Spacewar! Blasts Off at the Museum of the Moving Image
We recently spent a chunk of our afternoon getting slaughtered by skittery mutants. We slammed into green spiky things as we tried to jump from one world to the next. We couldn't defend our cities from all of those freakin' missiles. Busy dodging asteroids, we got blown to bits by the galaxy's tiniest flying saucer. And although we were reassured that the "Force" was with us, we still couldn't hit the thermal port with our proton torpedo.
Yes, you guessed it: we were at a museum. The terrific Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, which is currently hosting an interaction-required exhibition on video games, Spacewar! Video Games Blast Off.
Experience Video Game Nostaglia
The story here begins in 1961 (more than 50 years ago!), when a group of students and teachers at MIT developed Spacewar!, the world's first digital video game. There's a playable simulation on hand of this pioneering effort (shown above, which was honestly not much fun). The exhibition takes off from there, with some 20 video games that chart the transformation of digital space battles through the ages. Asteroids, Battle Command, Missile Command, Space Invaders, Defender, Tempest, and Star Wars. All are on hand in their original, ready to take your tokens. You get four tokens with admission, but you can buy more in the arcade if needed. If you ever spent too much time and too many quarters in your local dive bar in the early 1980s, this would be a lot of nostalgic fun for you.
History and Evolution of Space Battle Video Games
In addition to the classic arcade games, Spacewar! at the Museum of the Moving Image also shows off examples of home-console and handheld games, such as Galaga '91 on Game Gear, Starfox on Super Nintendo, Yars Revenge on Atari, and Super Mario Galaxy on Wii. These are less intriguing, though it is kind of cool to play them on the massive projections. Is there an educational, or artistic purpose to all of this? From a design perspective it's interesting to see the evolution of the space-battle theme across five decades. It is not as if the Museum of the Moving Image is alone here: MoMA will be doing a video game retrospective in March, to show off their newly-acquired collection. Plus, if you've never been to the Museum of the Moving Image, Spacewar! offers a good excuse to get out to Astoria and see the museum's terrific new design and the ongoing Behind the Screen exhibition, focusing on how movies are made.
Spacewar! Video Games Blast Off at the Museum of the Moving Image
Spacewar! will be at the Museum of the Moving Image through March 3. The Museum is located on 35th Avenue and 37th Street in Astoria, Queens, just a few blocks from the Q, M, N, and R trains. The Museum is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on Fridays from 10:30 to 8:00 p.m. (with free admission after 4:00), and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 to 7:00. Note: it will also be open on Monday, January 21 for Dr. King's birthday, and on Monday, February 18, for Presidents' Day. For lots more information about Spacewar! and the museum, visit the Museum of Moving Image online!