IT is one of Scotland’s most hotly-anticipated shows of the year, with a cast list ranging from Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man to Sonic the Hedgehog, Angry Birds and Grand Theft Auto.
A leading visitor attraction has turned one of its main gallery spaces into a giant amusement arcade for a celebration of computer gaming over the last five decades.
Stories behind some of the world’s biggest computer games and the little-known artists who created them are revealed in Game Masters, the new show set to attract thousands of gaming enthusiasts of all ages into the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh over the next few months.
More than 100 different games will be on offer to play once visitors have paid up to £10 for a ticket, including 15 vintage arcade machines dating from the 1970s and 1980s boom.
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Game Masters is being staged in Europe for the first time after being created by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne two years ago.
Highlights of the show include the chance to inspect rarely-seen original artworks, designs and models behind some of the world’s most successful games, as well as hear exclusive interviews with the creative gurus behind them.
The exhibition charts the history of gaming from the earliest arcade favourites and the rise of pioneering companies like Nintendo to the very latest hand-held devices and home entertainment phenomena like SingStar, Rock Band and Dance Central, which can all be sampled.
Game Masters relives the creation of classic games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong by their Japanese creators Tori Iwatani,
Tomohiro Nishikado and Shigera Miyamoto, as well as the legacy of American pioneers Tim Schafer, Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy, and English designer Peter Molyneux.
Added specially for its run in Edinburgh are original notes, drawings and artwork which inspired made-in-Scotland games like Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings, both devised by Dundee-based DMA Design, are going on display for the first time.
The exhibition, which took two years to put together and has taken almost six weeks to install at the museum, also shines the spotlight on other Scottish firms like Space Budgie, who also emerged from Dundee, Edinburgh outfit Lucky Frame and Glasgow’s The Secret Experiment.
Ben Cram, touring exhibitions manager at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, said: “The exhibition is definitely as big as another other computer or video game exhibition that’s been put together before.
“The real difference between this one and those that have come before is that has focused on the key people and the designers behind all these games.
“You can probably name your favourite movie directors and have a love for Steven Spielberg films or old Orson Welles movies, but can you name who made your favourite video game? However these people are just as talented and equally deserving of a little bit of recognition.
“You can really see how their passion comes out in the end result. You could almost describe them as auteurs - you can really see the stamp of the people who make these games.
“One of the most fascinating things about the exhibition is the specially-commissioned interviews with people who made the games, which you can only hear at the exhibition, and the works of art that are on loan and won’t be seen anywhere else.
“We’ve tried to make the appeal of the exhibition as broad as possible. Obviously, kids are going to love it, but the average age of a gamer is actually mid-thirties. We usually have a huge number of parents bringing their kids along and showing them the games they would play when they were young. The split between video gamers now is usually 50:50, so it’s not a male dominated exhibition. Video games have pretty much touched everyone in some way.”
Sarah Rothwell, assistant design curator at the museum, said: “Game Masters will give gamers and non-gamers alike a fascinating insight into the industry’s big names, who people might not necessarily have heard of before, and what inspired them to create these amazing worlds.
“Gaming is definitely an art form now. If you look back at photography 100 years ago it wasn’t considered an art form, but now it’s very much of the fine art world.
“Gaming is just another form of art, although until recently people really haven’t seen it as such, as it has been such a commercial part of our lives.
“It’s definitely a big coup to get the exhibition here, although Scotland is now an amazing centre of game development, with 95 different companies based here. It really is the centre of UK gaming development.”
Game Masters is at the National Museum of Scotland from Friday 5 December until Sunday 20 April.
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