A bright spot in Berlin’s list of intriguing but heavy-going tourist locales is that of Berlin’s Computer Game Museum, tucked a twenty minute walk away from the East Side Gallery. This explosion of interactive computer game history provides insight into approximately sixty years of entertainment and industrial growth – yet is, I imagine, a weird experience for anyone over the age of twenty.
Hardware dating back as far as sixty years, kept securely behind glass; probably an unsettling sight if you have vivid memories of playing some of these greats, or even still own one or two. The layout of this space seems well thought of, and not only is it visually fun but provides a great deal of interesting information in the growth of this medium we all know and love. The history student in me was in her element.
And so too, was the gamer! There’s a lot of interactivity – I played Noughts and Crosses 1952 style, when the game was first programmed for the EDSAC computer by a Cambridge student. There are plenty of joysticks scattered about the place, and even a compact arcade hosting the likes of Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and Asteroid (coins not necessary). Whilst the entry price of eight euros is quite steep considering the museum’s small size, you could quite easily spend hours there.
You take a walk through the emergence of the computer system to the arrival of 3D that created a mass medium battle zone; with modern games progressing rapidly before our eyes, it’s eye-opening to see where these innovations started. And see it you do – the museum contains tons of footage to flick through on small monitors, joystick included. I spent a fair while watching an introductory video of Maze War, the first subjective perspective game made in 1973. Competitive shooters had humble beginnings, this one linking two computers via “a network called the Ethernet“. There’s something wonderful about hearing the narrator talk about the ability to connect two players on two different computers with such reverence!
It’s a space that’s living and breathing the evolution of games and platforms many remember and still cherish. The introduction of online gaming has rapidly expanded this world, with accessibility and communication creating a whole new active participation. World of Warcraft naturally had a place here, as well as introducers to this massively-multiplayer genre such as Habitat (1986). I was completely ignorant of this Lucasfilm title (I was minus-eight upon its release) but thoroughly enjoyed watching the quite hilarious promo video. MMORPGs are something like home to me, so interacting with this informative section put a smile on my face.
So if you’re ever in the fabulously diverse city of Berlin and looking for some more light-hearted museums to explore, the Computer Game Museum and its very lovely staff are a great choice. A lot of care and attention is felt in this permanent exhibition focusing on the evolution and expansion of the player and the digital realm, and whether you’re interested in this technological history or just fancy a try yourself, it’s a fun little stop! (And also an expensive one in my case – the gift shop may be small, but it’s full of treasures).