Parents hoping to pry their kids away from Minecraft or Fortnite this weekend might want to tell them about Game Changers: The Evolution of Video Games at the PNE.
The travelling educational exhibit, developed and produced by the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ontario, has found a home in the Garden Auditorium at the fair where it will remain until Monday before heading to the U.S.
Visitors step into an auditorium packed with interactive displays covering more than four decades of gaming, from the two-dimensional table tennis game Pong of 1972 to the complex virtual-reality systems of today.
Dozens of displays explore the history of about 140 iconic games, explaining how storytelling, technology, graphics, audio and gameplay have changed over time.
The exhibit features 16 playable games that have had big impacts on popular culture, including Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Asteroids and Guitar Hero. There are interactive educational displays too, such as a simple motion-capture system demonstrating how characters can be mapped onto players’ bodies as they move in real time.
If the playable games aren’t enough, visitors get to exit the exhibit through a modest arcade.
Faizzal Fatehali, manager of exhibit space for the PNE fair, said Game Changers explores the science behind video games while tapping into the magic of turning great stories into eye-popping pixels.
“It’s a way of learning,” he said. “We try not to do too much learning at the fair because it’s about entertainment. But it’s resonating — what’s happening now and what happened back then — and that’s a great teaching tool.”
Fatehali said it has been wonderful watching children connect with the games their parents played while growing up in the 20th century.
“There’s a bunch of kids playing Asteroids, an old-school game,” he said. “They’re not going to the virtual reality. They’re going to the old-school Nintendo games. It’s pretty cool to see.”
He said the exhibit made sense for the PNE fair, given the huge popularity and broad appeal of gaming.
A 2018 report by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada found that 61 per cent of Canadians considered themselves to be a “gamer.” Half were male and half were female, and their average age was 39. Sixty per cent of Canadians own a gaming console, the report found.
Fatehali said Game Changers is bringing in about 5,000 visitors each day.
“Video games have influenced pop culture in movies, in music videos,” he said. “If you’re a gamer, this is an exhibit you have to see.”
The PNE fair’s last day is Monday and Game Changers runs daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The exhibit is free with admission to the fair.