Texas Tech University

We Used to Play That

Video games are a $100 billion global industry reaching millions of people ranging from the casual player to competitive gamers.

The Museum of Texas Tech University, in partnership with the Texas Tech Humanities Center, takes a look at the history, culture and consumer impact of video games in a new exhibition, We Use to Play That! Video Games for a Globalized World.

The exhibition features games and memorabilia from the Learning Games Initiative Research Archive at the University of Arizona. The exhibition will be open from February 9 through June 2019.

Play Super Nintendo KioskVideo game packaging, posters, postage stamps, and consoles are all included in the exhibition. The intent is to look at games that were developed primarily for a local market, those that were developed with the intent of selling them around the world and those local games that found an international audience.

In the early 1970s, the huge success of a new type of play activity called "Pong" installed the word as a synonym for video gaming. What started at bars in the San Francisco Bay area spread in a few years to thousands of households. Video games became a phenomenon that spread around the world like wildfire. Games, controllers, accessories, paraphernalia, and game culture defined the late 20th and the 21st centuries.

Games are instances of play. French theoretician Roger Caillois characterized play as a free but circumscribed activity whose results are unknown and does not have a practical goal. Rules govern play, and those who engage in it are aware of not being acting for real.

Video games shape many people's everyday daily routines, fantasies, and world-view. Virtual game characters and icons have spawned clothing, accessories, vocabulary, expressions, and patterns of behavior that have become central to our contemporary culture. If in the past video games' plots took elements from films and literature, the flow has reversed. Today, video games have transformed our way to tell stories as they reflect and address social issues.

play donkey kongOriginally developed in California, U.S, and Japan, the video game industry is today one of the fastest growing sectors in U.S economy. It has been and is a major driver of globalization. First distributed by retail stores, in our digital age any coder can create their own video game, there are as many popular games online as there are in hard copy formats, and political differences or international laws have not stemmed participation in massive multiplayer online games or exchanges among international games developers.

In our technologically based media age rapidly and video game collections reflect the history of recent technology. Young people are already nostalgic about games they played when they were kids and are now considered history. The objects in this exhibition span from the early 1970s to our current decade and show the evolution of the technology, characters, and the culture that evolved around them.