Games Lounge - National Media Museum, Bradford
By Daz Calvert - 05 Oct, 2010
Back in the early 90s aside from enjoying Mean Machines magazine and playing on 16-bit consoles it was always a treat to get some hands-on time with arcade machines whenever the chance arose. If you're after a fix of nostalgia these days, it's incredibly easy to pick up an old console off eBay or even fire up an emulator, but nothing compares to the thrill of a fetid, smelly arcade, packed with squabbling teenagers and beeping coin-ops.
When you consider how fag-stained and battered arcade machines were back in the day it's little wonder that nowadays you're lucky to find a classic coin-op with working a joystick, so it was with great excitement that I paid a visit to the Games Lounge, which was recently added to the foyer of the National Media Museum in Bradford.
The first thing you'll notice as you enter the Games Lounge are the giant Tetris blocks which act as seats (and stuff to climb for younger visitors!). There are several 'old skool' arcade games which have been lovingly restored for your enjoyment, but you'll need a pocket full of change in order to play (don't worry, there is a change machine).
For 10p a pop you can take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the golden oldies - Centipede, Defender, Galaxian and Space Invaders. These crusty titles are the bedrock of the arcade scene, and paved the way for future classics.
If you fancy giving your legs a rest then for 20p a go you can play Donkey Kong, Frogger and Pac-Man in comfortable sit-down cocktail table cabs. Also priced at 20p is the 4-player dungeon-fest known as Gauntlet, which provides plenty of mirth should you have a few mates to play with.
Arguably the centrepiece of the exhibit is Capcom's seminal Street Fighter II, which is priced at a slightly extortionate 50p a go. Still, this is the price you pay for a cab which which still has two working joysticks AND a whopping twelve attack buttons.
If you're a bit of a tight wad then you can always mess about on a cab which is set up for emulation called the 'Arcade Portal'. It will let you sample such delights as Q*bert, R-Type, Rainbow Islands, Galaxian and Pac-Man. The only downside is there is no joystick, just 4 big fat yellow buttons which render games like R-Type virtually unplayable. It's also no substitute for the real thing, in our opinion.
So all in all, the choice of arcade games are largely ones that the Twin Galaxies high score chasing crowd might appreciate. It would have been nice to see more classics such as Double Dragon or Shinobi for a bit of extra variety, but naturally the people who run the show are limited by the fact that many of these vintage cabs are either in a poor state or are hard to track down.
If home entertainment is more your cup of tea then you can even play on a 48k Spectrum complete with rubber keys and rainbow stripe-rocking Manic Miner, a Pong TV game, a Megadrive with Sonic 2, a SNES with Super Mario Kart and lastly a N64 running everyone's favourite console FPS, GoldenEye.
Lastly if it's a history lesson you're after then there is also a nice timeline of video gaming from 1952 to the present day, along with some more retro goodies in glass cases to ogle at.
It's well worth a visit to the Media Museum to check out this permanent addition to the foyer, and if you've got kids then you can show them what life was like before Grand Theft Auto. When you're done with that then there's plenty more to see and do in this massive museum.
Entry to the National Media Museum is free with a recommended donation of £3.
More info here: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/gameslounge