tom callaway (spot) wrote,
tom callaway

The Strong, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, and the Promised Land

I've been out in Rochester, NY for most of this week. Red Hat has been partnering with RIT for the last year or so to generate, produce and teach Open Source courses (for an example, see ritfloss). I represented Red Hat at the RIT spring career fair, and the rest of the week, we've been meeting with various RIT students and faculty.

But to be honest, the coolest thing was what happened yesterday. One of the key advisors in RIT's open source initiatives is also the scholar in residence with The Strong museum, so he offered to take us over there and get a behind-the-scenes tour. The Strong National Museum of Play is dedicated entirely to "play", including tons of stuff on toys, books, comics, a working carousel and passenger train, and all sorts of kid friendly awesomeness.

All of that is good on its own, but the museum is also home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. Or as I now refer to it, the Promised Land. Jon-Paul Dyson, the Director, took me and Luke around the exhibits,then he took us into their archives.

The amount of stuff they have is just mindblowing. These pictures do not do it justice. Luke and I were so stunned that we're lucky we managed to take any pictures at all. Rows and rows of shelves. Shelves with video games in their cases, stacked tight, three sets deep. Loose items of all types. A Power Glove next to a Virtual Boy, besides an original Breakout cabinet.

Shelf after shelf of electronic gaming history. Every game I ever loved or ever wanted to love, here. Ken Williams's name badge from Sierra. A retired World of Warcraft server blade.

A wall of electronic (PC and console) gaming magazines. Every Nintendo Power, in order.

Each shelf? Three rows deep. This picture? Just a few of the shelves.

They had an RIT co-op who was gently and carefully playing a game for about 10 minutes and video recording it for archival purposes. That was a paid co-op, btw. He was a happy dude.

I'm sure I'm doing a terrible job describing this, but it was a mind-blowingly awesome experience. I've been a gamer for my entire meaningful sentient existence, and I never thought I'd see a collection like this. I wish I could have stayed there all day taking pictures of the stuff they had, but we only got a walkthrough. They're also collecting all of the gaming ephemera, everything from E3 swag to the original designer notes. The vast majority of their collection isn't on display (the stuff they do have on display is cool too, but it is just a drop in the ocean).

They had a large arcade's worth of cabinet games too, most of which seemed like they were in the process of receiving some love before going on display. A few pinball tables too.

I wish we had taken more pictures, with a better camera. I wish they would have left me in there to roam the stacks. After the tour, we played in their museum arcade until we ran out of tokens. Just a fantastic experience. I'm brainstorming on how Red Hat and FOSS can help them out, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.
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