In cooperation with a local arcade collectors group, the Science Museum of Western Virginia presents “Pixel Play: Discover the Science Hidden in Video Games.” Classic video arcade games line the walls and encircle the columns of our traveling exhibit space. For those who were teens or adults in the 80’s, the sound of a crowd playing these games is a direct link to the arcades that so many of us spent time in during that decade. The machines are all set to free play and admission to the exhibit is included with regular admission to the museum (which means it’s FREE for Science Museum members!). Staff members can occasionally be found in the gallery, having a little “old-fashioned” fun during their lunch break.
Playing games on a phone or tablet is addictive and enjoyable, but the experience doesn’t quite compare to the combination of friendly competition and electronic mayhem that is found in an arcade. Razzing friends about their skills (or lack thereof) still happens, but trolls are few and far between when you’re playing video games in person. The graphics are bright and engaging, and you may find that your muscle memory for Pac-Man still remains. And if Pac-Man wasn’t your favorite, there are over 50 other machines from the 80’s and early 90’s to choose from, including Donkey Kong (regular and Junior), Asteroids, Gauntlet, Centipede, Galaga, Frogger, and Dig Dug. And if you’re interested in the history of the games, the machines are mostly placed in chronological order going from the front of the exhibit hall to the back, so you can see technological improvements in graphics as you move through the room. Remember to search for “Knowledge Bombs” and “Culture Coins” within the exhibit to uncover the ways science and video games interconnect.