Is a Videogame Museum Necessary? [VIDEO]
Last year I visited the National Videogame Museum. I quite enjoyed myself. But despite the fun I had, I kept wondering if a videogame museum is really necessary. Watch the video, and then let me know what you think.
Yay, it’s 2065, the 50 year anniversary of the opening of the national videogame museum, which also marks the 50 year anniversary of the time I thought, “why is there a videogame museum?”
Last summer, 2016, I traveled 7 hours south into Frisco, TX to visit the National Videogame Museum, which had opened the previous year. It had everything I expected and more. A giant Pong wall, a giant Mario statue, a giant collection of games and consoles, a regular-sized air conditioner. But despite its comparatively diminutive size, the air conditioner was much more the hero than any mario statue. Summertime Texas is awfultime Texas. 90+ degree days and no shade. Also, my best friend and traveling buddy insisted on camping. Outside. Where that aforementioned 90 degree heat likes to hang out. Future Caleb, you may remember that trip as the magical time you learned how to murder a friend. Also, soon after, you learned that dead bodies are kinda your thing. Don’t judge me, Future Caleb. Without that mid-summer sexual awakening you would never have met your second wife at that funeral.
Speaking of things that most people don’t feel the need to penetrate, the market for a videogame museum? I’m surprised it exists, honestly.
Current viewer, I assume that you, like me, are a retro gamer and that the idea of a single building holding thousands of games, hundreds of consoles, most of which we will never otherwise see in our entire lives, excites us quite a bit. But surely I’m not the only one who feels a bit weird about the idea of a museum dedicated to something so contemporary, and even more so the historical significance of something so contemporary, and something so relatively niche as videogame history. I feel weird about it, even though I fit into that seemingly small market. There’s a slice of me that holds the esteem of a capital-M Museum high on a pedestal, too high for something I want to just be fun.
In a way, I almost don’t want that. I almost don’t want videogames legitimized in that way.
Maybe “legitimized” is too strong a word. Of course I want videogames to be accepted as a valid medium. Without mass adoption, the art has a harder time spreading to the nooks and crannies that would end up creating Journey, Thomas Was Alone, Shovel Knight, The Swapper and all the other indie-spawn that make it socially acceptable to sit alone, grinning at a rectangular pane of glass. No longer is my perverted neighbor the only one allowed to do that.
But then, I think, my assumptions of what constitutes pedestal fodder may be misaligned. The Smithsonian has an entire parasitic worm collection, New Mexico has its famous Roswell UFO museum, and India has a museum of toilets. And while I’m not comparing videogames to any of those things (though, I pretty much described the core components of an Earthworm Jim game), I am curious about all of those things when I think about a capital-M museum being dedicated to them.
In my case the pomp and circumstance of finite resources–that being land, money, and curators who care about weird stuff–those finite resources being dedicated to something, anything, implicates importance. “There’s a building full of stuff over there. That stuff must be worth protecting.” But more importantly hypothetical dumb guy, that stuff must have a story to tell. That stuff must have some sort of significance–cultural, medical, historical. And most importantly, that stuff yearns for the public to interact with it. That’s what videogames have always been about, so perhaps the reason I’m so weirded out by the idea of a videogame museum is because it shouldn’t take a museum to get people to do with videogames what they have always been meant to do. Interact.
Luckily, the National Videogame Museum, I think, realizes this juxtaposition. The entire museum encourages people to interact with the “artifacts.” Not just by playing the games, but also by allowing visitors to actually handle the games, read the boxes, like you were perusing a rental store in the 80s and 90s, back before rental stores became a thing of the past, and way before they re-opened in 2078 as a family dining franchise. That’s right, future Caleb, where you take your grandkids to eat lunch on Sundays, I used to rent softcore porn videos and The Faces of Death movies…oh, you know what. THAT’s actually probably where I developed a thing for dead bodies. It wasn’t the camping trip. Sorry for murdering you, Doug.
Was visiting the National Videogame Museum worth it? Of course. But I’d like to ask, was the pilgrimage necessary? Should a videogame museum even exist? And a question for you Future Caleb, because everything is allowed to be in a museum apparently, is is my collection of beer corks in a museum yet, and you’d better say Yes. I didn’t spend my child’s college fund on the “oh, so you’re cool with me just throwing these away, then” sarcastic martyr campaign of cork awareness just to NOT have my trash put upon a literal pedestal in a future museum.
Joking aside, if you get a chance to visit the National Videogame Museum, do it! I played a freaking Vetrex! And this isn’t the retro-hearted in me saying this: it’s honestly an amazing experience, even today.
So, current viewers, what do you all think about the existence of a videogame museum? Have you visited the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, TX? Do you want to?
Bonus question: should videogame be one word or two. My spellcheck hates the former, but I hate the latter.
8bit Dungeon Level Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/