Platform 14: Donkey Kong

14 versions of 1 game, all the same, all different

Platform 14: Donkey Kong is an exhibit that explores the phenomenon of converting – or ‘porting’ – videogames. It allows visitors to look at what is lost and what is gained as ‘the same game’ is converted and remade for a new platform. Each platform – a console, computer or handheld device – has its own distinctive capabilities and limitations and these affect the way characters are drawn, the range of colours that can be used, the sophistication of animation, the number of objects on screen and even the number of levels that can be included… The exhibit shines a light on the relationship between the platform and the game.

By choosing one game and looking at a variety of different home computer, console and handheld conversions, we allow visitors to get a clear sense of how much variation there is – and how difficult it is to talk confidently about ‘a videogame’. Because different people will have owned, played on or seen different versions, when we say ‘Donkey Kong’, what do we actually mean?

Platform 14: Donkey Kong is the first in a series of exhibits that will explore how one game is converted and altered as it crosses different platforms. There is a lot of scope for future ‘Platform 14’ exhibits exploring: sound, localisation (language translation and cultural references), controllers…

We have chosen Donkey Kong for the first ‘Platform 14’ exhibit because it is an iconic game with a long history. It is the first appearance of Mario (sort of), it’s a game that made the leap from the arcade to the home, and was so popular that it was converted to numerous different systems each with different capabilities. Donkey Kong dates from a time when Nintendo licensed their games for other people’s hardware systems, and it speaks to a time when there were dozens of different computers and consoles on the market. It’s also a fairly visually simple game which makes the variations between versions extremely apparent which is important for our first exhibit of this kind.