In the late 1970s and 1980s, the American public flocked to bars, malls, and recreation centers to play video arcade games, sparking a cultural phenomenon. While this era is long gone, the influence of classic video arcade games continues to be seen in the games of today. Drawing from its significant collection of videogames, Museum of the Moving Image is presenting Arcade Classics: Video Games from the Collection, an exhibition featuring more than 35 classic video arcade games, released between 1971 and 1993. All of the games are available for play.
Arcade Classics will be on view through October 23, 2016, in the Changing Exhibitions Gallery.
“As the first museum to collect video games, we are excited to be presenting our collection of video arcade games, many of which have been newly restored,” said Carl Goodman, the Museum’s Executive Director.
“This is an opportunity for the public to experience these classic games in their original form, for a limited time.”
More than simply a nostalgic blast from the past, the exhibition reveals how classic video arcade games laid the groundwork for the innovation and experimentation that informed the genres and gameplay conventions that we know today. These games also gave the public their first experience with the interactive digital technologies that are now an integral part of our daily lives.
The earliest game on view in Arcade Classics is Computer Space (1971), the first coin-operated video arcade game, created by Nolan Bushnell. While Computer Space was not a commercial success, Bushnell used the $500 he earned from it to found Atari. After seeing an early demonstration of a ball and paddle game for the soon-to-be-releasedMagnavox Odyssey (1972), he along with Allan Acorn developed Pong (1972), also on view, which became a massive commercial and cultural phenomenon, and spawned a new industry. The 38 games on view in the exhibition range in genre from early sports games (Atari Football, NBA Jam, Track & Field); fighting games (Karate Champ, Mortal Kombat); driving games (Pole Position, Out Run); puzzle and platformers (Donkey Kong, Frogger, Q*Bert); and a diverse array of “shooters,” many set in space (Asteroids, Galaxian, Defender, Space Invaders, Zaxxon), but also earthbound variations like Centipede.
A complete list of games on view:
Arkanoid (Taito. Released in the U.S. by Romstar, 1986)
Asteroids (Atari, 1979)
Atari Football (Atari, 1979)
Battlezone (Atari, 1980)
Berzerk (Stern, 1980)
Centipede (Atari, 1981)
Computer Space (Nutting, 1971)
Crazy Climber (Nihon Busan / Distributed in North America by Taito, 1980)
Defender (Williams, 1980)
Dig Dug (Atari, 1982)
Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1981)
Dragon’s Lair (Cinematronics, 1983)
Frogger (Sega, 1981)
Galaxian (Namco / Manufactured in the U.S. by Bally/Midway, 1979)
Galaxy Force II (Sega, 1988)
Gauntlet (Atari, 1986)
Karate Champ (Data East, 1985)
Missile Command (Atari, 1979)
Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992)
Ms. Pac-Man (Namco / Manufactured in the U.S. by Bally/Midway, 1982)
NARC (Williams, 1988)
NBA Jam (Midway, 1993)
Out Run (Sega, 1986)
Pole Position (Atari, 1983)
Pong (Atari, 1972)
Q*Bert (Gottlieb, 1982)
Qix (Taito, 1981)
Robotron 2084 (Williams, 1982)
Space Invaders (Taito, 1979)
Star Wars (Atari, 1983)
Super Breakout (Atari, 1978)
10 Yard Fight (Taito, 1984)
Tempest (Atari, 1981)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Midway, 1991)
Time Pilot (Centuri, 1984)
Track & Field (Konami/Centuri, 1983)
Tron (Bally/Midway, 1982)
Zaxxon (Sega / Released in the U.S. by Gremlin, 1982)
Four game tokens are included with paid Museum admission (additional tokens are available for purchase, four tokens for $1). Throughout the run of the exhibition, games may be retired and replaced with other games for conservation purposes.
For young visitors, the Museum offers a drop-in mediamaking studio with the theme “Game Room.” Children ages 6 and older and their families can experience a fun-filled afternoon of play and game design activities inspired by classic videogames. Activities include animating classic arcade characters, making a mini arcade cabinet, and more. Drop-in Studio:Game Room continues on Saturdays, 12:00 to 5:00 p.m., through July 30 (access is free with Museum admission).
About Collecting and Restoring Arcade Games
Museum of the Moving Image began collecting video arcade games in 1989, in preparation for Hot Circuits: A VideoArcade, the first museum exhibition of its kind. Since then, the Museum has regularly exhibited arcade games, gameconsoles, handheld games, and computer games. The game collection, which includes more than 400 artifacts, spans the development of the industry from the early 1970s to the present day.
While most artifacts in the Museum’s collection are not meant to be touched, visitors are invited to play the arcade and console games so that they can experience the games in their original format. Through extended use, components break down and require repair. The Museum retains non-functioning parts for its collection, as they allow insight into the specific history of each game.
For this exhibition, the Museum worked closely with arcade game collector and conservator Jeff Anderson to restore many of the games to functional use. This process required the replacement or repair of broken parts, and the replacement of original monitor chassis, which, even if currently functioning, are unstable and will inevitably fail because of their age. In most cases, replacement parts are the same as the original components, but this is not always possible or preferable.
For more information please visit the Museum of the Moving Image