Videogame culture celebrated at Urbis

British videogaming culture is the subject of a new interactive exhibition, Videogame Nation, at Manchester’s Urbis centre this summer, designed by Axis Graphic Design.

Urbis appointed the Manchester-based exhibition and graphics group to design and brand the show two weeks ago, on the strength of its previous work with the gallery.

Axis created Urbis’ current exhibition, Black Panther/ Emory Douglas & The Art of Revolution.

‘Videogame Nation is going to be utterly interactive, with a lot of retro-gaming,’ says Axis managing director Alan Ward. ‘The trouble is that original 1980s gaming consoles and controllers will not stand up to the amount of usage they will get at the show, so we are having to find ways of reproducing the experience of playing Space Invaders using modern technology.’

This could mean creating reproductions of now-defunct consoles for the gaming stations, of which there will be between 40 and 50.

Some of the 600m2 exhibition space will be dedicated to room sets, starting with a bedroom. Urbis head of creative programmes Pollyanna Clayton-Stamm says, ‘The bedroom represents the dawn of videogaming in the 1970s and 1980s, when programmers spent hours in their bedrooms creating and playing games.’

The show may also feature a game designer’s office, representing the commercialisation of the sector. Urbis is hoping to secure a football tour bus to house soccer-inspired games.

‘We want people to be clear that videogaming is about graphics and sound design, and has become a collective and professional team effort during its 40-year timespan,’ says Clayton-Stamm, revealing that the show will be created on a ‘challenging’ five-figure budget. It is being designed as a travelling exhibition, but has not yet secured a second venue.

Besides the gaming stations, Urbis hopes to feature prototypes of early games consoles including the Commodore 64, Amstrad and Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and sketches for videogame concepts. Activities could allow visitors to redesign games and create their own pixel characters.

‘We want to encourage our younger visitors to get involved in the industry, by exposing the initial design phases that the programmers go through, like making sketches on the bus,’ says Clayton-Stamm.

Ward reveals that he is currently putting together a quote for a book to accompany the show. ‘British gaming is a story that has not been told enormously and there is nothing in print now that sums that up,’ he says.

Videogame Nation runs at Urbis from 14 May to 20 September.

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