys and other things on the floor. Then we began driving and I found myself hitting what I thought was an invisible wall, but it was actually the plastic shovel lying on the floor. Using a camera on the ceiling, the game is able to detect the physical objects and translate them into digital obstacles.

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Jonathan demonstrated this further by trapping me within a tennis racquet. I could see myself through the strings but unable to escape the head of the racquet.

Jump! is the NVA’s first exhibit which explores the history and evolution of jumping in videogames, how game makers create the form of characters propelling themselves into the air sometimes twice, sometimes even having the ability to jump from wall to wall. Although it sounds simple when asked singularly, when you see all the different forms of jumping condensed into one place it starts making you think things you may not have thought before. Like why is there so much jumping in videogames? Or why are there so many kinds of jumping?

20150327_111319Beautifully modelled by Jonathan Smith, each of these screens has a different game character that jumps in a different way. From Yoshi to Jet Set Willy, from Samus Aran to Batman, each has a distinct movement (besides the leaving the ground portion) that sets them apart from the rest.

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The aptly named Wall of Jumps

20150327_111752The Early Access Greenhouse is, as the description implies, where not-yet-done games can be showcased and available to play not only from student game societies and indie developers but even bigger studios will have the chance to offer visitors the opportunity to play their games before anyone else. A playable version of Mike Bithell’s Volume will be available to play when the NVA opens.

20150327_111913A History of Games in 100 Objects was a massive trip down memory lane. Going further back than I remember with the Magnavox Odyssey, it contained items all which, as Jonathan Smith said “tells a story,” which is undeniable. From what is probably the only unopened bottle of Lucozade which has Lara Croft on the packaging to the hugely successful Atari game E.T, each pinpoint a moment in gaming history. One item that brought back fond memories for me was the awesome cheat device the Game Genie, with its mammoth book of cheat codes.

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Some games setups like Dash & Bash were created specifically for the NVA.

Some games setups like Dash & Bash were created specifically for the NVA.

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The centre also features a café/bar area which also acts as an area which people can bring board games and relax.

Even though everything wasn’t up and running and the final touches were being put in place in preparation for the NVAs opening, I’m really excited as to what the future will hold for this place.

To see what events will be happening and to book a ticket, check out http://gamecity.org/

  • What a strange place, it really doesn’t look like something that could possibly justify all of that square footage and attention. Maybe there is a wealthy benefactor behind it for whom money is no object. I just can’t imagine it getting a lot of visitors after the novelty wears off.