This semester, students in “Global Video Game Cultures” with Visiting Assistant Professor of Media and Society Iskandar Zulkarnain visited the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester to tour the International Center for the History of Electronic Games.
At 60,000 items and growing, the Center’s collections of video games, other electronic games, and electronic game-related historical materials is the largest and most comprehensive public collection in the world.
“The trip is an important and valuable hands-on experience for students to understand the broad and diverse history of video games as well as the nuances in their global circulation,” says Zulkarnain, who recently published an opinion piece in The Conversation to respond to the discourse of banning a globally popular game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) in Indonesia. By observing The Strong’s collection, Zulkarnain hopes students will view video games “not just as an entertainment medium but also as a cultural artifact.”
During their visit, students observed the World Video Game Hall of Fame, an exhibit that recognizes individual electronic games of all types — arcade, console, computer, handheld and mobile — that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period of time and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general. Inductees to the World Video Game Hall of Fame include Pong, The Oregon Trail, Pac-Man, John Madden Football, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II and World of Warcraft.
At the Strong Museum of Play, Zulkarnain’s seminar class also experienced the interactive exhibit produced by the Center: eGame Revolution, where they could play in a recreated video arcade or see rare and unique artifacts like Computer Space.
As part of the trip, Zulkarnain’s seminar class also visited the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play in the Museum to hear a presentation from archivist Julia Novakovic, who showcased materials from the Cort and Barbara Allen Atari Packaging Design Collection — a collection of archives that provide a record of the design and production of packaging and manuals for Atari home console, computer and handheld games. Novakovic also introduced students to the Gerald A. “Jerry” Lawson Papers, a collection of works by the pioneering African-American game engineer who helped revolutionize the video game industry through his design of the Fairchild Channel F game system.
Finally, Zulkarnain’s class took a behind the scene tour of the Center’s collection storage rooms, which included rare prototypes and objects like Atari’s Black Widow and Bally’s Invisible Monsters.