A visit to the Computer and Video Game Archive, @umcvga

Previously: University of Michigan Computer and Video Game Archive (CVGA) Fifth Anniversary

I had a chance to spend some time at the U of Michigan Computer and Video Game Archive tonight, with J in tow (or perhaps I was in tow). We played for about two hours in total, and then adjourned for dinner to talk about new and classic gaming and game emulation. He snuck in a few games of Tetris on his phone afterwards.

Here’s a few game reviews and observations.

The first game I turn to at the UMCVGA is an arcade version of Centipede. The archive has an Arcade Legends cabinet that has real arcade controls, and then emulated games running on some kind of Linux system running MAME inside. “Legendary arcade games authentic in every detail” says the pitch, and the game comes with the crucial trackball that makes the arcade version of Centipede a singular experience.

As an Atari game, Centipede is also available on other systems, and I looked at it on the Atari 2600, running on original hardware including a vintage analog television set for the display. Centipede is not very complex, and the 2600 version is faithful to the original gameplay for the most part. The graphics are as flickery as I had ever remembered, especially when you hit your target.

A reasonable life goal is to play Centipede on as many systems as the Archive supports. The Mirlyn catalog currently suggests that there are eight versions of Centipede available, on platforms including Sega Dreamcast, the TI-99, Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, Playstation Portable (PSP), Windows 95 / 98, Playstation, and Windows XP.

Animal Crossing on the Nintendo 3DS was new to me, though I had heard Brian Kerr talk about it for quite some time. Animal Crossing is really fun in a quirky little way that a social casual game that’s age-appropriate for seven year olds can be. I didn’t get very far into the game, but it was clear that every character in the game that interacted with me was super happy to see me back in the system, and that kind of welcoming reunion greeting was something I want to emulate myself.

A recent (January 2015) interview with David Carter (superman) on PRX was a good 17 minute listen about the current state of the archive.

On PRX: Six Years Inside the Computer & Video Game Archive with David Carter from Radio Free Culture:

David Carter (superman@umich.edu) of the Computer & Video Game Archive at University of Michigan tells us about the collection, how it’s used in an academic setting, and a little about the care and feeding of elderly video game consoles.

I have a next visit already scheduled for January.