Archaic Arcade: An Interactive Showcase of Soviet Childhood

Anyone who grew up in the West during the 1970’s and 80’s will no doubt summon to mind classic electromechanical arcade games produced by Atari and Nintendo such as ‘Pacman’, ‘Space Invaders’ or ‘Donkey Kong’. But did you ever stop to wonder what games governed the childhood of those living on the other side of the Iron Curtain? I’m going to guess that you didn’t.

Contrary to the standard generalization that the USSR was uniform and mundane, The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines is a brilliant example of how innovation and creative thought was just as prevalent in the East as it was in the West.

The project was started a couple of years back in the dimly lit basement of an engineering school in Moscow where three guys, Maxim Pinigin, Alexander Stakhanov and Aleksandr Wugman, took on the mammoth task of attempting to restore these machines to their original ‘functioning’ condition.  Needless to say some of them are battered beyond repair and although most work now, they are at the best of times temperamental. Technical faults aside though, it’s a pretty impressive display which is only heightened by the fact that the Soviet government sanctioned their production in secret Soviet military bases. It will come of no surprise then that a large proportion of the games in the museum simulate artillery point and shoot like the iconic ‘Morskoi Boi’, which is actually made with a real periscopic lens.

Adding to the novelty of pixelated archaic gaming, visitors are issued with old 15-kopeck coins allowing them to operate the machines in the collection. In short, if you are a foreigner and happen to be rendezvousing in central Saint Petersburg, or you’re just too young to remember anything before the perestroika period, this museum is a must!

Nathalie Ashford

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