Field Trip: National Videogame Museum in Frisco, TX

Recently I happened to be in Arlington for a week visiting a friend. He worked during the weekday so I had a few afternoons by myself. Inspired by a hashtag I've seen earlier this year, "#museumsunlocked", in which quarentined curators around the world posted selections from their inaccessible museums, I thought I might take the chance to do something similar on my own, since people aren't getting out as much this year and might enjoy some vicarious travel.

Here is a video walkthrough of the museum with no commentary:

Here is an album of photographs.

I was going to put them all in there but imgur's drag and drop mysteriously stopped working
mid-way, so split it into two albums, (one for each camera I had on me, lol)

But here's a taste:

The official Toejam and Earl character bible. I wish I could take it out of the glass and read it myself.

I had no idea what to expect when visiting the museum. I was disappointed that it seemed so exclusively focused on the pop culture surrounding retro arcades and home consoles. I went hoping to learn MAYBE a little something about the historical connection between the military and videogames, but it wasn't really something that was touched on directly (not that I really expected it to be) outside of a couple mentions in the VR exhibit. They have some interesting items here but I wish it was more "smithsonian" or "air and space museum" and less "discovery science center/exploratorium".

But obviously I am not the target audience for this, and that's nobody's fault. I'm interested/curious in the in the ways they can sometimes be more than just toys, which is what they are to most people. But it was nice to see parents there with their children. One mom sat with her son on the couch in a mockup of a 70's living room playing atari. After they both died, the mother said, "Wait, I think I remember how to beat this one. You, know last time I played this game, I was about your age."

I can't fault them for shooting for a more Ready Player One vibe, but some of the inclusions struck me as odd. They had a whole corner dedicated to "The Cheetahmen"

One thing I found interesting is that they had three little mockup rooms. A sale counter at a games store during the 80's crash. A 70's living room. and a early 80's boy's bedroom. I thought the living room and bedroom were a interesting choice because it showed how these devices shifted from being for the whole family, to being a more private pursuit for young males.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little window into a place you probably wont ever visit in person. If you live near or happen to visit an interesting locale yourself, consider also sharing. Let me know if you have any questions about the place. If you want to talk about a specific image feel free to repost/relink it in your post to make that easier.

Also just to get discussion going how would you curate your own "videogame museum"?

Have you been to any stores or arcades that were basically like museums?

What's the worst "videogame museum" and why is it this one?

Thank you for sharing this! I had no idea that this place even exists, which I find somewhat surprising. It seems neat.

The closest thing to a video game museum I've ever been to is the Kawasaki Warehouse Arcade, which sadly closed late last year. EDIT: Here's a way better video about it than the one I posted originally:

Although I guess you could argue it's closer to a theme park than a museum in some aspects.

As for me, if I were going to start my own curated collection, I'd have a wing devoted to each "generation" of console hardware, starting with the newest (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, mini consoles, etc), and getting older the further you progressed into the place. There would be as many playable demos as possible, and the focus would be on what trends in games best expressed the unique characteristics of that console generation. There would be no PC games because I don't care about PC games lol, and because I think they sort of deserve their own space, since they've got their own unique and sprawling history.

wow, thanks for sharing this! I also had no idea this place existed, and I also had no idea anyone bothered coming up with a Toejam and Earl character bible lol.

I have an interesting question. So much about the idea of a museum is tied up in the idea of preserving old hardware.

How would you curate a experiential PC gaming museum?


An important part of preserving something is convincing people that its something that should be preserved. What are good ways to do that?

@Moon#8057 i went to an interactive installation a few years ago -i think it was about Net art-, where they had chairs like these spread around a dark room. it felt super futuristic and, much like in an arcade, the small act of getting into the chair made it more of an activity, an event, and so made you invested in checking out whatever was featured there. it really stuck in my mind and i‘m surprised i haven’t seen it since. maybe now you could have lil projectors shooting out from behind your head or something.

the bright light makes it look clinical but in a dark room it is, as they say, a mood.


@Moon#8041 One thing I found interesting is that they had three little mockup rooms. A sale counter at a games store during the 80’s crash. A 70’s living room. and a early 80’s boy’s bedroom.

I really like the idea of mockup rooms as a way of communicating what game culture used to be like, but the selection of rooms that they actually picked to recreate seems extremely American-centric to me. Japan especially has had a huge impact on the game industry. It would be to cool have, like, a recreated late 80’s Japanese living room with a Famicom or PC Engine hooked up and some information scattered around about how Japanese game culture differed from the West. I feel like a lot of Americans don’t really have a good mental picture of what typical Japanese life is like — even people who have been exposed to a lot of Japanese culture and intellectually know a lot about Japan.

If budget weren’t an issue, I’d love to see mockup locations from all sorts of places that had a big videogame culture. For example, I’m really interested in Chinese-made games from the early 2000s — but a lot of the stores where you’d buy those games don’t exist anymore. Even a lot of the buildings people from that time lived in have been knocked down and replaced. Stuff like that, experiences that can no longer be had in the real world, would be perfect for a videogame museum.

wow that place looks cool! it reminds me when I went to Berlin and found they had a similar museum there too!

they sold some cool posters that I regret not buying ☹️ they were like done in the art of Metal Slug graphics! Also I found that place while searching for retro game shops... apparently a big city like Berlin didn't have any gaming shops! O_o

I went to Cologne a few years later and they had a gaming shop there!

I randomly found myself in a town called Aachen trying to make it from the Netherlands to Belgium, and they had a retro games shop there too!

but no retro game shops in Berlin I guess...

actually I'm googling now and found some... wtheck why couldnt I find these when I was there lol.

Anywayz, I really wanna check out that Strong Museum too! one day I'm gonna make the trip!

Seattle had a “Living Computer Museum” which was funded by the Paul Allen foundation, then he died and all the money just vanished. It was great because they had computers like the Xerox Alto, or an original Apple 1, and they were up and running for anyone to poke at. Most, if not all of them, had games on them, so you could play a rudimentary Maze game on the Alto, or a text adventure on a big mainframe. There is a palpable sense of “Oh, can I touch this thing?” and then “Oh wait I can actually use this” and then “I wonder if there's any games on this”. I think the “Newest” computer was an old Mac running system 8 or 7 and a copy of Myst. It was really great because you got a sense for the technology at the time and an overwhelming sense that, as long as computers existed, people were dicking around on them by making games.

I did take some photos of it, but they're pretty limited to this weird Compaq luggable and some other Very Brown computer I forgot the name of

Also a Cray 1! look at those wires!
And a woz signed Apple IIgs with a graphics pad for doodling. This room also had bob ross episodes going on an old TV and it was a VERY RELAXING room to be in
The gift shop ruled, you could get a raspberry pi zero with a bunch of accessory cables for $20. I nabbed one a while ago and still haven't thought of a use for it


I feel like I would‘ve had a similar reaction to this museum - it’s clearly not for me, but it‘s defintiely for somebody! It does seem very nicely put together, and I like the kind of diorama and physical-feeling nature of it. Shame it’s so specific in the 80s, but it's cool to be able to see this thing somewhat-in-person!