Videotopia captures the essense of arcades of the 80's
It was Keith Feinstein's dream to save the and preserve the classic games of the 1980's
arcade era and what better way to do it than to start a traveling exhibit with all of
the classic video games starting from 1979 on for a tour across the world with exhibit
write-ups of how they were created and why they were important in our being introduced
to the computer in a very personal and fun way to get to where we are today.
The exhibit starts out with some of the very first games like the coin-operated
and Computer Space (1971) to those of the home system console Odyssey system and then it
works it's way up todays current new technology but now without showing the glory of the
1980's arcade live and in action for players to relive those arcade days when there was
an arcade of standup games on every block in every town across America and beyond. That
was the glory of the 1980's.
Welcome to Videotopia
You are entering the fascinating world of video games. Learn about the history and
inner workings of these incredible games, and why they are much more than simple
What players miss today is the hand-drawn cabinet art, and the unique controller
configurations as well as the arcade feel of many players in the same room trying
to beat your recent high score.
Night at the Museum
Night of the Museum - With the Classic Video Games
Just like the movie where Ben Stiller got to roam the halls and let his imagination
run wild, you to can move through the T-Rex isles late at night, playing the classics,
pacman, centipede and crazy climber among many others with the echo's of the arcade
era bouncing on off of the walls and through the corridors of some of the greatest
museums in history -- This is Videotopia, the traveling exhibition which is making
it's way through a museum near you.
Videotopia Museum Interactive Video Game Exhibit
Keith Feinstein's longtime partner Jeff Anderson, now maintains the exhibit's vast game
collection, based in New Jersey. Videotopia has been featured at numerous science
museums in the U.S. and is now traveling throughout the world in new venues.
Videotopia has a very accurate exploration of the art, science, and history of video games
in the world, with over 75 coin-operated video games for the playing pleasure of the general
public. The exhibit has become a resource for historians, educators, and television and
other journalist internationally. It has become the principle resource for the appreciation
and understanding of art and science coming together in the creation of the video game.
From the first ever game and console, to the first to utilize microprocessors, ROM chips,
3-D graphics, etc., with all of the classics you haven't seen for decades, its all here.
There are informational kiosks and displays explaining every step of computing and what
it takes to get the end result of a video game.
The nostalgia and education for the whole family are the reasons to visit.
Chicago Museum at the Night - And Sue
Some great displays for educating the general public were the displays on how trackballs
and joysticks work and the history of home systems: The Odyssey, Vectrex, Atari 2600,
Jaguar and Playstation..
louvre Museum at Night
The Atari Vector Games were on hand such as Asteroids, Tempest, Black Widow, Quantum,
Star Wars, and Empire Strikes as well as the old standards like Missile Command cockpit,
Gauntlet with four players, Gyruss and Donkey Kong as well as Dragon's Lair and MACH 3.
There were many other Laserdisc games and the common classics that even the non-gamer
has seen many times before.
Only Funspot in New Hamphire has as many perfectly restored games as this traveling
Museum at Night - Vienna Natural History
Videotopia, the traveling videogame Museum
Videotopia opened in 1996 in Pittsburgh and the exhibits are shown usually for a three
month period at which time they are wrapped up and sent to the next exhibition hall for
another showing around the globe.
We are coming into an era when nostalgia is big business, home video-game makers such as
Hasbro and Activision are scrambling to release versions of all the classics. Frogger and
Battlezone are already available. Who doesn't want to forget all of their problems for
just a quarter? That's how it was in the good ole' days.
Keith Feinstein, Videotopia's creator found there was almost nothing written, no research,
and what little you did find was just plain wrong. So he started to document from the
beginning of the video game age to the crash of the video game arcade for both the home
console and coin-operated arcade. Games are what drove technology and the computer market
and they deserve their just do as the interface that got everyone into using home computers
and eventually to the internet. It all had a biginning which deserves looking into and
documenting. It has also been a part of our pop culture, in which phrases were engrained
and games were easy to play yet hard to master.
The cultural signposts are all there. When we were going through the 1980's the games
refect what we were thinking like in the Missile Command game which teaches to save our
last city in case of a nuclear war, just like President Ronald Reagan wanted from us.
The music is there as well as the simpler times when you didn't need twelve buttons and
a huge manual to play a game of pacman or tempest.
Videotopia transports you back in time to the lazy days of spending hours at the mall,
your favorite Asteroids or Space Invaders game with your friends, trying to find the
new trick to get the new world and save humanoids from mass destruction. These 1980's
games are easy enough for young and old alike to play against each other even if they
have had no prior experience with video games.
This video-game mecca road show has a wide offering everything from classes on game
design, military simulators and the hottest video games. However, Halo 2 was not to be
found as this current day shooter is much to violent for the family oriented outing and
to knew to be considered a classic.
Revealing artifacts can be found in this multimedia time machine, Videotopia is the place
to be for those who forgot or even remember how cool it was to be in an arcade when
arcades were king!
Videotopia Hosting Institutions
Pittsburgh, PA - The Carnegie Science Center (premier/test run) - 6/15/96 - 9/15/96
Philadelphia, PA - The Franklin Institute Science Museum - 6/20/97 - 9/1/97
Washington, DC - The National Press Building - 1/31/98 - 4/30/98
Tampa, FL - Museum of Science and Industry - 6/6/98 - 9/7/98
Dallas, TX - The Science Place - 9/25/98 - 1/5/99
Baltimore, MD - Maryland Science Center - 5/29/99 - 9/6/99
San Antonio, TX - Institute of Texan Cultures - 8/12/03 - 11/02/03
Singapore - Singapore Science Centre - 10/21/04 - 2/14/05
Video Game to simulate the real thing
The new fiber glass game of 1971 reminded many of the Nasa materials used for
the space missions. The NASA aesthetic was the rage of the 1970's.
Computer Space Video Game (1971)
The Computer Space Coin Operated Video Game was released in November, 1971 by Nutting
Associates. Created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, they were both later founders
of Atari. It is considered the world's first commercially sold coin-operated video game.
This type game has a single player control using a rocket ship which faces
off against two flying saucers or, in the two-player version, players battle each other.
The gameplay of Computer Space can be found here. Link
It has a very space age rounded off cabinet and came in many diffent
matallic colors. It was
not a commercial success. There were 1500 Computer Space video games cabinets released
and the cabinet can be seen in the 1975 movie, "Jaws", during the arcade/beach scene.
Nolan Bushnell released the better known PONG arcade game the following year which was
a great hit.
1971 Computer Space References and videos Link
PhillyClassic video of the 1971 Computer Space Game. Link
Videotopia - A Mission
VIDEOTOPIA explores humanity's first giant leap into interactive electronic media,
the videogame. Understanding this often overlooked technology is necessary if
we are to make informed choices about the evolving uses of computers and videogames
today, and as they develop with the technology of the future. VIDEOTOPIA explores
such areas of relevant cultural influence, in addition to the science and applied
technology behind the games.
Videogames are largely responsible for the widespread acceptance of computers by
the public. The exhibits and displays in VIDEOTOPIA communicate the impact these
games and their technology have had on our culture. A walk through VIDEOTOPIA engages
each visitor in the worlds that support the worlds of virtual reality, videogames,
artificial intelligence, and computers. Three areas of exhibits explore the artistry,
technology, and human experience of interactivity.
The ease with which these games illustrate the importance of varied technologies is
astounding. Each example of videogame technology and design expression in VIDEOTOPIA
is accompanied by an intensively researched "Info-pedestal" which not only explains
what each advance in technology and design actually "does" for the game and therefore
the user, but also places the machine in its own historical and sociological perspective.
The Dallas Morning News
You are what you play 09/29/98
Old video games often reflected society's mind-set exhibit shows
By Tom Maurstad / The Dallas Morning News
Like a song that once blasted from the car radio on those long-gone Friday nights,
like a forgotten television commercial you haven't seen in years, they are powerful
portals to the past.
Long before Nintendo, Sega and others turned TVs into electronic playgrounds, arcades
were where gamers sought their thrills. And the video games that filled those arcades
are the latest hot zone in our culture's continuing nostalgia craze.
For baby boomers, trudging through middle age, names such as Asteroids, Defender and
Space Invaders are passwords to adolescent days spent feeding quarters into a machine
while trying to clear a room of marauding robots.
There is, of course, the visceral rush of rediscovering what are now referred to as
"classic" video games, all those familiar screens and graphics that by today's high-tech
standards seem sticks-and-stones primitive.
Not surprisingly, in an era when nostalgia is big business, home video-game makers such
as Hasbro and Activision are scrambling to release versions of all the classics. Frogger
and Battlezone are already available, and Centipede is due sometime this fall. On the
Internet, meanwhile, Web sits such as www.gamepower.com/mame/mame.html are brimming with
But as it turns out, classic video games offer more than just kitchy kicks. As an exhibit
just opened at The Science Place demonstrates, video games - those silly symbols of
misspent youth - are important and revealing artifacts. Walking through "Videotopia: The
Ultimate Arcade," the time-worn cabinets burbling their choruses of bleeps and bloops
offer resonant reminders of where we've been and how we got here.
"I started this project in 1992 in large part because I was troubled by how poorly
videogame history was being represented," says Keith Feinstein, Videotopia's creator.
"There was almost nothing written, no research, and what little you did find was just
"Me fear was the wrong history would become ingrained, which would be a massive
disservice to society. Video games are the reason we're living in the world of computers
And the Internet. Nobody was buying home computers do to spreadsheets. Games are what
drove technology and the computer market.
"Playing video games is how computers got disseminated into popular culture."
With its That Was Then/Then Is Now format, Videotopia presents a compelling illustration
of computer technology's evolution as games advanced from the boxy basics Of the first
generation to supersleek wonders of today's offspring.
For anyone who has waded through the volumes of rules, instructions and scene-setting
explanations accompanying most video games these days, the universes of change we have
blurred through are summed up by reading the instructions to Pong.
Released in 1972, the electronic tennis game is mistakenly considered by many to be the
first video arcade game. (Computer Space came out a year earlier, but it was difficult
to Play and not much fun, so few played it and fewer remember it). But Pong was the first
successful video game, and the cultural sensation it ignited began with precisely two
lines and eight words of instruction: "Deposit quarter. Avoid missing ball for high
As Videotopia's collection goes on, black-and-white bursting into color, crude outlines
becoming ever more complex characters and a flat two-dimensional world adding an
eye-tricking third dimension, an archaeological time line tracing the computer's
development is created. You may have to be a tech head to understand the function of
such things as Microprocessors and ROMs, but you don't have to be one to appreciate
the differences they make.
In one of the exhibit's most striking displays, the 1974 game Tank stands beside its
1995 counterpart, Tokyo Wars. Tank has a flat, monochromatic field where a tiny white
tank battles a tiny black tank amid a field of featureless obstructions. Tokyo Wars,
on the other hand, is a full-cover spectacle where realistically detailed tanks rumble
through a 3-D re-creation of Tokyo. On the surface, the former is a rinky-dink
skateboard. The latter a Supercharged rocket sled. But beneath the surface, the games
are identical in game play and goal - maneuvering a tank through a maze, trying to
blow up the enemy tanks while avoiding a similar fate.
The real revelation of Videotopia's collection of classic games has nothing to do with
computers. Video games, it turns out, aren't just technological artifacts; they are
cultural signposts, remaining as electronic embodiments of long-gone moments.
Take, for example, Missile Command. The player tries furiously to protect three cities
While missiles rain down from satellites and planes. There is no winning, and the best
you can hope for is the highest score. The games always end the same way: your cities
wiped out, a screen-filling explosion and the bleak summation, "Game Over."
It is, in other words, perhaps the purest distillation ever of nuclear paranoia.
"When that game came out in 1980, "Mr. Feinstein says, "Reagan was president and the
nuclear clock was at two minutes till midnight. As a sign in the exhibit explains, it
was inspired when Atari's president read an article about killer satellites. It's
original name was Armageddon, and the three cities were three American cities. But
they decided that was just too horrifying.
"But it's still the perfect representation of that Cold War mind-set we all lived
under: It was all defense, no offense, and you couldn't win."
Again and again throughout the exhibit, the cultural resonance of video games is
highlighted, as it is in the case of Centipede. A placard explains that Centipede -
in which the player shoots at a field including a descending centipede, a herky-jerky
spider and a bunch of mushrooms - was the first arcade game to appeal more to women
than men. Not coincidentally, it was also the first arcade game created by a woman
designer. To further embellish the game's cultural context, the exhibit notes that
1981, the year of Centipede's debut, was also the year that Sandra Day O'Connor became
the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court.
"People think about video games the way they used to think - and the way some still do
think - about television," says Tim Burke, a history professor at Swarthmore College in
Pennsylvania. "They think of them as empty, juvenile, valueless and mind-draining. But
there is an incredible richness there for anyone interested in what society is thinking
"In the same way cultural critics have examined all those trashy monster movies from the
'50s to get at what was going at the time, you can look at video games from the '70s and
'80s. The fact is, you can tell a lot more about what people were thinking by looking at
the cultural detritus of a period.
"So many were about fighting aliens, trying to find a safe place or protecting your home
- these were the resonant themes of the times. And in video games, you see the roots of
geek culture, the community that would go on to create the Internet. That's Bill Gates'
secret life you see in all those supposedly stupid games."
Like a multimedia time machine, Videotopia offers the chance to retreat into a lost
world. You can be whisked back to the cartoon chaos of Xenophobe, where your mission is
"to seek out and destroy all hostile alien life forms." Or you can become a Defender,
flying through enemy fire to rescue "Daddy," "Mommy" and "Mikey" from the clutches of -
you guessed it - evil aliens.
But the history of video games isn't all doomsday and accursed aliens. Players are freee
to choose in this universe of electronic worlds. All it takes is a token, and you can
once again be a cute little frog hopping his way back home, treating yourself to a tasty,
200-point bug along the way.
1998 The Dallas Morning News
"The best time to be in the museum is after they close!"
Paul Dean, Spy Hunter Champion, June 28, 1985