Help Make a Video Game History Museum

by Ben Reeves on Aug 02, 2011 at 01:17 PM

A non-profit charity dedicated to preserving, archiving, and documenting video game history, is working hard to preserve of video game heritage. The organization, appropriately titled The Videogame History Museum, has already collected over 25,000 pieces of video game memorabilia. Pieces of this collection can be see every year at national conventions such as E3, PAX, and Classic Game Expo, but the organization has long dream of something bigger – a dedicated site where people from all walks of life could visit and discover the untold stories of the gaming industry.

A number of video game luminaries, such as Brown Box inventor Ralph Baer, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, and David Crane creator of Pitfall!, have already joined the organizations board of directors, showing support for this cause. But the organization is still far from realizing its dream. In early July, co-founders John Hardie, Sean Kelly, and Joe Santulli started a Kickstarter campaign to raise over $30,000 (donate to the Kickstarter campaign here). We talked with Santulli to find out how a video game museum would benefit the industry. (Check out our extended interview with Santulli in issue 221 of Game Informer.)

How will the Kickstarter money be used?
Our extended family of donors are all over the place. We have a storage facility in Las Vegas. We have personal collections in New York and New Jersey, and Chicago, and then we have guys who help us with very specific parts of the museum. Chris Romero does the Vectrex stuff and his stuff is all sitting in a storage facility in southern California. We do these little exhibits here and there, and each time we have to do this it’s a major logistical effort to pull all of the pieces that we think we need from each collection and get them into one centralized location. What we want to do is get ahead of that process and put everything in a centralized location, so that we can then mobilize from on point to wherever we need to be, which of course would be the very first block in building a museum.

How long do you think it will be before we can have an actual dedicated museum?
I would foresee it happening in the next six years, realistically. I would love to see it happen sooner, but it’s not a matter of logistics; it’s a matter of we need a building. It’s going to take a far amount of money, or some luck to make that happen, but given a dedicated effort to keep pushing this forward, I would say, within six years we should have some kind of a place that people could walk into. It would probably be similar to what we have exhibited at Classic Gaming Expo in that it will be very diverse and have a lot of really cool, one of a kind things, and certainly would take up a couple hours of your time. If we have to build something, it’s going to take a lot longer than that, so we’re looking at hopefully getting lucky, or being resourceful enough to find a place of our own that we can convert into a museum.

Do you guys already have a name picked out for this?
Well out company is called The Videogame History Museum, and it’s a 501 (c)(3) non-profit charity, and that company name would ultimately be the name of the building.

Why don’t you think anyone has done a video game museum before?
It would be ignorant of me to say that there isn’t such a thing already. There are a few places like this. For example, The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester New York. The video game selection itself, while it’s very impressive, is very minimalist compared to what we’re trying to do. They provide a very nice timeline, but not much of it is interactive, and it doesn’t go very deep into the people and the stories that made the industry what it was…It’s great to have all the consoles, and all the handhelds, and allow players to come up and play the games and remember what it was like, but what we want to do is go deeper into the history of these things. What we’ve learned over the years is that the people and the stories behind how all this happened are far more interesting than the games themselves.

How would this museum be different that other museums?
I’ll tell you what, I don’t like museums. I find them boring. I often walk into them and can’t wait to get out. I’m usually there because someone else wanted to go. It’s not that I’m not interested in the history of these things, it’s just that to me there is a very sleepy feeling about them. That isn’t going to happen with our museum. If I’m involved, there is no way anyone is going to be bored walking into our museum. It’s an exciting industry and exciting culture. Sometimes I even wonder if the word museum is the right word for it. If it wasn’t for the fact that we are documenting, archiving, and displaying history, I’m not sure we would call it a museum. I think that the place would be so interactive that it would almost be like an amusement park or an arcade. I don’t know what the word is for something like this.