Fun and Games at The National Videogame Arcade
Videogames are a pastime that easily splits opinion. Often hailed in the media as advocating negative behaviour, the focus on the beneficial aspects of gaming as a new way to learn, develop skills and have fun can be very much overlooked.
Along with its annual festival Game City, The National Videogame Arcade in Hockley is here to change that. As the world’s first centre to celebrate and explore video game culture, since opening in March 2015 The NVA has firmly championed the role of gaming in society, aiming to bring gaming to a wider audience and offer an exciting space to play games, which is fun, educational and inspiring.
Last week we were lucky enough to take a tour around The NVA, and here are some of our discoveries…
From walking past The NVA on Carlton Street, you might not expect that the centre is actually huge inside and rather like a tardis. Built around a small courtyard, it spans several floors in a labyrinthine concoction of arcade galleries, filled with over 70 games. Met by futuristic consoles, fantasy lands and good lashings of imagination under colourful lights, exploring felt a little like being in a science fiction computer game itself, with new things to discover in each tucked away room.
Along with staple classics such as Donkey Kong and Super Mario, the centre houses new unreleased games to trial and a number of machines created by local designers, including students from Nottingham Trent University.
We were expecting a jolly good dose of button pressing escapism, but soon found there is a whole lot more to the NVA experience, with a stealthy educational aspect running throughout. A surprising majority of the games put importance on the user experience of actively designing and creating. We were invited to customise the visuals on the impressive ‘Mission Control’, and even create our own hand drawn alien bad guy!
There were a number of immediate favourites for us during the tour… We’ll be first in the queue for The Virtual Reality Experience next time we visit. Epistory, which allows you to write a story while you play, leads your character through a beautiful origami themed fantasy land, with a muse to evoke inspiration as you go. The Bomb Disposal Room was also a rather exciting group experience – but we won’t go giving anything away!
Despite leaning towards cutting edge technology, The NVA is dedicated to demonstrating how the gaming industry have developed throughout its relatively short history. Those of us who remember the boxy Segas and pixelated Nintendo Gameboys will be amused to see these vintage relics in the museum room, which houses unusual consoles and highlights how rapidly technology has moved on.
The typical bedroom gamer is invited out of isolation and encouraged to learn more about their hobby. With workshops such as Devclub and Pixelheads, which allow you to experience what it’s like to be a game developer, you can design your own game on paper and then learn the logistics, coding and programming behind real game design. With such skills becoming increasingly prominent in education, this is a sure way to get a head start with engineering skills inevitably needed in years to come.
If you like rooftops and people watching then The Toast bar is a great place to go and enjoy views over Hockley and the surrounding buildings. There are free games to play, regular board game nights and even a monthly quiz. The menu does what it says on the tin; offering tasty toast and toasties with a creative choice of toppings, (including vegan cheese for the dairy disinclined!) Finally, the bar is fully licenced, making it a great place for a party or event.
Whether you are a seasoned gamer or a newbie visiting with friends, you’re going to have a lot of fun at The NVA. Despite spending three hours walking around, we hardly felt like we’d scratched the surface, and with the great programme of events, workshops and other offers they provide, there will always be something new to check out next time.
The NVA is celebrating their second Birthday all weekend from Friday 31st of March, with Minecraft cake decorating build battles, Birthday party offers and gallery activities all weekend. You can help them with their party planning the weekend before, with card making and window wishes, for more information please visit their website www.thenva.com. Keep a look out on their website for opening times and to see what’s coming up.
The NVA has disabled facilities, access to most areas, and also provide SEN days. For more information or to discuss your visit please drop them an email or phone call on: 0115 881 3091.