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  • 01.28.11

World’s Largest Video Game Exhibition Opens in Berlin

Guests can play everything from the world’s first arcade game to a version of Pong that punishes poor play with actual physical violence, including heat, electric shock and whipping. The device’s motto? “No game, no pain.”

Computerspielemuseum Computergamemuseum

The world’s largest video game museum
exhibition has just opened in Berlin.
The Computerspielemuseum
(Computer Game Museum), located on Karl-Marx-Allee, just unveiled a
new permanent exhibition, Computer
Games: Evolution of a Medium
. For video game fans, the exhibition
will be a pixelated dream come true: Over 300 video and computer systems and
stand-alone games dating from 1951 until the present obtained from
around the world, many of which are playable.

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Alongside
epochal games like Pong,
Super Mario Brothers
and World of Warcraft,
the Computerspielemuseum’s exhibition includes some extremely
interesting rarities. Among the products on display are the Nimrod–an incredibly rare game-playing computer from 1951, the first ever
arcade game, 1971’s ComputerSpace which
guests can play), Cold War-era strategy game Balance of
Power
and numerous rare video
games from the former Eastern Bloc.

Video game systems on display
include the first commercial video game system, the Magnavox Odyssey
(1972), the Milton Bradley Microvision–an ahead of its time
hand-held game console from 1978 and the BSS-01, an ultra-rare East
Germany video game console from 1980.

Guests
also have the opportunity to try out a rare 1994-vintage
virtual-reality gaming system alongside more conventional options
such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and the various members of
the Playstation family.

Wilhelm Nöldeke of the Computerspielemuseum
recommended to Fast Company
that guests try out the rare 1985 Poly Play, an East German arcade
system that ran on Russian hardware. The Poly Play arcade console
offered players multiple games based on both original characters and
Eastern Bloc pop culture. According to Nöldeke, the game to play is
Hase und Wolf (Hare
and Wolf), a “not so subtle Pac-Man clone” with characters from
the popular Soviet cartoon Nu, pogodi!

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While the
Computerspielemuseum has been open for several years, the museum’s
permanent exhibition just opened on January 21, 2011. Prior to this,
several temporary displays were on exhibition while the bulk of the
museum’s collection was dedicated to several touring exhibits.

Meanwhile, guests
at the museum have their choice of several original installations. A
“Jumbo Joystick” is based on rare 1977 Atari plans for a
human-sized joystick that, in reality, needs two people to operate.
According to the museum, “The huge Atari Jumbo Joystick, which was
made in 1977, depends on the employment of the entire body and,
ideally, good interaction between two players for its operation, as
it is almost impossible for one player to use the joystick and
control buttons at the same time.”

Human Joystick

Another
installation, RaveSnake,
is based on the 1980s video game and eternal mobile phone standby
Snake. In it, friends and strangers using Bluetooth-enabled
mobile phones can compete against each other in a giant live-action
game of Snake on a giant video game screen. The project was developed
by Berlin firm Extrajetzt Interactive.

However, the
museum’s most original–and interesting–installation is
PainStation, which can best
be described as a sadist’s interpretation of Pong. Players
stand at a terminal playing a Pong-like game, only if they miss a ball in this game they are subjected to “one of three physical
penalties” that include heat, electric shock and whipping. The
choice of physical penalties is randomized depending on what symbol
the missed ball hits. The game, which was created by German artists
Tilman Reiff and Volker Morawe, was originally developed in 2001 with
the motto “no game, no pain.”

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According to the game’s designers,
“the concept of inflicting pain in a videogame worked well.”

Even the museum’s
physical structure itself functions as a video game: After closing
hours, passers-by can play various interactive games through the
building’s windows–which are fully interactive.

[Photos courtesy
Computerspielemuseum. Photo of human joystick copyright Sally Myers.
]

Follow the author of this article,
Neal Ungerleider, on
Twitter
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