National Videogame Museum

The National Videogame Museum has opened its doors in its new location in the city centre of Sheffield, UK. The National Videogame Museum (NVM) was previously located in Nottingham, where it was known as the National Videogame Arcade.

The National Videogame Arcade initially opened in Nottingham in 2015 on Carlton Street as an outgrowth of the GameCity convention. Despite seeing success at this location, the staff were finding the building a bit limiting and frustrating.

The new location offers a larger space, with room for expansion into other parts of the large Castle House complex where the NVM is now housed. Upon entry through the large automatic doors, visitors pass by reception to pay the £11 (GBP) entry fee to see a large range of video games covering the dawn of gaming through to the present day.

They eye is imminently drawn to the huge Sonic the Hedgehog statue that sits proudly in the middle of the room, where the five-foot-high statue is available for visitors to pose for selfies. The wall filled with arcade cabinets is similarly eye-catching, particularly the massive Dancing Stage Fusion cabinet, complete with dance stage.

For those who prefer something a bit more old-school, the NVM has cabinets for titles such as Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, and Ms Pac-Man, among others of more recent vintage. The Donkey Kong cabinet appeared to be a modern replica, but the Space Invaders cabinet had the faded, scratched, and generally banged-up quality that indicated it could well be an original.

The space saw the console and PC titles gathered together in themed clusters, such as an area dedicated to text adventures, while another was an area one of the staff laughingly described as ‘The area where all the swearing comes from – focussed as it was on stupendously difficult titles such as Trap Adventure, which one attendee described as “An adventure in cruelty, more like,” as he ruefully watched his character subjected to a pointy death as spikes chased him down a corridor.

To showcase local talent, the work of Sheffield-based developer Sumo Digital is on display with a copy of its puzzle-platform title Snake Pass, a title that came out of a Game Jam. Snake Pass involves a snake named Noodle and his bird friend Doodle trying to navigate complete puzzle-based levels. The museum also features a reference to Sumo Digital’s previous incarnation as Gremlin Interactive with a copy of ZOOL on the SNES available to play.

The museum has quite a few hat-tips in the direction of indie games, such as a copy of Tanglewood for the Mega Drive, a colourful action platform title that was actually released in 2018. Once again, there is a local connection as the creator of Tanglewood, Matt Phillips, is also based in Sheffield.

In the far corner is a huge table with six arcade controllers bolted to it, with a huge TV connected. This is Super Snowball Fight Party, a simple indie game created by the team at NVM. The controls are simple: duck to pick up some snow, then press the button to throw it. A single press is a short throw, while a double or triple press can result in your snowball flying across over half the screen.

The ‘museum’ part currently feels a bit spartan. Scattered across the outside edges are glass cabinets that contain some fascinating bits of video game history, including some oddities and rare items such as the Casio Loopy, one of the worst-selling consoles ever made, and the ill-fated Nokia N-Gage.

While the video game tables all have little leaflets describing the basic premise and history of the game on the screen, the museum cabinets do not currently have any labels explaining the history. This omission is particularly sad in the case of the rare Nintendo Dolphin development kit prototype, which sits alongside other GameCube development kits in a mostly ignored corner.

However, the museum has only just opened, and is now enough to still have the ‘new car smell’ of fresh paint and newly-laid carpet, so more information may be added to these cabinets at a later date, or even an augmented reality (AR) app can present visitors with video or audio information when they scan a QR code for an exhibit.

The museum shows some sign that construction work is continuing in the building, and an intriguing closed-off area suggests plans are already afoot for this area. Indeed, the virtual reality (VR) which was present at the Nottingham location has not made its appearance in Sheffield, so perhaps this area will be devoted to that?

Overall, the National Videogame Museum has created a solid foundation, though its newness does show in some ways. The noise levels can get quite loud, so the addition of acoustic tiles and other sound-dampening measures could be beneficial, and the museum has a need to better showcase some of the unique offerings and exhibits that are available. One visitor also mentioned that having a control scheme map for each game available to play would also be helpful, especially for some of the more obscure or esoteric titles such as Vib Ribbon.

For those who find themselves in Sheffield, the NVM is a great way to spend a couple of hours enjoying some of the best that videogames have to offer.

Further information and tickets for the National Videogame Museum can be found on the official website.

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