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Retrospective: Game Over…

August 26, 2010

This is going to be a fairly small blog about what was a bit of a let down in the Norwich events and exhibitions calendar; ‘Retro Arcade’ at The Forum. Now having seen the poster some time ago I thought that this could be a real treat; as I have a real soft spot for those old coin-op classics from before my time, and the classics of my time in the 90’s. What I was expecting was pretty much a room full of old arcade machines and cabinets with classics like; Pacman, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Galaxian, Asteroids, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, Soul Calibur, Time Crisis, OutRun, Bubble Bubble, Marvel vs. Capcom, Robocop and ect…

Retro Arcade 1

(Source: The Forum, Norwich | Facebook)

Now granted it did just say “An interactive history of computer games”, which with that loose description could have been even less impressive than what it actually was. As above I stated what it could have been according to my dreams and fantasies a retro-gaming paradise, but heres the synopsis of what the exhibition comprised of: several old games consoles, a few new games consoles, a modern manufactured multi-game table cabinet machine, games and videos projected onto the walls and some fancy furniture (and maybe some things I missed out).

It was an okay exhibition of sorts and would have definitely been a welcome break for kids being dragged around by their mothers; and something nifty for the various Forum staff to do during lunch breaks and so forth, but I just think that the idea conveyed in the poster could have been better than a load of old consoles I could easily afford from Cash Converters myself, organised in a showroom. Generally speaking I just found it to be poor, because I know people out there have more impressive collections in their bedrooms (or mother’s basement to be more precise).

I was also genuinely expecting some decent coin-op action too, but they only seemed to have a crappy ‘Plug N Play’ Pacman type device that was projected onto the wall (the ‘Plug N Play’ version of Pacman is awful and not like the original at all) and also I believe there were some other devices like that for representing the other old stuff too.

Retro Arcade 2

(Source: The Forum, Norwich | Facebook)

I think the biggest knock-off was the console selections too, for instance it seemed like they had nothing older than a Super Nintendo or Sega Megadrive and they also had a Wii and PS3 there (not quite retro yet, but I saw the point they were trying to make with that though). The exhibit fairly comprehensively catalogued the 1990’s consoles and 2ooo’s consoles in all fairness, but anything older than that was poorly represented at the exhibit, they didn’t even have a NES (let alone an Atari…). So though it was a nice thought, it could have been a so much better, genuine and authentic experience, and though I bet the kids enjoyed, I think they deserve better than that…

Retro Arcade 3

(Source: The Forum, Norwich | Facebook)

As far as I am concerned it was a cool idea, but in reality I think it was pretty half-arsed in the end and did little to rekindle my hazy memories of coin insertion and the eventual come down after getting beaten by the third opponent you play (as far as I remember perceiving, the third opponent on any given life on an arcade Beat’em up machine got automatically harder to make you lose faster).

To sum it up I would have to refer you to this video below…

Well thats game over for this blog, and though this is pretty much a nag of a blog, it’s because I’m passionate and think that if this had been done real justice it could have been very cool (but it wasn’t though). For the record I’m glad that those who enjoyed it did, but theres so much more to retro gaming than the minor peak into the subculture this exhibit offered.

For more info check out this link:

Retrospective | SUB-BLOG: Game ON…

The King of Kong, Poster.

(Movie Poster, Source:

Now having had a pretty decent moan about the so-called ‘Retro Arcade’ I would like to shed light on something relevant that would have really complimented that exhibit if they showed it on a wall there or something. It is the brilliant heartwarming feature length documentary that is ‘The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters’ (2007) – directed by Seth Gordan, which chronicles the tail of Steve Wiebe’s attempt at breaking the long standing ‘Donkey Kong’ arcade record held by the quasi-villain figure Billy Mitchell. What ensues is an unbelievable, inadvertent, yet seemingly accurate portrait of a retro-gaming subculture, in a way (to me at least) it seemed like the coin-op equivalent of ‘Dogtown and Z Boys’ (2001) or Riding Giants’ (2004) both by Stacy Peralta.

All I can really say is make sure you watch it; even if you can’t stand those types of people, there are just too many hilarious moments in there, the only scary thing is that you end relating to those people more than you are really comfortable with. Though its pretty sad in someways that people define their personal worth on the basis of an arcade game score, you can’t help but end up really rooting for the challenger Steve Wiebe, who emerges as an underdog figure, who truly needs this ultimate score in order to make personal peace with a history of shortcomings. He is also constantly dogged by the bias of record keeping community ‘Twin Galaxies’ – who eventually come good…

On the other hand there is Billy Mitchell, the bizarrely surreal pseudo-macho figure, who acts tough, but disregards and avoids Wiebe at every turn in a manner that is defeating of the persona he attempts to put across in his interviews and archive appearances. Overall the protagonist and nemesis dynamics add up to a really strange, yet interesting narrative filled with totally unwritable situations that seem too good to be true.

Finally for the benefit of anyone that’s actually seen the film, heres the mock trailer to the sequel:

Well thats the final part of this retro double-dose, so I hope you have found it intersting and informative. There are yet more game culture related posts to come; as I have some pent-up stories and topics I have to fully write up and so forth, so be sure to keep an eye on this blog. Be sure also to check out the links and so on…

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 10, 2011 10:43 am

    king of kong – great film!

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