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Got their game faces on

Posted: July 14th, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Featured | No Comments

Video game exhibit debuts at Fleet Science Center

By Jess Winans

For one boy, who looked to be 7 or 8, something old was something new. He cozied up to a Pac-Man arcade game, studied it for a few moments, and then began playing the classic game trying to munch down on all the yellow dots while attempting to avoid the ghosts that were out to get him.

Chances are high that the boy’s parents were playing Pac-Man in their own youth. The arcade game designed by Toru Iwatani was developed by Namco and first released in Japan in 1980.

A young boy prepares to play Pac-Man, which became a huge hit when it was released in 1980, long before he was born. (Photo by Jess Winans)

Two years later, it was all the rage in America, and kids and adults alike couldn’t get enough of Pac-Man.

Health experts began warning parents that they feared arcade games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were addictive, according to a report by CBS News.

Addictive or not, video games haven’t lost their appeal in the decades that have passed.

San Diegans of all ages were buzzing at the June 29 preview of “Game Masters: The Exhibition,” which is now on view at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

“My favorite thing about video game designing is that I get to create my own worlds for other people to experience,” said Eric Svedäng, designer of Blueberry Garden, an indie game released in 2009 that is featured in the exhibit.

“Game Masters” definitely allows people to experience alternate worlds. It looks like no other exhibit on view at the Fleet, the space being characterized by dim lighting illuminated by system screens. Besides arcade-style game installations, iPads, tablets and Game Boy devices also flood the exhibit, inviting different generations of gamers to play through more than 100 games created by 30 designers.

“‘Games Masters’ is a great fit for both families and adults,” said Paul Ciborowski, exhibits director at the Fleet. “The exhibition covers the evolution, innovation and science of gaming technology as well as offering a chance to play favorite games.”

While they play, visitors will have a chance to learn about the history about the games and the designers who created them. The exhibit was developed by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), which is Australia’s national museum of film, television, video games, digital culture and art. Located in Melbourne, the museum focuses on bringing legitimacy to the video game industry.

“ACMI is very pleased to be bringing the exhibition to its third U.S. venue,” said Chris Harris, head of exhibition production and touring at ACMI, speaking about the San Diego location. “As a museum of the moving image and digital culture, video games have always been very important to us as cultural artifacts, technical innovations, and great design and art pieces.”

The ACMI looked at many factors when selecting designers and games to be featured in the exhibition and wanted to showcase both mainstream and indie fan favorites, he said.

“We wanted to show them [attendees] the great innovative artists that the designers are and allow people to see a bit of their creative approach, behind the scenes, so to speak,” Harris said. “We also wanted to allow visitors to play these wonderfully designed games in a museum context that took them seriously, but was also fun.”

Some games featured in the exhibit include Asteroids, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Minecraft, Darwinia and Vib-Ribbon.

“Blueberry Garden was an experiment in interactive storytelling,” said Svedäng, one of 30 designers featured in the exhibit. “There are no words or text in the game, only gameplay. The game is set in a mysterious place with different creatures and plants that you have to figure out the purpose of.” 

Video games aren’t just for fun anymore as video game design is ranked one of the best jobs in America by CNN Money. Alternatively, a German study concluded that playing video games could be a beneficial method of therapy for mental health patients with diseases like schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and post traumatic stress disorder. And video games are also used by the military for training purposes and in technology development and contracting businesses.

“I want to go to the exhibit to see how far along games have come,” said Blane Biel, who works at SAIC, an information technology company with a location in San Diego that uses video game technology in their work. “From the very, very start to the finish here in present day, I just think it’s really cool to see the change.”

Regardless of what they’re playing for, it’s clear video gamers aren’t logging off anytime soon.

—Jess Winans is an intern at San Diego Community News Network. You can reach her at jessicamwinans@gmail.com.

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