A Blast to the PastMar 01, 2016 ● By Christine Perrenot
In September of 2014, the City of Frisco voted unanimously to build out the unfinished area in the Frisco Discovery Center and allow it to be the new home of the National Videogame Museum (NVM). Joe Santulli, a co-founder of the NVM, shares, “After our kick starter wrapped up in 2011, we were able to better mobilize, which allowed us to exhibit at many more trade shows across the country where we were pitching our idea for a permanent home. At the Las Vegas, Nev., Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain (D.I.C.E.) Summit in February of 2012, we met Randy Pitchford, the CEO of Gearbox Software, during an interview, using our exhibit as a backdrop. Randy said to us, ‘You want to open a museum? I have always wanted to open a museum! Let us work together.’ Gearbox was in the process of moving from Plano to Frisco, and Randy was instrumental in getting us an audience with the city’s decision-makers. We quickly discovered that Frisco was a perfect fit for us, not only in its perfect geocentric location with wonderful local surroundings, but also in its vision of the future. From my point of view, Frisco seemed like it was ‘meant to be,’ and now, it BE!”
This museum, that is filled with technologically unparalleled exhibits, offers hands-on experiences and provides visitors with the chance to re-live the best aspects of their videogaming pasts. From reconstructed videogame scenes and larger-than-life murals to early computers and game controllers, the museum is home to all sorts of memorabilia. “Sharing space with Sci-Tech means there will be great opportunities for parents to make the Frisco Discovery Center a ‘destination’ where their kids can learn about science, math and technology through one set of doors and more technology, art and history through another. Both museums are highly interactive,” Mr. Santulli says.
Adventure Awaits YouThis new destination, which is the only museum in America dedicated to the history of the videogame industry, features an authentic 1980s-style operating arcade and every controller you could possibly think of. It will take anyone’s videogame knowledge or expertise to the next level. The museum spans more than 10,000 square feet and encompasses more than 20 displays and a gift shop. Guests can check out all kinds of exhibits, including Pixel Dreams (a retro, 1980s themed arcade), the Head-to-Head Hall, Gearbox Behind the Scenes, the Timeline of Consoles and Rarest Artifacts. Throughout the extensive exhibits and presentations, visitors will discover and explore everything from an arcade of timeless classics to the world’s largest Pong console. The museum hopes to archive the physical pieces of videogame history while giving life to the stories and legends behind the industry’s impressive growth over the years. Mr. Santulli shares, “Like any other piece of cultural history, we need to remember where the videogame industry all began and how the story unfolds. We are heading into a digital age where physical media is becoming extinct. You do not actually have to go to a game store anymore to get your favorite videogames. We want to make sure that the past is captured somewhere. I would like to point out that this museum is not only about the videogaming past, it also celebrates the present and future of the industry!”
Interactive and EducationalUpon arrival at the museum, at the first sight of the colorful, imaginative décor and gaming paraphernalia, your imagination will quickly be in motion. Gamers will immediately feel a sense of nostalgia after seeing some of the most iconic gaming devices from their generation. “Everywhere you look is pulsating with the coolest characters from every generation of videogames. You can spend a day reading every last detail of the history and artifacts of the industry or you can spend it playing classic games both old and new. There is not a square foot inside where you will not find something ‘cool,’” Mr. Santulli shares. Games include PAC-MAN, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Asteroids, Defender, Space Invaders and many more. Visitors can play the games using custom tokens, a few of which are received upon ticket purchase, but more are available for purchase from inside the arcade. The NVM is focused on educating all of its visitors, regardless of their age or videogaming resumes. Mr. Santulli says, “Though tech museums are making great strides at being as interactive as possible, we have made each exhibit interactive by default. If you find yourself peering through glass and reading endless text, you are not in our museum. We left the long, detailed stories up to Wikipedia, and instead decided to present our visitors with great stories bundled into rich, colorful, interactive exhibits. You are going to be able to touch things and experience the tactile stuff that gamers have experienced for the last 40 years. And you are going to play. A lot.”
Besides learning about the actual games and the fun that comes from playing them, the museum also educates guests on the business behind the hobby. The videogame industry provides a money-making niche, and the NVM is prepared to thoroughly inform and educate groups about this through programs, seminars, camps and special workshops. The classroom at the NVM focuses on STEM values for groups of youth and provides a great spot for a variety of events, including kids’ birthday parties and group gatherings. Throughout the location, patrons can get their hands on the games they love and gain firsthand knowledge about the experience they may often take for granted. “Beneath all of the interactivity, artifacts and artwork, lies the history of an industry that has grown tremendously over the past 40 years. At the NVM, you will learn how it all began, how it evolved and where it is heading. You may not even realize that you are getting this education, but as you spend some time here, the stories told through each exhibit fill in a new piece of the industry’s rich history,” Mr. Santulli says.
Check it Out!The NVM is an established 501(c)(3) non-profit and was founded by John Hardie, Sean Kelly and Joe Santulli. These founders have dedicated the last 20 years to tracking down important aspects of the videogame industry for their museum exhibits. Do you own a cool or interesting piece of videogame history? If you or someone you know has worked in the industry, the museum would love to hear from you!
For those gamers who are ready to make the quest and can tear themselves away from their current videogame of choice, get ready to be immersed in a world of imagination that has completely come to life, right here in Frisco. Formulate your strategy and reboot in a gamer’s paradise! Go to nvmusa.org for a preview of the awesome experience you will have at the NVM, which is located at 8004 North Dallas Parkway inside the Frisco Discovery Center. Opening day is Sat., April 2. Mark your calendar now!