‘Game Masters’ at the Franklin Institute celebrates a virtual world

Photo courtesy of Mark Ashkanasy


“Game Masters, The Exhibition” runs until Sept. 3 at the Franklin Institute.

Visit fi.edu for a full list of dates and more information

Daytime Hours:

Open Daily – 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sunday-Wednesday: Last Entry at 3:30

Thursday-Saturday: Last Entry at 4:30

Members: Adult $9, Child (3-11) $8

Non-Members: Adult $30, Child (3-11) $26

Tickets Include General Museum Admission

Evening Hours:

March 31-July 4: 5-8 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday only)

July 5-Sept. 3: 5-8 p.m. Daily (Last Entry is at 6:30 p.m.)

Members: Adult $9, Child (3-11) $8

Non Members: Adult $20, Child (3-11) $15

If you grew up during a certain era, the first part of the new Game Masters exhibition at the Franklin Institute will be able to keep you entertained for hours.

Remember pumping quarter after quarter into a machine to control a little guy jumping over barrels and climbing ladders to save the girl from big gorilla? Remember taking a break to save the world from an alien attack? How about using your high intelligence to control a little yellow character around a puzzle-board eating dots while running away from ghosts?

That’s right, you can relive your youth or teach today’s home video game users the beauty of Pac Man or Missile Command or Asteroids or, the king of them all so to speak, Donkey Kong.

“Why do they call it Donkey Kong?” a precocious teenager asked as she marveled at the wonderful machines. “I mean it’s obviously a gorilla and there’s no donkey in the game.”


We can’t worry about such silly things. After all, there are barrels rolling toward you. Jump!

“Game Masters is the first large-scale exhibition to take an in-depth look at the evolution of video games by revealing the stories of the legendary game designers behind them all,” said Larry Dubinski, the President and CEO of The Franklin Institute. “It appeals to audiences of all games — from the original generation of gamers to the average smartphone user to even the budding game developer.”

The exhibition, which runs through Sept. 3, features more than 100 playable games from those iconic arcade games to the first home consoles to the touch screens and interactives of today.

It’s broken up into 3 sections over 14,000 square feet.

“Arcade Heroes” opens up the exhibition with a room filled with classic arcade consoles like that crazy gorilla, Asteroids, Centipede and others long forgotten.

While it doesn’t have the same vibe as those long-lost arcades (not a coin machine in sight), there is an interesting selection of some 1980-era music pumped over the beeps.

Soon, companies like Atari, Nintendo and Sega brought the video game inside the house. There was no need to collect quarters. There was no need to get on a bike and pedal to the arcade. The games were right on the TV.

So, relive the adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega system) or fight your way past Ninjas as you were just innocently walking down the street (Street Fighter) in “Game Changers.” The section focus on the early designers who really changed a certain way of life.

While a lot of these games pale graphic-wise to today’s “Call of Duty” or “Fortnight,” there was and still is an innocence underneath.

“It’s an exhibition that will spark nostalgia in some,” said Dubinski, “and inspire an interest in exciting fields like design and computer science in others.”

Eventually, the exhibit moves on to a large section of today’s games.

There is a giant version of Dance Central 3 using the Xbox Kinect and quiet room to rock out on the drums and guitars with “Rock Band.”

A touch screen “Angry Birds” will continue to thwart egg-stealing pigs. Many will undoubtedly venture into the nether and build their own Minecraft world. There aren’t any of the blood and guts games so popular with a certain age group, but, you know, that would be a little much.

The Franklin Institute is going all-in for Game Masters.

There will be daily special programming throughout. One day will focus on basic programing robots. Learn the basics of circuitry and input processing by designing a game controller out of Play-Doh and other wacky materials.

Play life-size Tetris and test your limits with a classic punch box challenge. Experience the latest in game technology with our virtual reality station.

The popular Science After Hours will also focus on games.

Including a version of the classic board game “Clue” July 24 from 7-10 p.m. Forensic science meets the classic mystery game in this evening of whodunit, with what, and where? The clues will run deep and the theatrics will be over the top - a night no ‘body’ should miss.

The Franklin Institute will also screen the movies “War Games” June 5 and “Tron” July 3 during the 21-and-over programs.

If you haven’t had your fill of video games by the end of the exhibit, you can always track back in time and end your frustration by finally beating that darn gorilla.

Without quarters, though, it’s a little tougher to call “next.” Then again, there more things change…