Playthings

The National Videogame Museum Collection


Ours is a digital age. It’s an age of zeros and ones, data and code. And what could be more virtual than the videogame? This is entertainment literally made of bits and bytes, pixels and sprites.

But videogames aren’t just data or code. They’re also things.

And we think that to really understand the past, present and future of videogames, we need to remember those things – all those consoles, computers, cartridges, cassettes, collectibles (and other things that don’t begin with ‘c’).

That’s why we have spent years carefully collecting and curating (and doing other things that don’t begin with ‘c’) a vast array of physical objects that help to tell the story of how videogames are made; how they’re bought, sold and marketed; and, perhaps most importantly, how they’re played and played with.

Come and explore some of our unique, one-of-a-kind objects like the wonderful Nintendo Entertainment System console signed by its creator Masayuki Uemura, or the legendary Glitch Pokémon ‘MissingNo.’ lovingly recreated by a fan in Hama Beads!

Marvel at some of our collection of development and test machines on which your favourite games were made. Gaze longingly at systems, controllers and software you never knew existed and bathe in the nostalgic glow of computers, consoles and handhelds you once played on every day.

There are almost 300 objects on display at the National Videogame Museum, here are just a few of them…


Mortal Kombat arcade board

Ever wondered what’s inside an arcade cabinet? Well, there’s a fair amount of fresh air. There’s a lot of wiring for the TV display, speakers, joysticks and buttons. And then there’s a big green printed circuit board (PCB) covered in chips, capacitors and other components. This board is basically the game. All those chips are a combination of memory to store data, a CPU to run the game’s code and custom devices to create sound and graphical effects. The board you see here is for Mortal Kombat – although you can see from the brown tag that it was actually mislabelled by the original owner as ‘Mortal Combat’.

mortal kombat arcade jamma board

Game & Watch

Inspired by watching somebody messing around with a pocket calculator, Gunpei Yokoi’s Game & Watch devices became some of Nintendo’s first and most influential gaming systems. Look at Donkey Kong with its ‘D-Pad’ cross-control to move Mario around with your left thumb and a button on the right to make him jump. Look familiar? Look at pretty much any console or handheld controller made since. And look at the dual screen clamshell design of Game & Watch Donkey Kong and wonder where the idea for the DS came from. Everything old is new again!

selection of game & watch consoles

MissingNo. fan art

What is a Glitch Pokémon? Well, that name is a bit of a giveaway.

‘MissingNo.’ isn’t really a name at all, it’s some text used by the game’s programmers to alert them that the Pokémon game has gone wrong.

Imagine the situation – a player has gone into battle and the program randomly generates a number to see which Pokémon they’ll be fighting against. But the number is too big and doesn’t have a corresponding Pokémon. It’s literally a ‘Missing Number’. And what about the graphics? They’re just a garbled mess of pixels. But, glitch or not, that hasn’t stopped fans from creating complicated backstories for MissingNo. as well as elaborate fanart such as this pixel-perfect rendition in Hama beads.