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Videogame Nation

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Videogame Nation is a UK exhibition looking at the history of British videogames. It shows how videogames have progressed over more than 30 years. Visitors are able to play a wide selection of games including Jet Set Willy, Sensible Soccer, Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto. The exhibition highlights the key people and companies which have contributed to British gaming since its inception.

Curated by videogame journalist David Crookes [1], Videogame Nation made its debut at the arts centre Urbis in Manchester on May 14, 2009. It ran until September 19, 2009. Plans are in place to tour the exhibition around Britain over the coming years.


Videogame Nation is split into a number of sections. It starts in a bedroom setting, complete with a bed, showcasing games made by small teams, predominantly in the 1980s. It is possible to play Elite, Jet Set Willy, Jetpac and Head Over Heels, look at original posters, view a display cabinet packed with retro computer items and see the first issues of Crash magazine. The area explores the work of current retro programmer Jonathan Cauldwell as well as Introversion, an indie developer which used to call itself the "Last of the Bedroom Programmers". Visitors were able to create their own pixel art.

Visitors are also able to play a range of driving games and discover more about their evolution. Games include Burnin' Rubber on the Amstrad GX4000, Micro Machines on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Ferrari Challenge on a PlayStation 3 and Burnout on a Xbox 360.

An arcade section follows, looking at the popularity of arcades in the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. It concentrates on home computer versions of arcade classics including Ghouls n Ghosts and Pac-Man World 3. Two arcade cabinets for Rainbow Islands and Ghouls n Ghosts were provided by collector Jonathan Thompson and were the only parts of the exhibition which visitors had to pay extra to use.

An office setting allows players to see how game development teams have increased in size. There is a display looking at the various jobs carried out by people working in gaming as well as examples of games produced in the late 1980s and 1990s. Among them are Broken Sword, Theme Park and Dizzy. This area also includes a Dizzy map, a large display cabinet of original game development documents and posters. There is a particular emphasis on PC games among them Populous.

A mocked-up stadium allows gamers to play FIFA International Soccer, Sensible Soccer and Kick Off while reclining in seats taken from Manchester City's Maine Road stadium. Astroturf from Manchester City's training ground is also used. The sports section includes Virtua Tennis and there is audio from Sensible Software's Jon Hare.

A section which looks at gaming on the go has an area dominated by a bus stop on to which PlayStation Portable's are attached. Bus seats opposite have Nintendo DSs attached. The idea is that games can be played anywhere and are not restricted to the home. There is an emphasis on exploration with titles from TTGames' LEGO series. There is even a Star Wars Yoda created out of LEGO. Tomb Raider and WipEout are also playable and the area has a sofa and pixellated fire to show the transition from bedroom to living room. Three Elite spacecrafts are placed on the wall in a similar manner to the flying ducks in Hilda Ogden's house in Coronation Street. LostWinds is playable on a Nintendo Wii.

A cinema allows visitors to watch a selection of films including re-runs of GamesMaster and documentaries. There is an 18-rated section looking at Bully and Grand Theft Auto. This also explores controversies including the argument between Manchester Cathedral and Sony over the game Resistance: Fall of Man.

One of the most popular sections allowed visitors to draw their own videogame covers. Many videogame developers including Blitz Games' Philip Oliver contributed.


During its run at Urbis, Videogame Nation had a programme of events which ran throughout the Summer of 2009.

They were: Jon Hare: Playing for England June 14, 2009.

Getting Dizzy: The Oliver Twins June 28, 2009.

Matthew Smith: Manic Musings July 19, 2009.

Retro Revival July 26, 2009.

The Godfather: David Braben August 9, 2009.

Bricking it: Arthur Parsons TTGames August 16, 2009.

Sailing the Ocean Waves September 6, 2009.

Start a Revolution: Charles Cecil September 13, 2009.


Videogame Nation was well received by visitors and the press. They included reviews by Negative Gamer [2]

  1. GamesTM [1] NowGamer, Monday 18 May 2009.
  2. Negative Gamer [2] Negative Gamer, Thursday 14 May 2009.

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