Back to the weird future: Take-off in Rome
If you think that a weirdo with a doubtful hygiene routine employed by Atari wasn’t Steve Jobs himself, or that Mattel is all about Barbie, you’re totally missing out on something in the history of cyberspace. No worries, though, it’s all waiting for you in Rome: an eye-popping, interactive collection of more and less ancient video games along with some spicy details and curiosities – especially not only for the geeks.
For a millennial like myself, visiting Vigamus is an amusing journey back to childhood. Personally, I could revive the excitement when my older brother let me play (for ten minutes) one of his fascinating Atari games: two neighbours with lawn mowers in a race to cut down the grass. Yey… those were the days! Or Cannon Fodder, an action-strategy shoot’em up by Sensible Software – a classic! (I still love it, actually.) To make the best out of my afternoon and absorb the peculiar spirit of the place, I packed it with heaps of bygone-cutting-edge gadgets and bothering other visitors about their own experiences.
For a start, having subconsciously compared my rigorously worked-out body to the life-size cast of Lara Croft, and losing a bit of my spirit, I rush to a group of twelve-year-olds by the hot chocolate machine, discussing their recent quests. My agreeable interviewees, all floppy-haired, take my voice recorder very seriously: << Yes, we come here quite often. It’s very entertaining to play all the stuff that is practically prehistoric. >> (Auch…)
Thanks, Lara. Thanks, guys. The place is fitted out with a plethora of gadgets and gaming stations from different tech eras, including archetypal PCs, Game Boys, virtual reality simulators, original Pac-Man gizmos, and even the Power Glove by Nintendo and Mattel. To begin with, I feel like raining some blows, so I invite my partner for some pre-Mortal Kombat round. I choose to be a giant bear, Gunnar picks a tiny Asian blonde in a pink outfit. I used to play the punch-and-kicks in my early twenties when I needed to ‘let it out.’ It worked back then, and I still find it kinda relaxing, I must say. The next game we try has a rather painful Middle-East conflict plot, ultimately ridiculed and it makes me feel uncomfortable.
In the meantime, it is our turn for the highlight: the dark room of Oculus, the virtual reality prototype developed by very young Palmer Luckey’s in his garage. The visor creates the illusion of being fully immersed in the 3D reality by means of a head-mounted display. The player controls the surroundings by moving her head, arms and legs. Though not in the vanguard of latest development anymore, the effect is more than enough for nightly sessions with zombie, witches and other demons. Finally, paying tribute to an ingenious garage-based developer would be in order.
Shaking out the 3D dizziness out of my head while strolling along the aisle with a years’ overview of gizmos and large characters, I come across a room devoted exclusively to Assassin’s Creed, an action-adventure stealth video game. The life-size casts, boards explaining everything from the plot and weapons to the creators’ backgrounds and struggles invite to another immersion. All seats taken, I come up to a dad with his eight-year-old. There are more teams like this one around. He explains to me he doesn’t want his son to treat computer games as daily bread but rather to see them as an occasional activity, something special. << And I want to teach him something about the stuff before he starts teaching me, hahaha >>, he adds winking at me and patting the boy’s head.
Just outside the Assassin’s room is a peculiar space saved for the ‘worst game ever’. Intriguing enough, if you ask me. I don’t know how you feel about trying out the least riveting release in history—E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial—but there is a cool legend behind this failure. The game was such a disaster that in September 1983, a dozen of trucks unloaded piles of unsold and returned copies which were to be buried forever. The fable had remained unconfirmed until April 26th, 2014 when an Atari lover, Mike Burns, obtained the necessary permission for the excavations among the sands of Alamogordo in New Mexico, USA.
I can only imagine how embarrassing it would be if a group of archaeologists from the future dug the stuff out, all carefully secured, with the conclusion it must have been the top achievement of our times. By the way, have you heard of the times when people stopped playing computer games? Or why the video games authors’ names didn’t appear on the boxes? Not even why Pac-Man qualified for the Nobel Prize? Oh, and that Barbie thing. Rome is waiting, then. With this and much more weird stuff.