Villordsutch reports from PLAY it! at MoSI Manchester 2016…
Over the Easter Weekend I attended the opening of PLAY it! at the Museum of Science and Industry (MoSI) in Manchester. Regular readers of Flickering Myth will recall this event’s birth last year in the summer holiday season, which I also attended; the theme of 2015 embraced the last three decades of gaming, and this year it neatly fits into the museum’s Power Easter Holiday Programme.
If you managed to get along to PLAY it! last year, then you’ll already have a good idea what this vast gaming room looks like: corner to corner of consoles and computers, bordered with classic machines, starting with my first ever console the Binatone TV Master, and neatly wrapping around to the latest in Next-Gen machines. If there’s a multiplayer moment attached to a machine then you’ve got a seat for each player, so I managed to thrash my daughter in a true Fast Show Dad moment with 15-1 at Pong on the Binatone.
The gaming arena is conveniently separated into sections, including LEGO, Minecraft, Batman, Mario etc. so no matter what mum, dad, daughter or son adores you can simply wander across and find a seat in one of the many chairs, losing yourself in either the HALO battle pit or in the numerous Mario games.
One of the big draws appears as soon as you walk through the main doors in the Oculus Rift Rabbids VR ride and its active chair. This near five minute ride had an impressive queue on it and I was told by those that sat themselves into to this demonstration that it was well worth the wait, so I’d recommend that this be everyone’s first port of call when you enter.
Throughout the evening the music swimming through the air was classic gaming tunes, and weaving in amongst other classic pieces of gaming soundtracks. These musical blasts from my past where being provided from GameFace, and I was stood there hearing my childhood wash across me in audio waves and it was quite fantastic. As I got talking with the chaps, they told me there was going to be a huge ChipBattle taking place on the 8th April here at PLAY it! between competitors Whitely and Tin Foil Hat Brigade with lights, cameras and more chiptune than you can shake a pixellated stick at. GameFace will be providing the music for the whole night, Graeme and Auracle DJing plus a set from each artist before the ChipBattle itself.
I managed to get a few words with Alistair Otto (Group Commercial Experiences Manager for Science Museum Group) about the success of last year’s PLAY it! and the hopeful future of the event.
Villordsutch: Did you expect PLAY it! to be so popular, with it drawing in so many people of different ages & genders, even being nominated for City Life Award?
Alistair: Over 13,000 people came to visit PLAY it! Manchester last year from all over the region and of all ages. What was so great about it was seeing families of three generations playing different games from over 30 years ago and each showing and sharing the games of their own youths.
Being nominated for the award was the icing on the cake of a great and successful event. And its return is in part due to last year’s success.
V: PLAY it! is part of the MOSI’s Power Easter Holiday programme, can you give us a brief overview of what this is, and how does gaming and its 30+ year history fit into it?
A: Our power programme is all about paying homage to and bringing to life the machinery, sights, smells and sounds that have powered Manchester for the last 300 years; so we are offering our visitors the chance to see engine demos of our great and historic collection of original working machinery to introduce the ideas and innovations that sparked a world-wide revolution. Visitors can also make their very own take home circuit. Play it fits into this as we are a museum that celebrates science and industry and the gaming industry is huge in Manchester, STEM is a huge part of gaming and modern tech; And of course to play you have to Power up. SO it all fits together perfectly fusing the old and the new, industry with the science – which is what we are all about.
V: Can you see PLAY it! becoming an annual event – here at MOSI – after its success in 2015, or will you wait and see what 2016 tells you?
A: Well after our Easter run, the event is opening in London at the Science Museum for the summer from 22ndJuly so we shall see what happens after that.
V: Growing up what was your computer or gaming system, if any, and what were your memories around the early days of great British computing era?
A: I grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, so my earliest memory of gaming would be on a Commodore 64 which you had to load the games on tape! My brother and I had it setup in the bedroom we shared and had to hope that a lorry didn’t come racing down the hill our house was on as to not interrupt the loading process. We would spend ages watching the games load only for it to crash when the reverberations of the lorry came by!! In terms of games consoles myself and my brother would spend far too many hours playing on the Nintendo Entertainment System. We loved Mario Bros. and those other early Nintendo games. We got that console at Christmas the first year they were out and since then I’ve always had a games console. Play it! is my idea of heaven, as I’m sure it is for many others.
PLAY it! is not only an excellent introduction into the world of gaming events, it is a fantastic time to spend with either a) your family or b) yourself in a hall of gaming playthings, also if it does get a wee bit too much there is a break out lounge area at the back with some nice comfy chairs, a refreshment area and also of course a rather snazzy gift shop.
PLAY it! runs from the 25th March – 17th April 2016.
Ticket information and prices
Full day pass: £12
Entry to all timed sessions on a specific day, for one adult or child. Excludes evening sessions.
Family session: £10
Entry to a specific timed session during a specific day, for up to 4 people.
Up to 2 adults with children aged 16 or under.
Individual session: £4
Entry to a specific timed session during a specific day, for one adult or child.
Individual evening session: £8
Entry to a specific evening session, for adults aged 18 or over.
Tickets are available to book now via msimanchester.org.uk/whats-on/activity/play-it