An exhibition celebrating the very best of British videogaming is going on tour, starting with the North East of England this coming Saturday.
Thousands of people visited Videogame Nation when it made its debut at Urbis in Manchester, showcasing gaming from the late 1970s to the present day.
On Saturday February 12, it will stop at the huge Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives near Newcastle where it will remain for a whopping seven months.
The unique exhibition is split into a number of sections, starting with a recreated bedroom in which gamers can play a host of titles from the late 1970s and 1980s while learning more about the people who helped plant the seeds of the gaming industry.
There is a host of coin-op arcade machines, an office area which reflects the growing nature of gaming that is packed with a host of original design documents and posters as well as a handdrawn map of cult favourite, Dizzy.
A mocked-up football stadium showcases the best of British sports games, streets are littered with handheld devices and a living room lets you kick back and relax with some of the more contemporary titles.
With an emphasis on interactivity– and under the guiding eyes of a massive Yoda built from LEGO– players not only get to play dozens of games but they can also understand more about the processes of making them.
They can design their own pixel art and box covers and display them for all to see and see items which have been donated by various British gaming companies. And, because this is an exhibition in the North East, many of the companies in the area including Ubisoft Reflections, Eutechnyx, the Falcus brothers and Pitbull Studios have been actively involved, making for a stunning showcase.
"Videogame Nation lets people who played games as children see just how far the industry has come while, at the same time, allow more recent gamers to see the immense heritage of gaming in the UK," says curator and videogame journalist David Crookes who has worked closely with exhibition veteran Pollyanna Clayton-Stamm to create a high quality offering.
"Gaming has become a hugely significant part of so many people's lives over the years and yet there is still a feeling that games are for geeks. This exhibition aims not only to help strip away such preconceptions but also celebrate the contribution British developers have made to gaming. It's a multi-million pound industry today but that wealth of cash hasn't been to the detriment of creativity and we aim to look at games as a cultural influence and a still-developing form of interactive media."
Woodhorn museum director Keith Merrin said:“Visitors to Videogame Nation will really be able to capture the mood of gaming. They will experience the whole range of machines from the ZX Spectrum, to the Mega Drive to the PlayStation and the latest Nintendo handhelds and we have some of the more obscure machines too including the Amstrad GX4000.
“As well as the actual games, visitors will also be able to see some of the stunning artwork created by games developers and magazine artists, read original design documents and view machines most of us had forgotten. The exhibition promises to be entertaining and informative for everyone.”
The exhibition will be accompanied by an events programme details of which will be available shortly. Directions to Woodhorn can be found at http://www.experiencewoodhorn.com/direction
Why the North East - what did it do in the gaming world?
Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough and the North East in general is home to one of the most important game studio clusters in the United Kingdom. The Falcus brothers were hugely successful in the 1980s and they have continued to be major players in the industry to this very day. Eutechnyx– formerly Zeppelin Games which was founded by Brian Jobling who had been an employee of Tynesoft– is a major racing game developer. Ubisoft Reflections created the astounding Shadow Of The Beast for the Commodore Amiga and the long-running Driver series. Pitbull Syndicate made many titles in the Test Drive series and there have been many other successes including Venon Games. The business network GamesHorizon has been instrumental in improving the status of videogaming in the area.
Four key people and companies in the North East
Born in Stockton-on-Tees, Jason and Darren Falcus began their programming career in their bedroom. Their first release was Castle of Doom for the Dragon 32 in 1983. They formed their first company, Optimus Software, in 1988 and created games such as Boomerang Kid and Soccer Simulator for Codemasters. The company was bought by Iguana Entertainment Inc and it later became part of Acclaim. The brothers left in 2000 and formed another successful company called Atomic Planet. But in 2009, the company went into administration.
Based in Dunston, Gateshead, Eutechnyx was founded by former Tynesoft employee Brian Jobling. He formed Zeppelin Games in 1987, aged 17, and it created games such as Jocky Wilson's Darts Challenge to International Tennis. It later became Eutechnyx and began to specialise in driving and racing games. They include James Bond 007, The Fast and the Furious and Ferrari Challenge.
Midway Studios Newcastle
Midway Newcastle was formed as Pitbull Syndicate in December 1996 with a small office in Sunderland. It later moved to Chester-Le-Street before relocating to Gateshead and, by 2005, it employed more than 60 people, producing games such as L.A. Rush and Rush. In that year, it was sold to Midway Games.
The Gateshead office closed in July 2009 when Warner Bros bought most of Midway's assets. Some former employees went on to create Atomhawk Design which Robert Troughton, who had founded Pitbull Syndicate, announced he was forming Pitbull Studio.
Based in Newcastle, the company was formed by Martin Edmondon in 1984. It started with titles for the BBC Micro including Ravenskull and Codename: Droid. Shadow of the Beast was widely acclaimed on the Commodore Amiga. In 1995, Reflections created Destruction Derby for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. In 1999, Driver made its debut and it is so popular that it continues to this day with Driver: San Francisco on the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The series has sold more than 14 million copies to date. The company became known as Ubisoft Reflections in 2006.
Deborah Tate– Marketing Officer ( DTate@woodhorn.org.uk)
David Crookes– Videogame Nation ( firstname.lastname@example.org)