Musée de la Civilisation Video Game Exhibit Draws Early Nostalgia

Musée de la Civilisation Video Game Exhibit Draws Early Nostalgia

By Farnell Morisset

Ubisoft's hero Ratonhnhaké:ton guards the entrance.

Ubisoft’s hero Ratonhnhaké:ton keeps watch.

Like most men my age, I can anchor my memories in time by what videogames I was playing at the time.  To say my generation grew up with videogames, however, omits the other half of that truth – videogames also grew up with my generation.  It was surreally pleasant, therefore, to attend the opening of the new Une histoire de jeux videos exhibit at the Musée de la Civilisation today.

After brief talks by industry representatives, the museum staff, and Mayor Labeaume – who was quick to point out the importance of the videogame industry in the city – the exhibit opened… and I was a kid all over again.  The exhibit itself is a simple concept – a short tour through the history of videogames with as many playable games as possible.  As a reminder of the exhibit’s primary sponsor, and a testament to the city’s videogame industry, visitors are welcomed by a life-sized statue of Ratonhnhaké:ton, the Mohawk protagonist better known as “Connor Kenway” in the latest installment of Ubisoft’s powerboat franchise Assassin’s Creed.  As the hit game was partially developed in Québec City, having the imposing Assassin guarding the entrance to the exhibit is eerily fitting.

A man explains the game Pong to his fascinated son.

A man explains the game Pong to his fascinated son.

As the exhibit focuses on the history of hit games, it’s impossible for gamers of any age to walk through the hall without immediately recognising dozens of the games that shaped their lives, beginning with a fully-functional arcade version of Pong as soon as visitors walk in.  Many of the older consoles and games are very valuable relics in their own right, but in this exhibit, the emphasis is on what these games were designed for – being played.  Over 80 consoles, arcade stands, computers, and handheld devices are set up and powered, allowing museum goers to enjoy the experience of some of the oldest – and newest – games available on the market.  Avid players of games of bygone eras will find their hands and fingers instinctively remember the hadouken combo or to tilt the Arwing sideways when turning, while the uninitiated will more likely be amazed at the skill required for Dance Dance Revolution or be frustrated by how easily their starter Pokemon faints in tall grass (protip: don’t pick Charmander if you’re new to the game).

Over 80 consoles are hooked up and ready to play.

Over 80 consoles are ready to play.

The exhibit also goes over some little-known facets of gaming history, from the earliest interactive games of the 1950s (yes, they go that far back), through the console crash of 1983, and to the latest technological developments in movement and voice recognition.

I have to admit, it is initially a little strange to see the same games I have littering my back closet – and some I still play – given a place of honour in a museum, but seeing them in that context helps reinforce that, first and foremost, these are works of art which are every bit as valid and insightful into human nature as any painting, sculpture, or ancient tool.  For that alone, this exhibit is worth the detour.

The Une histoire de jeux vidéo exhibit runs until March 16th, 2014, at the Musée de la Civilisation.  You might find a few of my high scores there.


About the author:

Farnell-Morisset_BiogFarnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image.

He is also alarmed by what seems to be an invasive and aggressive polarization of complex social issues for which there are no black-and-white answers. This eventual identity crisis, he feels, will only be solved through good faith in, and honest communication with, all sides pulling on our ever dwindling “pure laine” blanket.

It is with this in mind that he contributes to as a valued member of our in-house writing team.

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