Game on! blog

In Retrospect: Playing Games at the Museum

Hugo Zijlstra has been in intern at Sound and Vision for the past few months. He worked on the Game On! project.

It’s a wrap! My internship at Beeld en Geluid has come to an end. Although only having been part of the organization for a mere three months, it has been quite the ride. Fun colleagues and a dynamic atmosphere have made my time an especially pleasant one.

Duties at Beeld en Geluid have consisted largely of practical ones in order to prepare for the exhibition, which ran from the 12th until the 20th of November. Over 5000 people visited the exhibition during the eight days, though mostly on the weekends. Players from all walks of life and ages came together to experience a trip down memory lane – or got familiar with devices they had never seen before. I would like to take this opportunity to quickly share a couple of findings; a full, detailed report can be read here.

The exhibition was spread over three themes, namely consoles, arcade and let’s play. In the first, visitors could play on a variety of consoles ranging from a Philips CD-I to an Xbox 360 – both children and adults could be seen hopping from console to console to try the available games. Mario Kart, a competitive multi-player game projected on a big screen, was endlessly played by families and friends trying to live up to their boasting. The arcade area entertained visitors with old playable machines and a compilation of Dutch archival television footage about games, while the Let’s Play setup at the restaurant allowed them to record and live stream a Let’s Play video to YouTube. All areas were positively evaluated, but the console area was often mentioned as favorite – simply because there were so many chances to play different games. A few visitors were somewhat dissapointed in the event for it not being bigger, as references were made to Beeld en Geluid’s retro game experience in 2014, an event on a completely different scale.

Visitors loved the authenticity of being presented with as close to an original experience as possible, playing games on original hardware (borrowed from the Netherlands Institute for Games and Computers which can be visited in Zwolle). For older generations the familiar devices stirred nostalgia. For younger players, the chance to play original games from before their time was considered the number one enjoyment. In the future, more research needs to be done to evaluate the application of emulation in museum exhibitions, since this seems like a more sustainable and future-proof strategy for game exhibition.

Literally every respondent is convinced that video games should have an important place at Beeld en Geluid, as their impact on contemporary culture cannot be overlooked. They acknowledge their value as cultural heritage, although the importance of specifically Dutch-developed games is not obvious to all. Most players seem more acquainted with foreign titles and consoles, but, then again, who doesn’t know Mario? If games are to take up a more prominent place at Beeld en Geluid, the selection criteria for games might have to be expanded. Perhaps games that were not produced in the Netherlands have had a bigger impact on our culture.

One thing is certain at least: visitors love playing games at the museum!

Hugo’s full internship report (in English) can be read here.

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