institution: Bullock Texas State History Museum
category: Exhibition Media or Experience
The Bullock Museum’s Pong to Pokémon exhibition featured more than 100 objects and twenty digital media and accessible interactive experiences to transform visitors of varying ages, experiences, and technical proficiencies into video game players. The exhibition provided an unprecedented look at the art, science, and technology of electronic gaming as seen through a player’s perspective, and is the Bullock Museum’s most interactive experience to date.
The Museum strove to tell the story of video games and show how, for the last 50 years, gaming has influenced the way all of us work, play, and learn every day. Texas game creators including Richard Garriott, John Romero, and Warren Spector were among the Bullock’s advisory team, and helped the Museum connect with dozens of lenders to bring rare and seminal artifacts on view. Many had never before been on display in any museum.
Central to the exhibition was its unprecedented media design plan. Months in the making, the Bullock ensured that thirteen-plus vintage playable games stayed operational for the duration of the exhibition. Titles included text-based adventures (Oregon Trail, Zork I), arcade console classics (Centipede, Ms. Pac-Man, Street Fighter II), home game consoles and handhelds from the 1970s and 1980s (Tetris, Super Mario Bros., Madden 95, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Atari 2500, Nintendo NES, and Sega Genesis classic console re-releases), as well as modern home games that used advanced controllers, mobile devices, and home computers to personalize gameplay and provide outlets for user creativity (Guitar Hero, Wii Sports, Angry Birds, and Minecraft).
Three original documentaries on video game art/design, software, and hardware were filmed and produced by the Museum. The Museum designed an animated infographic on the industries amazing expansion and impact and also produced a short film on the esports (competitive gaming) phenomenon. (Watch videos: https://youtu.be/Fh-7YUQNd4I, https://youtu.be/57PX00fgp94, https://youtu.be/MaDvukqAX7Y)
Recognizing that music and sound effects were as critical to gameplay as animation and hardware, the museum designed and programmed an electronic game music interactive that tests player knowledge of important game soundtracks of the past and present. Completing game levels earns the player special “badges”. Earning six badges unlocks access to a video game jukebox. (Watch game playthrough: https://youtu.be/eBFiHQc7o_8)
Ultimately, this innovative exhibition and subsequent evaluation of the exhibition have created a digital experience that is just plain fun, expanding the Museum’s reach into new audiences who have never visited the Bullock before and creating an environment that engages generations to interact not only with the exhibition but with each other as well. User and experience testing showed a remarkable level of engagement by a very wide age range of visitors.