photo diary by Matthew Bacon
Back in May,
MyAtari was invited to a press event at London's Barbican Centre in
honour of a new exhibition entitled
Game On. It was marketed as "the UK's first major public
exhibition charting the history, culture and future
of videogames". However, due to work commitments, I
was unfortunately unable to attend the event with Shiuming.
With the exhibition
coming to the end of its run at the Barbican
Centre (15 September 2002),
I decided it was time to find out what all
the fuss was about!
It's Friday and time to get up. Looking
out of my window, I can see that it's going
to be another dull and overcast day which - by
all accounts - should be as dull as it sounds.
However, not only is today my birthday, it's also the day I'm
visiting Game On.
breakfast and a quick shower, I'm
now running late. The problem is I cannot
find my jacket and I've arranged to meet Shiuming
at London Waterloo Station at 10:00.
it! Why it was in the boot of my car is anyone's
bus yet :-(
A bus has finally arrived to whisk me off to the
jumped on the first train that arrived at the
station. According to the announcements, it
is the fast train to Waterloo
which should get me there in about 15 minutes. Damn,
already five minutes late meeting Shiuming, he'll
be so cross! (only kidding). The carriage is rather busy which is
a seat a bit of a challenge.
arrived at London Waterloo - 15 minutes later than
found Shiuming and we've started our
journey to the Barbican Centre. First stop,
the London Underground.
Barbican Exhibition Centre.
a short tube ride and a ten minute walk or so, Shiuming
and I have reached our destination, London's Barbican
Exhibition Centre. After purchasing our tickets,
we enter the exhibition each clutching a rather nice glossy brochure
about Game On and we step back in
to the brochure, the Game On exhibition has
been divided into the following 15 rooms:
- Early Arcade
- Home Consoles
- Games Families
- Making &
- USA &
European Games Culture
- Games Culture
- Kids Games
- Gaming Magazines
- New Release
- Future Technology
As we enter the
Early Arcade Games room, my attention
is immediately drawn to the huge Pong game
which is being projected on the wall in front
of me. I find myself grinning from ear
to ear for no apparent reason - like a small child in a
sweet shop. I've got to have a go!
We have formed an orderly queue behind two visitors
in front of us that are currently playing the
game. While waiting our turn, I'm trying to
decide which arcade machine to play on next as well
as size up my forthcoming opponent.
8 - 4 to
The other delights
of this room include a selection of arcade
machines which include many classics
such as Defender, Tempest, Asteroids and Pac-Man.
Shiuming jumps on Defender while I peer over the shoulder
of a guy playing an original Tempest arcade machine
(where did they get these machines?!). From the faces on the other visitors it is clear
that everyone is enjoying themselves, especially
the member of staff playing Missile Command
Arcade Games room.
playing on a Defender.
to explore the rest of the exhibition, we move on the Home Consoles room,
This room features an
impressive collection of home consoles past and present,
including a ZX Spectrum, Sega Saturn, Nintendo Famicom and X-Box. I find
myself attracted to the Atari Jaguar to my right which is running
Tempest 2000 - a far cry from the original arcade version
I have just seen being played in the Early Arcade
Working my way around
the room clockwise I find myself playing Gran Turismo
on a PlayStation 2. This is not only a fantastic looking
game, the physics of the cars are great and have to be played to be
believed! As a PS2 and Gran Turismo owner, I comfortably
show off my skills on the rally circuit to the frustration
- and embarrassment - of the previous player :-))
My smugness does not
last long as my pathetic attempt at playing Frogger
on an Atari 2600 is demonstrating. Shiuming shows me how it's
done. Ah well, never mind eh?
has just struck me that the average of the person in
this room must be about 23 or so! I wonder what the
demographic for the exhibition was...
playing Tempest 2000.
said you can't have your cake and eat it?
Correction: In our first report of Game On Shiuming
stated this was a Binatone Pong clone, from only looking at the orange
Binatone-branded paddle controllers that were installed at the time. It
is in fact a Magnavox Odyssey.
gorged ourselves on some fine home console games
including Tempest 2000, Frogger, V-Rally, Halo
and Gran Tourismo, we move on to the Games
This room is easily twice
the size of the last with consoles and computers
lining all four walls. The first game
Shiuming and I find ourselves playing is Virtua Fighter II. I am
now regretting beating
Shiuming earlier at Pong as he is now whipping
my ass! No matter what I do, I'm consistently losing by a knockout.
Ah well, can't win them all. Revenge is sweet
We split up to explore the room. Synchronise watches. The room is fairly busy making it
difficult to get on any of the games. I
wish these kids would stop hogging all the machines
- all they are doing is smacking the hell out of the
A quick tour of the room
uncovers some true gems. Anyone for a game of Monkey
Island? :-) According to the brochure in my hand, this part of the exhibition "looks at the
wide variety of game and examines where the impetus
for different kinds of gameplay has come from".
They have certainly achieved this as I have counted
no less than nine types of games (although I've no doubt
missed a few) on over ten different platforms. The 35
games on offer in this room include Metal Gear Solid
The Sims, Virtua Fighter 2, Secret of Monkey Island, Sonic
Adventure 2 and Bubble Bobble.
come across Breakout, is this cool or what?
Now this is a proper game.
playing Breakout, although Shiuming has found me. I
suppose I should let him have a go... but only if he
may not be the most up-to-date racing simulator,
but it's just as addictive!
so simple, yet frustratingly difficult.
of the first floor of the exhibition contains a series
of rooms devoted to the Making & Marketing
According to the brochure,
these rooms show "the
development of five of the most popular games of recent times" and
"gives unique insight into the making of Grand Theft Auto III
(Rockstar Games), the Pokémon phenomenon (GameFreak), The Sims
(Maxis), Tomb Raider (Core Design) and Final Fantasy
As I turn the corner, I find myself face-to-face
with a large Grand Theft Auto III banner, shown above
just spent the last quarter of an hour strolling round
the series of rooms (one dedicated to each particular
game) which make up Making & Marketing
Games. What a fantastic
and clever move :-)
It is great to see that
the exhibitors have taken the opportunity to include
the next generation of "classic"
games. It must have been quite tough to select which
five games to feature, but I think they've got it
spot on. For those of you who have not yet played
Grand Theft Auto III (GTA3), you don't know what you are missing!
quite simply, the best game I have ever played.
I don't make this statement
lightly. Although I purchased my PS2 based entirely on the
strength of playing a friend's copy of Gran Turismo,
it was disregarded the second I played GTA3. The graphics
are superb, the concept is fantastic and the fun factor
is huge. It took me three months to complete
all the missions and according to the in-game stats,
I've only completed 42% of the entire game. I kid you
Being such a fan of GTA3
has certainly enhanced my enjoyment of this part of
I have found it fascinating seeing behind the scenes
of the game which include a detailed plot development and
early concept drawings. I must admit that the other
games did not quite hold the same appeal (as I'm not really a big fan of either Pokémon,
The Sims or Tomb Raider), however, they were interesting
none the less.
Grand Theft Auto III room
Lara Croft room.
I appear to have lost
Shiuming. I really should find him before I head upstairs.
I bet he's back in the Games Families room
must pick up the pace as I need to be back home by 15:00. The second floor contains
the following rooms:
- USA &
European Games Culture
- Games Culture
- Kids Games
- Gaming Magazines
- New Release
- Future Technology
around the floor takes us first to the USA &
European Games Culture room. It appears
all the young kids that were annoying me earlier
have found their way here and are hogging all the cool
room is intended to be "thought
provoking" and "explores issues like violence in games and the relationship between games and
the military". It is just an excuse to feature some cool shoot'em up games if you ask me. Shiuming
has pointed out a Wolfenstein 3D by id Software on a
Jaguar. Unfortunately, there
is a small child playing on it - what I mean is he is
smacking the hell out of the controls in an erratic
manner - clearly demonstrating that "violence in games"
works. Ha! He has just died again :-)
The games on display
here (in the USA &
European Games Culture and Games Culture
Japan rooms) clearly demonstrate the
differences and similarities of games developed in each culture.
Whereas the majority of games from the US & Europe are mainly action
or sport related - I generalise here you understand
- Japan is coming out with dating and life simulation games.
Of course, Japan does not
just make dating and life simulation games as the
Character room shows with the profiles of Shigeru
Miyamoto and Yuji Naka. For those of you who do not
recognise these names, they are the gentlemen behind
the famous Mario Bros and Sonic the Hendgehog
characters, respectively. It is amazing to think the
influence these characters have had over the years.
Branding in games has increasingly become important in
today's market, so much so that even games designed
for kids as educational aids have corporate sponsorship
all over them!
The Kids Games
room not only features educational games, it also includes
a range of hand-held systems including Nintendo's GameBoy,
Atari's Touch Me and a new Compaq Pocket PC, shown below.
PC is a business tool - yeah right!
stop the Sound room.
As a musician, I have always
highly valued music and SFX in games. Composers of music
for games have long been the poor relation to more traditional
genres. However, with modern consoles and computers
able to reproduce CD quality sound, this is now longer
Listening to some of
the music from games such as Jet Set Radio and
Headhunter, I find myself thoroughly impressed
by what the composer managed to achieve with so little.
My only criticisms are
that these recordings have obviously been post-produced
(as the recordings are far too clean) and these headphones
are so uncomfortable!
To give my poor head
a rest, we head off to the Cinema room.
to the brochure, this room "looks at the relationship
between the two media (games and films), from the days
of the early arcade games based on movies through to
today's home consoles".
Making a game based on
a movie is more often than not a bad idea! (as is making
a movie based of a game, Super Mario Bros and
Final Fantasy for example). However, there
are always exceptions to the rule as the Star Wars
clearly demonstrates, shown below.
Wars arcade machine - pure vector magic
trying to get Warlords to work.
Next up is the Multiplayer
games room. Shiuming has spotted a copy Warlords.
I'll leave him to it and take a quick
look at the Gaming Magazines room.
lot to see here, just a few copies of EDGE magazine
behind some protective glass - nice covers though.
Certainly not as impressive as my Atari magazine collection
has joined me and announced that he could not get Warlords
to work which is a shame really, because I wouldn't
have minded a go on it - although he would no
doubt have beaten me again!
glossing over the New Release Games room as the
queue to play the games is far too long and head for
the last room of the exhibition, the Future
which technology is going to be the next big thing is
always going to be tough. For example, no-one saw the
Pokémon or Tamagotchi
phenomenon coming did they?
As I walk across
the room, a plasma screen on my right is tracking my
movement and creating life-like water ripples. Although
not quite virtual reality, this
is clever stuff! Time for a quick dance (to see what
cool images I can create). Shiuming is obviously embarrassed
as he has disappeared.
Ah there he is, checking
out some early VR headset prototypes.
much reluctance, Shiuming and I decide the time has
come to leave the exhibition in search of lunch. Personally,
I need a cool drink.
our lunch, we have agreed to walk it off by walking
back to Waterloo Station via the Hungerford
Bridge which is situated by Embankment tube
station. The bridge provides a superb view of
the River Thames, Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament
and the London Eye (shown below).
London Eye, one of London's newest tourist attractions.
Shiuming on the Hungerford
Bridge over the River Thames.
and I go our separate ways.
caught the train back home. What a day so far... and I've still yet
to open my presents ;-)
Game On flyer
- featuring Lara Croft.
It has just come
to our attention that Game On will be moving
up to the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. Learn the full story