Apr 1st, 2017, 01:47 PM

Learning the Past and Present of Video Games

By Ofir Ben Dor
Image credit: Ofir Ben Dor
A new exhibition attempts to show all that video games have to offer.

Video games are a massive industry, with an estimated 2016 revenue of $91 billion, more than twice as much as the movie industry's revenue of $38.6 billion. Game, le jeu vidéo à travers le temps is an exhibition at the Espace Fondation EDF curated by Jean Zeid, a reporter and professional geek working at France Info. The exhibition is about all things video games, both past and present — which serves both as its highlight and detriment.

The idea of showing the video game industry's journey has gone through from its debut in the 1960s is an admirable one. The problem, though, is immediately obvious when realizing the current size of the video game industry, and the rather small size of the Espace Fondation EDF. Originally built as an electric substation and later converted by EDF to an exhibition center, the building's three floors — two of which are one big room — currently house a hodgepodge of screens, art pieces and gaming memorabilia.

Image credit: Ofir Ben Dor

Every item in the exhibition is like an island that is barely connected by themes or ideas to the others around it. A piece on YouTube follows a piece on some of the famous mascots of gaming, followed again by a room for educational mobile games. The exhibition clearly lacks a sense of flow; it seems as if there is no clear goal behind the exhibition.

Come play some of the first games ever created. Image credit: Ofir Ben Dor

The place was fairly empty when I arrived at around 13:00, though by the time I left at 15:00 it was brimming with children playing the Dance Dance Revolution Extreme arcade cabinet, teenagers playing Assassin's creed II and Pac-Man, and a few elderly women who watched me play Uncharted 4 on the main screen. The exhibition has something for everyone, featuring a small gallery showcasing the beauty of video games, a wall filled with eSports equipment, and a feature of hand-drawn portraits of some of the biggest names in the industry. The variety is topped off by old advertisements from magazines and an exhibit of different controllers from 1984's Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Zapper to 2015's Steam Controller. For those who want to play some games, there is a variety of different FIFA games from across the ages; Asteroids, Missile Command, Pong and Donkey Kong are all found on the top floor and there is even an option to try out the PlayStation VR (Virtual Reality) for a few minutes with Ubisoft's Eagle Flight.

A collection of forgotten consoles. Image credit: Ofir Ben Dor

The exhibition feels lackluster in design and directionless; despite the variety, there is not ultimately very much content. However, I did have a great time sampling vintage consoles such as the Sega Genesis and the NES. Many newcomers to the video game scene should go if they want to learn more about its origins and its depth, while veterans can have fun playing some of the old games. The best thing about the exhibition is that it is completely free; though the drawback is that everything is in French, which means that English speakers will not be able to read the detailed explanations.

There is even a "Toys-to-life" section. Image credit: myself

The exhibition is open daily, except Monday, between 12 PM to 7 PM and finishes August 27.

Practical Information

Game, le jeu vidéo à travers le temps
Espace Fondation EDF
6, rue Récamier 75007 Paris