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The National Videogame Museum Offers Both Entertainment and Education in Frisco, TX

By S. Mathur

The National Videogame Museum opened in Frisco, TX earlier this year, but the idea behind it has been in development for a long time. According to Director and co-founder Sean Kelly, the museum is "the result of thirty years of collecting not only the games themselves, but the history and the stories as told by the players who built one of the largest industries in the world?literally from the ground up." For museum founders John Hardie, Joe Santulli and Kelly himself, videogames are much more than toys or fads.

As Kelly says, video games have a significant cultural value: "The games, the systems, AND the information played a major role in defining who we've become as people. Videogames play a large part in so many people's lives. They remember how old they were when they got their first game console or what was happening in their lives when their favorite videogame was released."

The mission of the museum is to preserve the history and artifacts of the video games industry, and also to tell the behind-the-scenes stories about its creation. To give some idea of its significance, Kelly explains the video games industry is actually larger than the movie and music industries put together. Single games have the potential to generate billions of dollars in revenue.

The cultural significance of video games may be even greater, and the museum allows people to re-live the days of their lives benchmarked by particular games. For example, Kelly says that "My own daughter will never forget the day that Call of Duty 4 was released because her boyfriend abruptly broke up with her that day because he wanted more time to play COD."

The museum began as a traveling collection showing at the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas and then at industry events like E3, SXSW, PAX, Game Developer's Conference, etc. There are more than twenty different exhibits in the museum, and nearly all have been designed with the goal of allowing visitors to actually play with them. The most popular exhibit is a giant Pong machine. At about six feet wide and four feet tall, with a fifteen foot vintage TV screen, it's the largest playable Pong machine in the world, and sees plenty of use.

Other popular exhibits include vintage computers like the Texas Instruments 99/4A, TRS-80 Model 1, Coleco's Adam, Commodore 64, etc., with original hardware in the form of cartridges, disks and even cassette tapes. Popular interactive exhibits include an '80s living room and '90s bedroom setups with vintage couches and videogames on console TVs. Copies of a 1984 TV Guide magazine, a Madonna poster and a Max Headroom cup on the night stand add to the realism of the setting.

The educational component of the museum's mission is as important as its entertainment value. The museum recently hosted the National STEM Challenge and is developing curriculum for classes, workshops and camps.

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